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Ray Zahab is a running legend with the full meaning of the word. “Motivated by challenge, distance, and discovery” is how this extraordinary runner describes himself. His fascinating story with running goes back to the year 2000. I wouldn’t think of a better way to kick off the new millennium.
You name it, he tried it: from running in the Amazon jungle to making history by running 4300 miles across the Sahara Desert, not to mention breaking the world speed record by running from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in January of 2009. To Ray, running is more than just a sport: it’s a message. He turned his passion for running into a driving force to raise awareness and fund for the causes that he strongly believes in and supports. Moreover, Ray speaks around the world inspiring and educating people and spreading his powerful message that nothing is out of reach if we have the drive and passion to make it happen.
RunAddicts is always keen to offer you quality information while helping you learn from the best of the best. We had the pleasure of interviewing Ray Zahab for this exclusive post. Enjoy!
Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started with running ultra distances?
Actually, I started running a little over 6 years ago, so i am a rookie ! A few years before that I was smoking a pack a day of cigarettes! My, how things change ! I read an article about ultra running and was very impressed by how extraordinary these folks seemed to be. Ii really wanted to learn how they knew so much about their bodies and could push themselves!
How did you work to your goal of running that far? Was it even a goal to begin with?
To run across the Sahara i prepped for the 2.5 years that was my running career before we did it. In other word: the amount of time running as training really didn’t prep me, it was more the desire of running across the sahara and learning more about the people of northern Africa! I always say: “Ultra running to me is 90 percent mental, the other 10 percent is all in out heads!”
What advice would you give to a beginner who’s just starting out with running?
“Set goals and believe in yourself !” really sounds corny, but it starts there. Secondly, learn as much as you can from everyone. I always say any races I have won or successful expeditions I have had is because I learned something new from someone else.
Which achievement in running are you most proud of and why?
I think I am most proud of founding impossible2Possible, an organization which takes my expeditions into the classroom for young people to be inspired and to learn more about our planet and the people on it. Impossible2Possible creates these learning opportunities from the expeditions and the students are able to participate in various ways from communicating with us from the classroom right on up to actually joining us on expedition as 5 students did this past fall as we trekked across Baffin island. I would say the second most was my teams unsupported trek to the geographic South Pole in world record time this past winter.
At what point would most runners give up when running such long distances?
When they stop believing they can do it. Remember: setting the goal and truly believing, that’s what gets us through.
We were very impressed by the fact that you crossed the entire sahara running in 111 days. What motivated you when you were having difficulties during that long run?
Wow. What a great question. Many things motivated us daily. Thoughts of family and home, but also the beauty of the Sahara and its people. I think learning the seriousness of the water crisis there also propelled us to the finish. We were so determined to get home and tell out story.
If you had to do it all over again, would you do do anything differently or prepare in a different way?
The experience was so rich, I wouldn’t change a thing. The good and bad and tough times made this the greatest of experiences.
When running, what do you think of? Anything specific to keep you going or does it vary from day to day?
It changes, but mostly I think of the thousands of students that will follow my next expedition and how can I make it more exciting for them. If they are stoked, so am I! I also think about my family and about what I will eat when I get home!
Do you have a final comment or some advice for fellow runners that you’d like to add?
To remember that the greatest experiences, the ones that mean the most, are sometimes the toughest to reach. It’s all worth it, hang in there and never ever give up!!!