Mark Sutcliffe: My Running Life Wow!



I’ve known Ray Zahab for a few years. I’ve written about his expeditions, we’ve co-hosted the iRun radio show together and we’ve become friends. But believe it or not, until today, I had never run with Ray.

This is largely because of two principal reasons:

1. Ray runs faster than me.

2. Ray runs farther than me. Which is a bit like saying the sun is farther than the kitchen.

But a month or two ago, Ray announced he was planning to run from Montreal to Ottawa, a distance of about 200 kilometres. Yesterday at 6:00 a.m., he and his brother John (an accomplished athlete, ultramarathoner and strength and conditioning coach) along with a group of others, set off from Montreal city hall.

My plan was to join in for the final 25 to 30 kilometres and make that my Sunday long run. In other words, my long run was some 15 per cent of their journey. Joining me on this quest were iRun’s creative guru Lisa Georges and her chef-extraordinaire husband Jason.

That presented a few logistical challenges involving vehicles, timing a rendezvous, actually finding Ray on a deserted train track and purchasing a gallon or two of coffee for Ray, John and the team at Starbucks. But by 7:30 a.m. we found them at a pit stop at a country road in the far east end of Ottawa.

Ray and John, naturally, were exhausted. They had been running all night with almost no sleep, and they were both quite stiff. Nevertheless, they carried on, at a slower pace than their first 100k, but hey, what’s a fast or a slow pace when you’ve already run 165k on the hottest day and night of the summer?

We ran and walked and paused for hydration (and cookies). By the time we got to civilization again, or at least a part of Ottawa that I recognized (I’m a west-end guy), it was 12:00 noon and the sun was beating down on us. Ray and John decided they would walk the last few kilometres with the entire team, but before that they ramped up the pace to under 5:00 per k for a stretch of a few kilometres. The long, slow run got intense and quiet for a brief time.

I don’t know how you run at a tempo pace (for me, anyway) after having run 195k, but Ray and John are no mere running mortals. When we finally arrived at Ottawa city hall, Ray pulled off his shoe and revealed a disgusting purple blister on his right foot, the size of a giant grape.

Now I have a small glimpse into the world of Ray’s expeditions and all I can say about Ray, John and the entire crew that ran with them and supported them, is: Wow!