‘The greatest place on Earth’ - Metro US

‘The greatest place on Earth’

He made headlines when he ran across the Sahara Desert and earlier this year set a world record for an unsupported trek to the South Pole. And between those times, he’s been everywhere else.

But world-famous adventurer and ultra-marathoner Ray Zahab is happiest to call Canada home.

When the 40-year-old Chelsea, Que., resident tells people he’s Canadian, “people are excited to talk to you,” he said. “I get to travel all over the world and my expeditions take me everywhere, and I’ve visited many beautiful places, but Canada is the greatest place on Earth.”

In 1998, a “disengaged” Zahab made a decision to “turn a new leaf and see where that would lead me.” So he quit smoking and started running.

In 2006, Zahab and two other runners set out on an expedition to cross the Sahara Desert by foot. The documentary film Running the Sahara — narrated and produced by Matt Damon — was filmed to raise awareness for the drinking-water crisis in northern Africa.

Earlier this year, dragging sleds weighing 170 pounds each, he and two others trekked 1,100 kilometres unsupported to the South Pole, setting a world record for speed. He also became the first person to get to the South Pole solely on foot without the use of skis. The trip took 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes.

But as amazing as his journeys have been, when he’s home in Chelsea there’s no place like it, Zahab said.

“We have the most beautiful capital,” he said.

“Canadians have to appreciate our landscape,” he added. “You have to appreciate how much wilderness we have, and we’re a huge country where people are generally very tolerant and we get along, and that’s huge.”

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