Ultra-runner Mina Guli winces in pain as she’s caught running amidst a cow paddock. Bandages are wrapped around her beaten feet and there are “holes” where her toenails used to be. Although she’s back in her native Australia, emotionally Guli could’t feel further away from home. She questions herself often, “why am I doing this?” on her attempt to complete 40 marathons in 40 days across six continents.

She makes a resolve to work through the pain as she laces up her running shoes and pulls on her shorts. “ Gotta get the miles done” , she says. It wasn’t a pretty day for Guli and there were a lot of tears; but she got through it.

“I don’t run because I enjoy running, I run because I want to raise awareness about water issues.” says Ultra-runner Mina Guli

The lawyer-turned-conservationist is nearing the end of a 1,687km (1,048 miles) journey designed to highlight the amount of water used in consumer goods. In an interview with BBC, Guli says”Only 5% of our water that we use is in our household consumption – the rest is in our ‘invisible water footprint’.” She has run her marathons along all the big rivers in the world; the Colorado River in the US and Mexico, the Amazon River in Brazil, the Murray River in Australia, the Yangtze River in China and the Nile River in Egypt. She is due to finish the final leg on Monday along the River Thames in London.

Last year, Ms Guli, 46, finished an even longer journey spanning seven continents. Despite the meticulous preparation, the extensive distances and limited recovery time take a toll on her body. This she especially feels when she wakes up in the morning. “There’s a lot of grimacing, a lot of hobbling when I wake up. I’ve taken to doing the first couple of kilometres by myself because I don’t want my (support) team to see how badly I’m hurting.”

Guli as she’s cossing a bridge over a canal in Nanxun, China

The relentless pace at which she goes, rest comes rarely because when she is not running, a lot of her time is spent flying or driving to the next destination. Along the way she has met with a range of locals – including indigenous leaders, tourism operators and farmers – to discuss the water issues they face.

The United Nations predicts that by 2025, a whooping 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with water scarcity, thanks to contributing factors such as overpopulation, poor governance, pollution and climate change. According to Guli, there are many countries who use water faster than nature can replenish it. In 2012, she founded Thirst, a global charity to educate young people on the topic.

“The thing that I draw upon when the going gets tough is the next generation, I want a world where there is enough water for everyone forever.” says Mina Guli as she treats herself to an ice cream after her run.


Image courtesy : Kelvin Trautman for BBC

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