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 7500 km across the Sahara, and the Atacama, Gobi, and Patagonian deserts.
Zahab is also the founder of the non-profit impossible2Possible (i2P), which uses adventure-based learning programs to inspire, empower and most importantly educate young people on a wide range of subjects. On stage, Zahab takes audiences through his tremendous personal story, demonstrating how individuals and organizations can undergo incredible change to break through limits, and achieve incredible success.
In 2003, Zahab read about the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 160 km multiday 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. The gruelling 111-day journey happened in early 2007, chronicled in the Matt Damon-produced documentary Running the Sahara. Upon completing the expedition, Zahab was moved to found impossible2Possible, inspired by the realization that we are all capable of the extraordinary, and now works to use his adventures to raise awareness and funding for important causes.
In between his many adventures, Zahab has also found time to write two 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, World Affairs Council, and corporate events all over the globe.
A recent recipient of the Meritorious Service Cross of Canada, Zahab is an Explorer in Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and Fellow of the Canadian Geographical Society. In 2015 Canadian Geographic recognized Ray as one of Canada’s Top Explorers.