Run for Water’s first ultra marathon: Another drop in the bucket

Eleven brave runners who wanted more than "just another marathon" completed 56 kilometres in Run for Water's inaugural ultra marathon.

  • May. 28, 2012 7:00 a.m.
Ray Zahab and Ferg Hawke led the Run for Water's inaugural ultra marathon on Saturday.

Ray Zahab and Ferg Hawke led the Run for Water's inaugural ultra marathon on Saturday.

by Michelle Watrin

Eleven brave runners who wanted more than “just another marathon” completed 56 kilometres in Run for Water’s inaugural ultra marathon throughout Abbotsford’s Discovery Trail on Saturday.

The main portion of the event ran Sunday, as a record crowd of 4,254 runners participated in marathon, half-marathon, 10 km and 5 km distances.

An ultra marathon is classified as any run farther than a 43 km marathon, usually anywhere from 50 km to 100 km.

The 11-member group at the Run for Water event included Abbotsford city councillor Simon Gibson. World-renowned adventure runner Ray Zahab was the leader of the group, coaching, encouraging and cheering on all the runners through a scenic and warm route amongst the rural lands of Abbotsford.

“You know, it is really beautiful here,” said Zahab, a Chelsea, Ont. native. “And Run for Water is bar-none the best, most efficient charity group that I have ever seen in all of Canada. I believe in the people, the families, behind Run for Water and their cause that I will continue to come back to this event every year.”

Zahab had captivated 350 people who attended the Run for Water gala event the previous night, sharing how he had once been a two-pack-a-day smoker and through a series of decisions became a successful ultra runner when he turned 30.

Winner of several extreme ultras, Zahab went on to run across the Sahara Desert (documented in “Running the Sahara” with Matt Damon), set a world record in an unassisted trek to the South Pole, and start an educational, adventure organization, Impossible2Possible, that takes youth on extreme treks for educational purposes.

“It was priceless to run with Ray,” mother of three Jen Hockney-Kask shared. “He knew how to keep us moving toward our goal when things got rougher around the 40k mark in the heat of the day. He also helped me see the only limits are the ones you put on yourself and you really can continue to run when your legs feel like bricks.”

A big help to the runners was the surprising food Zahab brought along to share through the breaks every five kilometres. It wasn’t the typical gels found in stores for such events; Zahab had boiled loads of new potatoes in salty water, as well as picked up some smoked salmon for the breaks, all to be washed down with coconut water.

“For me, these are natural foods our body can digest easier than the items you buy in specialty stores,” Zahab explained.

“I was surprised about the potatoes and salmon,” said Randall Peters, co-founder of Run for Water and ultra participant. “But that along with his home-made sodium enhanced sports drink were given to us exactly when we needed it to keep going. This was really an amazing day with some fantastic people that brought some of us to tears when we crossed the finish line to a cheering crowd at package pickup after running together for six and a half hours. There were times I didn’t think I could finish, but it was great when we finally did.”

To earn a spot in the ultra, each runner raised over $1,500 to help villages in Ethiopia obtain clean water systems, the cause behind Run for Water. The group collectively raised over $20,000.

Tony Short from Pan Pacific Pet was one of the top fundraisers.

“My staff at Pacific Vet raised money for my ultra run,” Short said. “They made a big thermometer in the office tracking our money raised and it reached $3,600.”

“Having an office raise money in support of a runner is a great team building exercise and our staff are all very pumped about it,” Run for Water board member and Pacific Vet executive Phil Klassen explained.

Zahab already has plans for next year.

“I am coming 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.”

For more photos documenting the ultra marathon, visit

Eleven runners took on the challenge of the Run for Water’s first ultra marathon on Saturday. (Menno Koehoorn photo)

Just Posted

An apartment building and townhouse project has been proposed at 2236 McCallum Rd. in Abbotsford. The development was given third reading by city council on June 14. (City of Abbotsford)
Apartment-and-townhouse project planned on McCallum Road in Abbotsford

Development across from old hospital site consists of 174 suites and 10 townhouses

Adam Hobbs went missing from a Langley work site on Monday, June 14 and may have gone to Vancouver. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Family, RCMP seek Abbotsford man missing from Langley job site

Adam Hobbs lives in Abbotsford and is a minor hockey referee

Police were on scene Monday afternoon (June 14) in the area of George Ferguson Way and Ware Street. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Police called out after reports of possible home invasion in Abbotsford

Incident on Monday afternoon at George Ferugson Way and Ware Street

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

The Vancouver Canucks have polled season ticket holders on team name options for the new Abbotsford AHL team.
Vancouver Canucks poll season tickets holders on Abbotsford AHL team name

List asks fans to rank three out of 10 options, also if Abbotsford or Fraser Valley should be used

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read