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Now that's extreme!

Every once in a while — ever since I put a few marathons under my feet — I'll get the urge to try something a little more physically taxing. Maybe an ultramarathon. Technically, that's anything longer than a marathon — anything beyond 42.2 kilometres.

zahab.jpgThere are a lot of 50 and 100-mile races across North America. And the grueling 135 mile (217 K) Badwater Ultramarathon. The start line is in Badwater — in the heart of Death Valley, California. It's 85 metres below sea level, the lowest point in the western hemisphere.

By the time you're done, you've climbed three mountain ranges for a cumulative vertical ascent of 3,962 metres — in temperatures that can hit 55 C. It can get so hot that the asphalt can almost melt the sole of your shoes. The current course record is 24 hours, 36 minutes and 8 seconds.

If you finish in under 60 hours, you get a commemorative medal. Finish in under 48 hours and you get a belt buckle. There is no prize money.

It's billed as the toughest foot face in the world. But it's got nothing on what one Canadian ultra runner has just done.

Ray Zahab of Chelsea, Quebec — and his two teammates — ran the equivalent of two marathons a day for 111 days to become the first people to run across the entire Sahara Desert. That's 6,400 kilometres.

In under four months, they ran across six countries — Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya and Egypt — before taking a cooling dip in the Red Sea.

They were followed by a support crew and a documentary film crew — and were running in support of H20 Africa, a clean water initiative supporting the water crisis in Africa.

There's no couch potato to super elite athlete story here. Zahab's a personal trainer by profession. Started out as an elite equestrian competitor. Still, his is a story of pushing personal limits.

"As a personal trainer I started to inject the belief that there is a strong mind/body connection to fitness and well being," he says in his profile on his blog.

It's a connection that applies to all of us, even if we don't run the Sahara.

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