Matthew Hales, 17, of Idaho Falls took 12th place in the 18-24 age bracket at the 2022 Spartan World Championship in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago. | Courtesy: Jason Hales
IDAHO FALLS – Matthew Hales is among the greatest spartan athletes in the world.
The 17-year-old Idaho Falls native placed 12th overall in his age bracket at the Spartan World Championship in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago.
After four years of participating in the Idaho Falls Grit League, Matthew tells EastIdahoNews.com he never thought this is something he would achieve.
“I was honestly shocked about the whole thing. First, I had to qualify for the regional race and then I had to qualify for the world championship. I didn’t even expect to qualify, so it’s been a huge rush,” Matthew says.
Spartan races consist of a trail run with a series of obstacle courses along the way. Each race has a varying length and difficulty. In order to qualify at each level, Matthew had to complete the race in a certain amount of time.
The world championship was 13.3 miles and Matthew finished it in 4 hours and 11 minutes. The first place finisher was 19-year-old Lukas Schutz from Slovakia. His time was 2 hours and 27 minutes.
Matthew’s results are a miraculous achievement to those who know him. When he was 9 years old, doctors found a tumor on his brain, which made him cross-eyed. They removed it during a dangerous, three-hour surgery. Though there were some initial challenges, it ultimately corrected his eyes and left him cancer-free with no lingering side effects.
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Today, Matthew is fit and healthy. He’s grateful to have made a full recovery.
“The last visit I had was a couple of years ago and they said I was officially cured,” says Matthew. “They said they’d reach out if they wanted me to have another scan, but so far, so good.”
Matthew Hales in the world championship spartan race. | Jason Hales
Matthew heard about the grit league from his mom, Jen, when he was about 13. He competed in a spartan race for the first time and he’s been hooked ever since.
“Before that, I had never really been into sports. I’d done running, but not competitively. But then I found spartan racing and I just fell in love with it,” says Matthew.
He placed 15th overall in a world championship race several years ago.
Matthew will graduate from Compass Academy later this year. He’s planning to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then pursue mechanical engineering and creative writing at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Along the way, he’d like spartan races to continue to be a part of his life.
“Next year, I’ll do a few spartan races and then I’ll have my mission for two years. After that, I want to keep doing it — hopefully for the rest of my life,” Matthew says.
Matthew’s dad, Jason, wrote a novelization of his son’s story in 2020, which is available on Amazon.
Matthew Hales crossing the finish line at the 2022 Spartan World Championship. | Jason Hales
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