Thursday, 27 January 2011

Running For My Life

  • Running For My Life
  • Ray Zahab
  • ISBN 978-1-897178-44-7
  • Ultra Running
  • RRP - Canada $21.95/UK £9.95/USA $15.95

"I smoked that last cigarette down to the nub....four...three...two....I threw my smoke down on the floor and butt it out with my foot. I told myself to remember that image-that symbolism-because I knew it was going to be a long hard process. But I also knew that as long as I kept with it I would be happier and stronger for! The crowd went crazy. It wasn't just any new year; it was a new Millennium! Everything was fresh and new. I felt good. I was ready to change."
This was no half hearted New Years Resolution, like the one you make, where you say I won't eat Chocolate again, and by the Second of January you are sitting on your sofa with your hand in a bag of Peanut M & M's! No this was the moment when Ray Zahab left behind a life of Beer and Cigarettes for a new life of Self discipline, dedication and a voyage into the world of super fitness and Ultra Running.

It's not that Ray was a 'bum' before his change of direction in life, far from it, he was a successful equestrian rider but you get the impression had little Self esteem, would always beat himself up over things and like a lot of people fell back on drinking and Cigarettes to help him along the way.

The first five chapters give you a background through Ray's life from the 70's through to the 90's. As with all the Chapters of the book they are short which is good because, yes you want to get some background of the character' but essentially you want to read more about what you probably brought the book for, in this case, Ultra Running.

It is clear the admiration Ray has for his younger brother John, who he enjoys the pursuits of Rock Climbing and Bike riding with. With his new found love of fitness it is these pursuits that lead Ray even further away from his previous partying lifestyle. And it was cycling that filled up Ray's life for the first year competing in races, until by chance while sitting in a Doctors waiting room, Ray read about the Yukon Artic Ultra event in a magazine article.

Although he had previously trekked for 50K, The Yukon was an astonishing 160K consistent running race. This was Ray's first serious Ultra race, not any old race but an Artic race in freezing conditions, and 160K. So a first time runner, where would you expect them to finish? In the bottom third of the field? Nah! You go and win it. That's what Ray did.

Obviously this is a man who was born to run, he maybe didn't realise this in his earlier years, but winning your first Ultra Race you enter clearly justifies this.

One race that fascinates me is the Marathon des Sables. A famous race that takes place across the Sahara Desert. 246K over six days in the searing heat of the dessert and it's dunes. Ray finished the race in 2004 placed in the 40's but was the first of the North American runners. This was a real contrast to Yukon event and is fascinating to read Ray's account and what he learnt from this experience.

From the Artic to the Dessert to the Amazon Jungle and the Jungle Marathon. An eighth place finish and on returning home a Parasitic infection.

The remaining chapters chart Rays progress at the Trans 333 ultra race and probably the Worlds Toughest road race 'Badwater'.

Chapter 18 ' The Race of Failure' follows Ray's attempts to complete this famous Ultramarathon, but I won't spoil the book and say no more about this fascinating Chapter.

Also running through the course of the book is the relationship with his wife Kathy, how they met and how the support of his wife helps Ray achieve his dreams.

The book is a truly Inspirational read, and Ray gives a very modest account of his achievements in his new found love and life of running. This is what I really love about the book, Ray is so modest and that comes across' so you are not reading an account of someone saying "Look what I've done and how well I've done it".

The only criticism of the book I have is that it is too short.

Maybe some of the chapters about the events could have expanded on, because they are so fascinating.

As I have said this is an Inspirational read and when I'm moaning of the pain I think I'm feeling on my 4 mile run along a flat path, I think of Ray's adventures to give me a little more perspective.
  • 9 out of 10. Inspirational, Fascinating and if a little longer would be close to a 10 out of 10.

1 comment:

  1. Cool, I hadn't heard of that book. I'll order it and get to it after the other 3 books I'm in the middle of :-)