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    This ultrarunner was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago, but didn’t let it stop him. This summer, he’ll run over 100 miles through Death Valley.

    Ray Zahab is the perfect example of an endurance athlete.

    Getty Images; Photo courtesy of Jon Golden; BI

    After Ray Zahab was diagnosed with lymphoma, he plans to run 111 miles in Death Valley.Zahab, an accomplished ultrarunner, kept training in between chemotherapy treatments.Temperatures in Death Valley can reach over 120 degrees, but Zahab says he’s ready.

    Ray Zahab has run hundreds of miles across deserts and the Arctic, completed numerous ultramarathons, walked to the South Pole, and even starred in a film Matt Damon produced about Zahab’s 111-day trek across the African desert with friends.

    But two years ago, the 55-year-old Canadian adventurer started feeling exhausted all the time.

    “I’m not that old,” Zahab told Business Insider. “I mean, for crying out loud. I am getting older, but this is ridiculous,” he remembered thinking.

    Zahab (right) still runs hundreds of miles with other ultramarathoners after being diagnosed with a treatable form of blood cancer.

    Tucker Prescott

    It turned out that the ultrarunner’s lack of energy had nothing to do with his age. His doctor diagnosed him with lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.

    While the diagnosis was frightening, Zahab said he was grateful his form of cancer is treatable, even though it’s not curable.

    Zahab began chemotherapy but didn’t take much time off from running. Though he experienced nausea, exhaustion, and shakiness from his treatments, he kept training, he told “Ottowa Citizen” last year.

    Zahab tried running in Death Valley (shown here) before but unusually high temperatures and fatigue from chemo prevented him from meeting his goal. But that didn’t keep him away for good.

    Tucker Prescott

    “I was going to just spend each month between chemo being as fit as I possibly could and go do something epic,” he said. In 2023, he spent 10 days running 87 miles across Canada’s Baffin Island during the freezing winter.

    Now that his cancer is in remission, his next adventure is to run about 111 miles through Death Valley, California, to celebrate.

    Running in 120-degree weather

    Death Valley is one of the hottest places on Earth. In summer, temperatures can regularly reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

    It’s no accident that Zahab is planning to run through the desert in mid-July, the region’s hottest month.

    Zahab enjoys running in harsh, unforgiving conditions.

    Jon Golden

    This time of year, Death Valley feels like a hot convection oven, Zahab said. During past runs there, “my fingernails felt like they were burning in the wind coming off the valley,” he recalled.

    But despite the harsh conditions, Zahab actually enjoys summer runs in Death Valley. “I love being in these places at that time of year, and I don’t take anything for granted,” he said.

    He’s carefully planned his route and will have caches of emergency supplies and ice packs, he said.

    He said he’s also feeling better than he was last year. When he finished treatment in 2023, he decided to make the 111-mile trip through Death Valley, “as a treat to myself,” he said. However, he didn’t finish last year’s run.

    The hottest time of year in Death Valley (shown here) is the same time Zahab plans to run through it.

    Jesse Delgrosse

    That’s because Death Valley was experiencing hotter-than-usual temperatures that year. Plus, “I don’t think I was completely recovered from the chemo yet,” he said.

    Though this desert run will be grueling, he thinks he’s ready. “I’m in great shape,” he said. “I’ve been training like crazy.”

    Finding your own version of extraordinary

    Before he started mountain biking and running, Zahab said he was a regular smoker who wasn’t very healthy. He was also afraid of failure. “I spent 30 years of my life talking myself out of trying new things,” he said.

    With his cancer in remission, Zahab knows he’s luckier than many with the same disease. “I learned that in chemo,” he said.

    Zahab believes everyone has their own version of extraordinary they can reach with the right mindset.

    Stefano Gregoretti

    Not everyone would be able to jump right back into training for ultrarunning while still in treatment. And not everyone would want to run across the Sahara.

    The key, Zahab said, is to find whatever you’re passionate about.

    “I think that within every single person, if they choose, is their own version of extraordinary,” he said.

    This summer’s Death Valley run will be the next in a long series of ultramarathons and expeditions for Zahab. He hopes it will help prepare him for an upcoming run across South America.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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