Ray Zahab

Ray Zahab

Inspirational Ultra-Marathon Runner and Explorer

Ray Zahab wants people to know they are extraordinary. A former sedentary “pack a day smoker”, Zahab 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, setting a Guinness World Record, and travelling close to 20,000 km on foot through some of the largest deserts and the coldest regions on Earth.

Zahab is 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. He also hosts cost-free expeditions for youth. 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 multi-day race through sub-zero conditions. Three months later, he won the race and was spurred on to continue competing and learning about how every one of us is capable of exceeding any mental, physical, or emotional limits we think we may have. Over the next two years, he won four multi-day 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, Zahab 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. Today, he uses his adventures to raise awareness and funding for important causes, and has completed dozens of expeditions across the Arctic, Siberia, Gobi Desert, and Death Valley, to name a few

In between his many adventures, Zahab has also found time to write two books, Running for My Life and Running to Extremes. As a speaker, Zahab 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 Zahab as one of Canada’s Top Explorers. His content has appeared on a wide range of platforms, from his own hosted TV series to appearances on Discovery, CNN, CBC, OWN, and many others.

Turning the Ordinary into Extraordinary: How We Are Capable of Exceeding Our Perceived Limits

In the span of seven years, Ray Zahab went from being a pack-a-day smoker to stepping into the Red Sea after running thousands of miles across the Sahara Desert. Matt Damon narrated and produced the documentary, Running the Sahara, which chronicled this journey. Zahab would go on to cross the largest deserts on the planet — including the Namib, the Gobi, and the Atacama Deserts — and would complete unsupported expeditions to the South Pole and Arctic regions.

But Zahab doesn’t see himself as a gifted athlete, but rather an ordinary person who discovered within themselves the ability to be extraordinary. Through a series of decisions, challenges, commitments, and passion, he became a living example of how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Drawing on his incredible stories and showcasing his stunning photographs and videos, Zahab inspires individuals and organizations to take positive action to incite incredible change and identify the limits we place on success in order to break through them and move beyond.

Zahab has presented hundreds of times, all over the world, to top corporations and non-profits, connecting to audiences with humour and engaged storytelling, in a relatable and accessible way.

Resilience: How We Are All Capable of Exceeding Our Perceived Limits

Over the past 20 years, Ray Zahab has been on more than 30 expeditions to the most extreme and remote locations on earth. He transformed from a pack-a-day, sedentary smoker to a world-class explorer and endurance athlete.

From nearly drowning in the freezing waters of the Arctic to running through the blistering heart of both the Atacama and Sahara deserts, Zahab uses his rich experiences to illustrate his messages that we can all go from the “impossible to possible”, and that we all have the capability to build resilience, push ourselves, and thrive in the face of adversity.

As Zahab has said: “In each of us is the ability to transcend what we feel is our limits. By taking on a challenge… by immersing ourselves in our goals, we learn very quickly that we can rise to a new level of performance. That, in fact, if we do things that we aren’t totally sure we can finish… we grow.

There is no FAIL, but only First Attempts In Learning. And with this knowledge, our ability to face risk and adversity with improved resilience becomes natural. And we become freed from all boundaries”.