Finishing a marathon through a searing desert would be a supreme achievement for most runners, but for Ray Zahab, it meant he had only completed half his daily jog.
For 110 days, 38-year-old Zahab and two companions ran about two marathons (about 42.2 kilometres each) a day, crossingmore than 7,000 km of North Africa's broiling Sahara Desert, ina journey for charity that's been captured on filmfor a documentary.
Zahab, of Chelsea, Que., about 24 kilometres north of Ottawa, 44-year-old Charlie Engle of Greensboro, N.C., and 30-year-old Kevin Lin of Taiwan finally dipped their hands in the water of the Red Sea 200km east of Cairo on Tuesday.
In an interview with CBC Newsworld on Wednesday morning, Zahab said his body had mixed feelings about his achievement.
"I'm sore everywhere. I'm achy, I've got blisters and I do have a lot of tendinitis in my ankle," he said. "Other than that, I feel great. I'm really excited and stoked to be finished, and so I think that that takes away lots of the pain."
One of the journey's aims was tohelp establish cleanwater wells for desert villagers the runnersmet along the way.
The runners worked on that goalthroughtheH2OAfrica Foundation, a charitylaunched along with plans for adocumentary film called Running the Sahara,directed by James Moll, and produced and narrated by Matt Damon.The projectwas sponsored by Magellan and National Geographic.
Runs started at 4 a.m.
The ultramarathon runnersbegan their journey by touching the Atlantic Ocean's eastern edge in St. Louis, Senegal, on Nov. 2.
'You just keep setting new parameters and bars in your head, and you just go for it.'—Ultramarathon runner Ray Zahab
Under the lenses of the film crew,they pushed through Mauritania, Mali and Libya, running more than 100 kmon some days despite desert temperatures that sometimes peaked at 38 degreesin the afternoonandplunged below freezing at night.
"We had heat, we had sandstorms— wicked sandstorms," Zahab recalled. "You adapt, I guess."
He said thetrio began each day in the dark at 4 a.m., ran until noon, ate lunch, had a nap, then continued their journey until after nightfall, when they ate dinner and slept.
Sometimes, he said, he desperately missed his friends and family. At other times, he was elated by landscapes they passed, which included both natural ones rarely seen by humans and man-made wonders such as the famous Giza pyramids of Egypt.
In the last three days of the journey, Zahab said he and his companions so badly wanted to finish that they covered 300km on just two hours of sleep.
"You just keep setting new parameters and bars in your head," he said, "and you just go for it."