By weekday, Ziyad Rahim is a mild-mannered Qatar-based banker. But come the weekend, the 42-year-old is an ultra-marathon runner who has racked up nearly a dozen Guinness World Records.
Among them: “Most consecutive days running an ultra marathon,” “fastest time to complete an ultra marathon on each continent,” and “fastest time to complete a marathon on each continent and the North Pole.”
The marathon man, who now plans such events locally, said he first began running when he was still in school.
He attended Aitchison College, one of Pakistan’s top tier boarding schools, which puts a focus on health and sports. By the time he graduated, he could run 10k races, he said.
However, Rahim didn’t take the sport that seriously. Like any other Pakistani boy, his passion was cricket.
And when he moved to Canada for university and work, his interest in running was all but forgotten.
But then, at the age of 27, Rahim decided to run his first-ever marathon in Toronto – “literally like the most painful 10k I ever did,” he told Doha News.
“When you’re not used to running and someone tells you to run, by the time you’re on your second kilometer, you get shin strains and whatnot.”
Even though his time wasn’t great, the competition sparked an interest, spurring him to run six more half-marathons in a period of eight weeks.
Remarkably, the worst injury he’s suffered to date is Plantar fasciitis (a common cause of heel pain), he told Doha News.
Rahim soon began to travel to participate in more challenging events, taking his family with him.
That included the Marathon des Sables, known as the toughest foot race on Earth.
While on the run, which lasts six days and covers roughly 250km, participants have to carry their necessities with them as they cross the Sahara Desert.
Rahim then decided to take on a more exciting pursuit: breaking world records.
Trekking across the world
His first venture was the Marathon Grand Slam, which requires completing a marathon on each continent and the North Pole.
By then, Rahim had moved to Qatar, and would travel every weekend to a different country to run a marathon. His flight would land back in Qatar on Monday morning and he’d head straight to his office.
He did this for seven consecutive weekends.
In that time period, Rahim ran in Chile, Antarctica, Cyprus, the US, New Zealand, South Africa, Jordan and the North Pole.
The previous record for running the Marathon Grand Slam was 324 days. Rahim completed it in 41.
“My aim is when I go and break a record, I have to break it by a big margin, so that nobody else can break it,” Rahim explained.
Despite previously running 250km in the Sahara Desert, Rahim said he only ever felt vulnerable at one point – while running in England.
There, he was attempting to break the record for the fastest time anybody had run an ultra marathon, a minimum of 50km, on each continent.
According to Rahim, the country’s harsh rains and floods made that experience particularly exhausting.
“A couple of times what happened was, I was running, I put my foot down, my shoe stayed in and my foot came out. At that particular time, I thought I would die.”
Still, he persevered, and over the period of two years (2013 – 2015), the runner set 10 Guinness World Records.
The Triple 7 Quest
Last year, Rahim moved on to a new challenge – organizing his own races. He initially opened Marathon Adventures Mideast, which was later replaced by Z Adventures, to help other runners try something new.
One of his first adventures with his new organization was the Triple 7 Quest, which enlisted a group of 46 people to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.
The group would land in a country, head straight to run a marathon, and then head back on a flight to another continent.
On the sixth day, after running six marathons in six continents, the group was headed to Antarctica to wrap up their quest with the final marathon when, due to bad weather conditions, they had to turn back.
The group eventually finished the challenge in 10 days, but was still able to get many Guinness World Records – including a record for the oldest man, aged 78, to complete the Triple 7.
Qatar running series
This year, the runner has taken a more local, laid-back approach.
“I’ve taken kind of a backseat because my kids are growing up, so I don’t want to be away from them for a long time,” Rahim explained.
After living in Qatar for seven years, Rahim said he noticed that there were many people here who “were dying to run races.”
Under the umbrella of Z Adventures, Rahim launched the Qatar Running Series, which has arranged low-key long-distance runs in Aspire Park and Qatar Foundation’s Education City.
He hands out unique medals every marathon – such as in the shape of Qatar, for example – to make the experience memorable for those taking part.
His marathons have each hosted roughly 150 to 200 people, who have signed up within hours.
With Z-Adventures, Rahim also hosted a cruise-ship marathon in the Caribbean; a boat that would dock at a different country every day so participants could run marathons.
Working on a not-for-profit basis, Rahim hopes that, through Z-Adventures, he can have “more events with less people,” catering to all ages.
Rahim will also be organizing the first ever marathon in Pakistan, his home country.
He further plans to arrange an Aquathon and Triathlon in Qatar in the coming months.
“I always do things that have never been done before,” Rahim said.