“The only limits you have are the ones you put on yourself.” The mantra of Ultra Marathoner/Adventurer Ray Zahab has also become the mantra of Abbotsford's Run for Water Society, a grassroots run founded by Ken Baerg and Randall Peters. In just five years the run has grown from a 5 and 10K to a full-fledged weekend of activities all for the cause of raising money for clean water systems for villages in Ethiopia. To date, over $700,000 has been given to HOPE International from the efforts of this grassroots society of volunteers.
Zahab joined the group in its second year. “After a screening of the film “Running the Sahara” in Vancouver, I met Ken [Baerg] and Randall [Peters] in a restaurant. They told me about the run they had started in Abbotsford, and it sounded like a cause I could really work with.” Since their meeting, Zahab has participated in each Run for Water weekend.
“Ray has become our celebrity for the weekend,” Baerg explained. “He has talked with hundreds of local students who are in our Envision a Better World; Learn, Create, Run program sponsored by Envision Financial. He inspires them to make decisions in their life to make a difference, and then believe in the impossible. We have a formal gala on the Friday before the run, and he inspires our guests through talking about his extreme adventures through his organization called Impossible2Possible. His passion is contagious.”
On May 27th, the fifth year for the Run for Water, the event raised $260,000 for the cause through thousands of people collectively attending the gala, a 5 and 10 K run, a half and full, Boston-Qualifying marathon, and Zahab's latest contribution, a 56K ultra marathon.
Eleven brave runners who each raised at least $1500 completed 56 kilometres in Run for Water's inaugural Ultra Marathon throughout Abbotsford's Discovery Trail on Saturday, May 26. An ultra marathon is classified as any run farther than a 42.2K marathon. Zahab was the leader of the group, coaching and cheering on all runners through a scenic and warm route amoungst the rural lands of Abbotsford.
"You know, it is really beautiful here," Zahab of Old Chelsea, Ontario said. “The mountains are so gorgeous to look at while you run, and it was a perfect day weather-wise. The passion of the runners who ran the ultra was amazing. I plan to come back to expand on this ultra and continue to develop this part of the Run for Water weekend. This is something Abbotsford can continue to get excited about and support."
"Ray kept us all going," Peters, co-founder of Run for Water and ultra finisher shared, "There were times I didn't think I could finish, but it was great when we finally did after running for almost seven hours."
Other than the people who will be given clean water in Ethiopia, Mel Dyck and Pete Schofield may have gotten the most out of the weekend. They both ran the ultra marathon on Saturday, and came back to run sub four hour marathons on Sunday. “After [Sunday's] 56k ultra, I did an easy run to the start of the marathon so I could show a 100k weekend,” Schole explains. “What an unbelievable experience! The only thing that can limit you is your mind. Guess that means I am brain dead,” he joked.
The future looks bright for the Run for Water society, as the 15 society members are committed to making each year better than the last. “We are a group of people who are passionate about the cause, and passionate about our town and putting on a top-quality event that is fun for families to participate in together,” Baerg said. “Many people who run in our 5K have never run in a fun run before. It is becoming part of our culture here in Abbotsford. We are looking forward to the future.”
For more information, please go to www.Runforwater.ca.