Mina Guli is taking on the global water crisis and wants you to join her
It’s November 4, 2018 and Mina Guli has run the New York City Marathon. On November 5th she does another 42.2km run and again on the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th. 10th…
In fact, for the next 100 days she plans on running 42.2km every day in countries around the world. By the time the clock hits midnight January 1st, signalling it’s 2019, Mina Guli has run a marathon distance for 58 consecutive days in New York, London, France, Italy, Rome, India, Hong Kong, China, Jordan, Israel and South Africa.
What would make a woman who calls herself a non-runner, who claims to have a strong dislike of running and at one stage was told she’d never run again, run 100 marathons in 100 days? The answer is water, but to understand why, you have to go back in time.
Mina Guli grew up on a big block of land under high power voltage lines in Australia, digging holes for trees and running through sprinklers.
When I tell people that I grew up under high voltage power lines in Australia, they usually shake their heads and tell me that it explains a lot! But as a child I was grateful for those cables above my head. They made it possible for us to have a big piece of land to grow things, and to play games on
Despite the open space she wasn’t sporty. Not being able to make her body do what she wanted it to do, she withdrew from sports and into a world she could control – schoolwork. She avoided sports by scheduling music lessons during sports lessons and doctors’ appointments during P.E classes. Before long she had her future mapped out – she would become a doctor, travelling to Africa to look after sick children.
At that stage in my life, it was all mapped out and I knew with certainty that that’s what I was going to do. When I got my final year results, however, my world fell [apart] around me. I’d missed the grade to study medicine.
With her medical dreams dashed, Mina headed to Monash University just outside of Melbourne to study Science. “I threw myself into my work, and into participating in University activities. I’d gone from the school-kid with plaits to starting to take leadership roles in activities, clubs and the student union (where I would later become president)”.
In the middle of her studies she was thrown another hurdle. During a prank gone horribly wrong, Mina was thrown in a pool where she hurt her back so badly Doctors said she would never run again.
Given my lifelong antipathy towards sport, I could have shrugged my shoulders and used this diagnosis as my excuse to sit on the sofa and eat pizza! Instead, I decided to make this an opportunity – one that would allow me to redefine my own limits. I started swimming. On Day One, my lungs burned, and two laps of the pool felt like crossing an ocean. But swimming led to biking, and eventually to running as I pushed to prove to myself that I could defy my odds.
At the same time her career was just starting to take off. Mina started out working as a lawyer in a Melbourne Firm. Shortly thereafter she was first introduced to climate change.
“A project opportunity arose when I was working at the Sydney Futures Exchange. Nobody else wanted to take it, and as the newest member of the team, it fell into my lap. I embraced the challenge to learn about the subject, and managed to become known as an expert
She was then given an opportunity at the World Bank and moved to Washington DC. From there, she moved to London, and then to Beijing. It was in Beijing that Mina together with investor and author Tim Clissold, co-founded Peony Capital, an investment company focused on developing climate-friendly projects. It was her work at Peony that really threw her into climate change and lead her her current challenge of running 100 marathons in 100 days.
“From my work at Peony, I got the chance to be nominated to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders (YGLs). This introduced me to a group of incredible young achievers committed to changing the world. It was through this community that I was introduced to the problem of ‘invisible water’ – the shocking amount of water needed to make everyday items like clothing and food – and its link to a global water crisis unfolding across the world”
My life changed at that moment. I would go on to make it my life’s work to help solve the water crisis. There’s really nothing like being surrounded by a phenomenal group of people who believe they can achieve anything
In 2012, based off an idea sketched on a white board, Mina launched the non-profit Thirst. Through it, she has reached hundreds of thousands of kids, parents, teachers and government officials. When she realised that it wasn’t enough to bring attention to the global water crisis, Mina took on a challenge issued by herself to the YGL community to create a stunt that would capture the world’s media attention and help to spread the message. And that is when her ultra-running campaign for water was born.
It began with the 7 deserts run in 2016, where Mina ran 40 marathons across seven deserts on seven continents in seven weeks. She landed up on Fortune’s list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world. In 2017 she completed 40 marathons in 40 days.
“My previous campaigns initiated a swell of awareness and sparked a series of conversations in the media, in schools and in boardrooms. They helped to initiate a momentum around the need to raise awareness of the problem, connect people to it and encourage the adoption of solutions”
Not yet satisfied, in 2018 Mina set off on her current challenge; 100 marathons in 100 days.
This time I want to build a groundswell that is supported through a global community of water savers. People and organisations and communities committed to saving water. Together. I have chosen to do the unthinkable: running 100 marathons in 100 days around the world to show what a 100% commitment to water looks like. We can all help solve the world’s water crisis. Each one of us is able to make a difference.
Running 100 marathons in 100 days across several continents requires a very cleverly planned itinerary which takes advantage of time zone differences and sometimes means Mina gets off a plane and starts running. Each day is planned. Each run routed long before she gets there.
To train Mina did a lot of cross training – bike, swim, and running in pool. As well as Strength training and lots of running.
Sometimes she runs alone, other times she runs with Jared and Kelvin, part of her support crew, for company. On other days she is joined either by local people from the areas she is running in or by #waterheroes from those areas who are actively making a difference to the global water crisis.
Her team is crucial to her success and she has surrounded herself with 6 key players.
I have an amazing team physically with me on the run – no one can make change on their own, we need a whole group of awesome people to do that
Her core support crew consists of Warren Docker, the team manager who also cooks, drives, gives massages and keeps spirits up. Kelvin Trautman is the photographer capturing every moment on camera, while Jared Paisley, a videographer, creates short films and captures moments throughout the 100 days.
And then there’s podiatrist Brock Healy; and physiotherapists Elena Hobson and
At the halfway point, Mina said that rest and eating well were crucial to keeping herself physically strong, but that the mental boost came from the support she’s received. “It’s a huge mental boost to read all of the incredible messages that are coming in from supporters around the world who are following us on this journey”
At that time, she had said that the hardest thing thus far has not been the physical impact bur rather realising the scale and depth of the water crisis. “Hearing its impact from local communities, running past mounds of plastic beside rivers and roads, witnessing wells run dry, talking to farmers about dwindling water supplies, seeing people walk down the street with takeaway containers wrapped in multiple layers of plastic and understanding I’m just one person trying to make a difference and seeing the enormity of the challenge in front of me”
The biggest lesson she’s learnt thus far has been “that there are people helping to make a difference. The best part of my journey has definitely been meeting the incredibly inspiring people on the ground battling to make a difference – the true water heroes!”
Just past the halfway mark, after battling severe pain, doctors discovered Mina had a stress fracture in her femur. Undeterred she chose to walk instead of run the marathons, taking over 9 hours a day to complete them. But on the 62nd day, the pain had become unbearable with Mina no longer being able to put pressure on her right leg and ending the day in tears.
After consulting with doctors at the Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital and her international medical team, it was discovered Mina now has multiple stress fractures in her right femur. When she shared the news on social media, outpourings of support flooded in, with followers all over the world offering to run a marathon for Mina – to keep #RunningDry going and ensure she completes 100 marathons in 100 days.
“I have broken the largest bone in my body trying to complete the #RunningDry campaign,” she said through tears, “But it has reminded me that the purpose of this campaign is bigger than running and bigger than me. I am devastated that I can’t run right now, but I am completely inspired by the commitment of others who have encouraged me to pass the baton. I cannot create global change on my own: my followers and supporters around the world are helping to make this campaign into a global movement.”
Her friend and mentor, Lewis Pugh, met with her and advised her not to jeopardise the next 38 years of campaigning for the global water crisis for the next 38 days of this campaign. “If Mina continued, she would do permanent damage to herself, so she has agreed to allow all of us – her followers and friends – to step in and help her run the remaining marathons whilst she recuperates and focuses her energy on meeting water heroes in places already affected by the water crisis.”
Before this transpired, I had asked her what she wanted people to take away from this challenge, to which she answered “How real the water crisis really is. BUT most importantly is that if we all stand together we can make a change and we can help to fix this problem, but we need to stand together to do this!”.
It may not have been how she envisaged the campaign happening but now with people from around the world, some as young as 4 years old, heading out to log a couple of kilometres to be added to her daily tally, to ensure the Running Dry campaign does not run dry, she has brought people together to make a change.
You can join the Running Dry Campaign by running and walking taking a photo and sharing it on social media. Include the distance and the hashtag #RunningDry so it can be tracked. You can also get involved by being more water conscious, by following Mina’s easy tip.
Always be water conscious. We need to reduce our food waste. The easy way to do this is to make a shopping list before you leave home, cook or take the food you need, eat what’s on your plate and save the left overs for tomorrow. Think. Eat. Save.
To find out more about the #RunningDry campaign and to log your kilometres, make sure to visit her wesbite at www.minaguli.com or follow her on Facebook Mina Guli Twitter @MinaGuli or Instagram @minaguli
Photo’s by Kelvin Trautman with permission.
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