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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ray Zahab: Extraordinary Ultramarathoner

I had the chance to see Ray Zahab speak today.

To call Ray an ultramarathoner really understates what he's accomplished. 42.2km, 50km, 100km,100 miles - he's done it all, and apparently it left him underwhelmed... as two years into his running career he decided to run across the Sahara Desert.

Yes, that Sahara Desert.

Nearly 7000 km over 111 days. You do the math.

It was such an impressive attempt, that Matt Damon decided to capture it in film in the documentary "Running the Sahara".

That's just scratching the surface... he's also run to the South Pole and in Siberia, among many other running exploits.

He founded a foundation - Impossible 2 Possible - which inspire and educate others to take action in their own lives, to maybe change the world or merely take on something they don't feel they can do.


The talk today was really a motivational speech in a corporate environment. I felt like the non-runners in the crowd were very impressed with the guy and left inspired.

Anyone Can Do It... Or Can They?

Unfortunately, I think he also left them with a sense that anyone can really do what he did... and I don't think that's true. In fact, I think very few can.

He took up training just 2 months before his first race - a 100 mile race in the Yukon.

And he won.

I've spent a lot of time around runners and would-be runners now, and his experience is so wildly out of whack from most that it almost strains credulity. To rattle off a 100 mile race without even really having trained is absolutely stunning, and very out of the ordinary.

Giving people the expectation that they can get out there and come anywhere near repeating that feat without putting in the training is setting them up for failure. It's far more likely they will strain something over-doing it and will give up running.

So while I appreciate his infectious enthusiasm, I think it needs to be offset by some degree of caution. If everyone could be Ray Zahab, a lot more of us would be, and he wouldn't be the extraordinary story that he is.

On The Other Hand...

... you'll never really know unless you try, will you?


runwuf said...

Remember back in 2007 Nov I ran the Whitby 10k with you, that was the year I started enter races without any training... that winter I read a book by my Taiwanese fellow countryman Kevin Lin, who ran across the Sahara with Ray. From that book I get to know Ray so I bought a book by Ray and read it. Kevin and Ray were the guys inspired me and I started running regularly on 2008 Jan! I was going to sign up for Yukon marathon this year but it was cancelled. I wish I was there today to see him.

Jon P said...

Training sure makes it easier, doesn't it? :) He was really cool to listen to... I liked his story about finishing the 100 mile Yukon race, and then realizing he'd actually WON it. :)