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Atacama Desert Run update: Ray Zahab, Bad days like these make good days look even better

Posted: Feb 10, 2011 05:07 pm EST

(By Correne Coetzer) The Canadian ran through mining areas. The terrain was too difficult to cross as it was covered with clumps of salt. Navigation around these areas was challenging and disorientating.

Temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius while Ray aimed to run 60 km per day. He tells where he gets his daily inspiration from.

Here goes a summary of his video dispatches the past week:

Day 13: Ray described the view in front of him as ridiculous and amazing; only ground, stones and small hills as far as the eye could see. The heat was intense and the winds insane, reported Ray about the extreme conditions.

Following the railway for 300 km, a train passed Ray for the first time. He likes trains and was excited about it cutting through the Atacama Desert horizontally. The train driver saw Ray standing near the track.

Day 14: A pretty hot day. Ray was navigating through mining areas and was amazed how the mine security guys come out of nowhere; checking on what he was doing and if he and the support team had the necessary security clearance. He added that the security people were generally very supportive.

Running in the salt mine areas, he was a bit disorientated, Ray said, with trails going everywhere and the huge clumps of salt. Navigating past the piles of salt clumps was very difficult and there was no way to run over them, he assured.

This was the most difficult day this far, said Ray after calculating only 41 km after a whole days running. You have good days and bad days and bad days like these make the good days even better.

Day 15: Ray explained where he gets his daily inspiration from his family, he stated. Every day he talks to his wife, Kathy, and two and a half year old daughter, Mia. His wifes encouraging words help him through the days.

This day he said, was one of the best days. He ran about 100 meters off the Pan-America highway and as the story of the Atacama Extreme Run is spreading across Chiles newspapers, truckers were beeping as they passed Ray; and Chris who was sometimes running with. We got pumped up, said Ray.

Day 16: A mix of running next to the highway and on trails adjacent to the highway. Then he was in mining areas again and was running totally cross country.

The team came across an ancient camping or agricultural site with stones looking like bowls, which were probably used to grind wheat for flour.

They also came across a line of rocks that represented the border between Peru and Bolivia before the Pacific War in 1879. Today it is Chilean land.

Day 17: Incredibly challenging day, reported Ray after coming into camp at 9 pm. Chris and Bob ran parts of the day with him.

"The hardest times sometimes yield the most beautiful things, said Ray after seeing an amazing sunset while running his last miles at the end of the day. All and all a great day.

Distances: 41 km (Day 14), 60 km, 60 km, 64 km

Latest Progress

Jan 23 2:54 pm to Feb 10 08:00 am:

Date (local): Feb 10 08:00 am
Distance: 976.54 km (606.79 mi)
Trip duration: 18 days, 0 hr, 5 min
Position: 26.02958S, 070.0084W

Taking inspiration from the legendary ultra-running athletes called Chasquis, modern-day adventurer Ray Zahab will test himself on the trails of these highly trained athletes as he traverses the length of Chiles Atacama Desert. He will be carrying a 12kg (25lb) backpack with all his gear/clothing/stove/tent to survive, and food and water (8-10 liters) for one day. Water/food drops will be available when a community or water source is not in the route. He will have a GPS, topo map and compass and hopefully find the water.

The plan is to run between 80-90 km per day for as many days as it takes to cover the approx.1,250 km (1,000 km as the crow flies). His start point at the Northern tip of the Atacama Desert is at Lago Chungara.

Following the recently completed impossible2Possible Youth Expedition to the Amazon in October 2010, Ray Zahab will be visiting a contrasting area of the Earth. The Atacama Desert will provide a great point of contrast on the topic of biodiversity which he will share with thousands of school children. Ray will carry a Solara tracking device from start to finish, and will be updating a live website www.atacamaextreme.com and communicating with classrooms via video conferencing software, a Macbook and BGAN.

Ray Zahab was born in Ottawa, Canada on February 11, 1969. He grew up on a hobbyhorse farm in Carp, Ontario with his brother John, and his parents. Fast forward 39 years to today, and I now live with my incredible wife and soul mate Kathy and our daughter Mia Sahara in Chelsea, Quebec, says Ray. He is very passionate about the organizations he work with, and when not running he divides his time sitting on the board of directors.

Rays ultra-marathons:
- 2004 Yukon Arctic Ultra, 160 km
- 2004 Jungle Marathon, Amazon, 250 km
- 2004 Trans 333, Niger, 333 km
- 2004 & 2005, Marathon des Sables, Morocco, 250 km
- 2005 Sahara Race, Egypt, 250 km
- 2006 Gobi March, China, 250 km
- 2006 Libyan Challenge, 190 km
- 2007 Running the Sahara, 7500 km, 111 days, with Charlie Engle (USA) and Kevin Lin (Taiwan)
- 2007 three extreme coastal trails of Canada, back to back, 100, 210, 75 km
- 2008 Canada, in each province and territory, 80 km per day x 13 days
In the 2008-09 Antarctic season Canadians Richard Weber, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab set the fastest time for a team from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole (1130 km) in 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes.

March 14, 2010 Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab completed their speed record expedition across Lake Baikal in a time of 13 days and 16 hours; running/walking the 640 km (as the crow flies) in an average distance of 50 km a day with special screw in spikes shoes. They started from the small village of Kultuk on the southern side of the lake and finished at northern tip at a community called Nizhneangarsk


Following the railway for 300 km, a train passed Ray for the first time.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Salt mine security men with Ray.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Salt mine.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Javier explaining about the ancient agriculture/camp site.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
The border between Peru and Bolivia before the Pacific War in 1879. In the image, Javier and Bob.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE
Ray: "The hardest times sometimes yield the most beautiful things.
courtesy Atacama Extreme i2P 2011, SOURCE