Inspirational Ultra-Marathon Runner and Adventurer
Ray Zahab wants people to know they are extraordinary. A former sedentary “pack a day smoker”, Ray turned his life around in 1999 when he decided to get in shape and enter the world of ultra-marathons. Since then, he’s gone on to inspire millions of people around the world by completing jaw-dropping journeys, including running across the Sahara, Atacama, Gobi, and Patagonian deserts. He is also the he founder of the non-profit impossible2Possible (i2P), which uses adventure based learning programs to educate and empower young people when it comes to global issues. On stage, Ray takes audiences through his tremendous personal story to show how individuals and organizations can undergo incredible change to break through limits and achieve incredible success.
In 2003, Ray read about the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 160-kilometre multi-day race through sub-zero conditions. Three months later, he won the race and was spurred on to continue competing. Over the next two years, he won four multiday races, either individually or as part of a team, surviving sandstorms, close encounters with poisonous snakes, parasites, infections, chafed legs, and dehydration along the way.
Entranced by the Sahara during one of those races, he decided to cross the whole thing, a gruelling journey he made in early 2007, chronicled in the Matt Damon-produced documentary Running The Sahara. The expedition’s proximity to heart-wrenching poverty is what moved Ray to found impossible2Possible.
Incredibly, in between his many adventures, Ray has also found the time to write two successful books, Running for My Life and Running to Extremes, for young readers.
As a speaker, Ray has spoken at events such as TED, IOC World Conference, The Economist World, and World Affairs Council.
Ray dedicates portions of his time as an advisor to the Ryan’s Well Foundation; as an Athletic Ambassador of the ONExONE.org; and as a representative of SpreadTheNet. He was the recipient of the ONExONE Difference Award in 2007, and the Torchbearers Award in 2010. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Canadian Geographical Society.
In 2012, Ray was invited by H.E. Tsogtbaatar Damdin (Minister of Environment, Mongolia) to join their Internal Advisory Committee. In 2015, Canadian Geographic recognized Ray as one of Canada’s Top Explorers, and was presented with the Meritorious Service Cross of Canada.