By Isabel Ovalle
Ziyad Tariq Rahim, a 39-year-old Qatar resident, recently set a Guinness World Record for the shortest time to complete a marathon on each continent and the North Pole. His challenge began in Punta Arenas, Chile, and concluded 41 days and 20 hours later in the North Pole after running 3,514km.
Rahim’s love affair with running began in Quebec in 2002, when he participated in his first long-distance race. A year later, he took part in his first marathon, and began a journey that would make him the first and only Pakistani to complete marathons on all seven continents — a feat he has accomplished twice now.
The Canadian national of Pakistani origin has taken part in over 100 long-distance races in 32 countries. The banker, married with two children, plans his family vacations so he can compete. “Last year, I became the first Qatar resident to complete the 250-km Marathon Des Sables, considered the toughest foot race on Earth,” he said.
The main motivation for him to achieve the world record was raising funds for CARE, a Pakistani non-profit organisation that provides free education to underprivileged children in the country. The association has the goal of educating one million children in a decade.
Even though he also runs for Canada and Qatar, ultimately he aims to portray a positive image of his home country, which “often makes headlines for the wrong reasons,” he noted. In addition, he wants people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
“Frequently, when most people enter the work life, they get so engaged in their daily work duties and family life that they just don’t find time to exercise. I want to reach out to them and let them know that if I, with a full-time job and a family with two young kids, can do all this, then anyone can find time to incorporate exercise into their daily routine,” he said.
Rahim said he trained at least thrice a week, doing so with Doha Bay Running Club whenever his schedule allowed it. He also plays squash and does cardio exercises. “I have a very stressful office job, so running for me is a stress reliever. I feel free and calm and get time to do all my planning,” he said.
The veteran marathon runner explained that strength for running comes from the mind. “I put on the autopilot and I completely forget I’m running.”
He also eats healthy, keeping away from fast food and eating small portions every two or three hours. While running, he drinks water or energy drinks every 15 minutes. “It’s important to stay hydrated and also eat when you’re doing a marathon,” said the expert.
His Guinness challenge started on February 26 in Punta Arenas, Chile. A day later, he travelled to the southernmost continent, Antarctica, to complete a 26.2-mile race in sub-zero temperatures. He then competed in the Cyprus Marathon, in Europe; Los Angeles Marathon in North America; The Dual Trail Marathon in New Zealand; the 56K Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in South Africa; and the Dead Sea Marathon in Jordan, finishing with the North Pole on April 9. During the 41-day test, Ziyad travelled 140,700 km in economy class, which involved spending over 300 hours flying or in transit. Due to his work and family commitments, most of his travels were on weekends.
“It was probably the most difficult challenge I have ever undertaken. Apart from the rigours of completing marathons in varied temperatures, the constant travel and jet lag compounded the suffering,” he revealed.
He travelled to Los Angeles, Auckland, Cape Town and Cyprus on weekends, which meant that after a more than 20-hour flight, he had to run a marathon and then immediately fly back to get to office and resume work.
“I was lucky that I never sustained an injury during this time, apart from the last race in North Pole, where I suffered frostbite on my nose and ears as temperatures dropped below -40 degrees Celsius during the race,” he said.
For Rahim, each race was different and posed a new challenge. “The course in Antarctica was hilly, with difficult underfoot conditions, comprising mud and ice. In Cyprus, it was a historical route with the race starting at the birthplace of Aphrodite and running along the Mediterranean; while Los Angeles was magical as we went through Sunset Boulevard and Beverly Hills.”
In New Zealand, he ran over volcanic rocks, while the Two Oceans Marathon in South Africa is considered the most beautiful ultra marathon in the world. In Jordan, he completed the race at the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea.
The race at the geographic North Pole “was by far the hardest race. At times, we were in knee-deep snow; my shoes froze during the race and I constantly had to change my face mask as it was restricting my breathing. But I managed to overcome the challenges and completed the Grand Slam for my country and my family,” he concluded.