OTTAWA SUN –
The region’s most famous distance runner didn’t quite make it to the start line this morning for the ING Ottawa Marathon.
But he can be forgiven. His feet were a little beaten up from having run his own marathon of sorts.
On Friday, Chelsea’s Ray Zahab completed the final leg of his 13 day cross-country ultra-marathon in front of the peace garden at Nathan Philips Square. Two Sundays ago, he left Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. He then ran back-to-back marathons over the next 13 days (80 km a day) in every Canadian province and territory — without a day off.
That’s 1,040 km of running and a whole lot of blisters. All in the name of one of the charities he supports — ONE X ONE — which is dedicated to improving the lives of children in Canada and around the world.
“I am still in awe of the amazing reception the Canada ONE X ONE run received from people in every province and territory,” said Zahab. “We set out to raise awareness of the foundation and to remind Canadians — especially youth — that we can all make a difference in the lives of children living in poverty. We’ve certainly achieved both of these goals.”
Along the way, Zahab was joined by two premiers, Olympic Hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser, Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine and soldiers in Quebec City, cheering schoolchildren and a host of ofthers.
Zahab was in Ottawa last night, but decided against running in the MDS Nordion 10K.
“Ray epitomizes what it means to be a runner,” said Mark Sutcliffe, publisher of IRun, a new Canadian magazine which featured the ultra- marathoner on the cover of its first issue.
“No one has as much passion and energy. When you think of ultra-marathoners, you think of someone that is very intense, but Ray is just so normal and down to earth. He sees himself as the everyday runner. He really believes that anyone can do what he does.”
Zahab’s story is not unique. Eight years ago, he left a pack-a-day smoking habit and took up exercising and a healthier lifestyle.
But his meteoric rise to becoming one of the most successful ultra-distance runners in the world is a little out of the ordinary. As are the extraordinary feats he’s taken on over the last few years to draw attention to causes that are important to him.
RAN ACROSS SAHARA
Two years ago, he ran across the Sahara Desert. It took him 111 days to do it and he went through more than a couple of pairs of running shoes, but he managed to draw international attention to the need for safe drinking water in Africa. His run was documented in Running the Sahara, a film directed by Academy Award winner James Moll and narrated by Academy Award winner Matt Damon.
He’s now getting ready for his next challenge — a 25-day run from Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole to raise awareness for climate change and the effects of global warming. He plans to do that run early next February.
“I am just a very regular person who made a decision in his life to do something different,” says Zahab. “Running is a way for me to get my messages across, but it doesn’t have to be about running.”
“I tell people all the day that it’s amazing what they’re capable of if they set their mind to it.”
“The only limits we have are those that we set on ourselves.”