Inspiration / Running /
6 River Run, An Interview with Mina Guli
If you have ever run the London Marathon, it probably left you exhausted, emotional, and very sore. So how about getting up the next day to run another, and another…
Mina Guli, CEO of the water charity Thirst, has just completed the 6 River Run. An epic feat that involves running 40 marathons in six weeks, along six of the world’s biggest rivers. All to draw attention to what she calls “our global water crisis”.
Leaving Las Vegas on World Water Day, Mina ran along the Colorado River, the Amazon River in South America, the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia, the Yangtze River in Asia and the Nile River in Africa, finishing on the River Thames on 30th April.
Her inspiration has been the future of our water supply. To strengthen this message, she chose to drink from the rivers she ran along, using LifeStraw, an innovative product that acts as a mobile filtration straw, meaning you can drink directly from a river, lake or even a puddle.
LifeStraw has partnered with Mina Guli to help raise a critical message –the world’s future and our lives depend on having enough clean safe water. LifeStraw’s ‘Follow the Liters’ campaign provides community purifiers to those without access to clean water. As a result, anyone who buys a LifeStraw provides one school child in a developing community with safe water for an entire school year.
We caught up with Mina when she reached the UK to find out how she managed to achieve such a formidable challenge.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you prepare for this feat of human endurance?
“I am old! I’m 46 and female, which means my body struggles to retain muscle mass and I’m more easily injured. So I spent a lot of time with my coach in the gym, lifting weights and getting strong.
I also did a lot of running. I needed to get used to just being on my feet for a long time, being exhausted every day and getting up the next morning to go again. Your body gets beaten up emotionally, physically and mentally and you have to be able to withstand that. So a large part of the training has been making sure I am ready to do that”.
How did you make the transition to an extreme, long distance runner?
“First, you have to transition your mind. I am doing this for a purpose – water. So, you have to stop looking at your pace and your time. You need to find things that inspire you, find an area you want to explore. Pack some money or your sandwiches and then just plan a route. The UK is great because there are a lot of outdoor cafes and pubs where you can stop, have some water, something to eat and then carry on running.
You also have to transition from running 5k, for example, at a high heart rate, to running much further at a much lower heart rate. Learning how to run very slowly for long periods of time. Sometimes I am just shuffling along”.
How many pairs of trainers have you been through?
“I am on my sixth pair!”
You say your purpose is water, can you explain?
“I am very concerned that we are running out of water. We’re using it faster than nature can replace it. And I’m worried about two aspects – supply and demand.
LifeStraw works on the supply side, making water available for us to use by ensuring we can drink contaminated water.
On the demand side, look at the shoes and clothes you are wearing, the mobile phone we’re talking on. These things have all taken more water to make than the amount we will drink in our entire lifetime. We just don’t realise or understand how much water goes into our supply chain.
We need to make this invisible water visible and make people aware that we have a water crisis. It’s difficult in the UK because when we turn on a tap, water comes out. There’s water everywhere. I’ve been running along the Thames and it’s full. But the reality is that most people in Britain buy and live on products that are made elsewhere. It’s a global water issue”.
How has LifeStraw helped you on your journey?
“People are afraid to drink local water supplies. But they want to be mobile, they want to extend their stay in the outdoors, they want to run for long periods, but they are limited by the amount of water they can carry. With LifeStraw you can just carry a straw and you know wherever you drink, you’re drinking safe water.
I chose LifeStraw firstly for its filtration abilities, but secondly, and more importantly, for its innovation towards solving this problem. They are an inspiring story”.
What has been your most testing time during your challenge and how did you get through this?
“During the last couple of weeks, I have been injured. My body is tired and sore and I’ve had problems with the inside of my shins, as well as a lingering issue with a small muscle in my backside. It’s left me in huge amounts of pain and frustration as I could only run very slowly. This is very depressing.
But when I need inspiration to continue I think about the next generation and the world I want to leave for the kids of the future. I want to make sure there’s enough water for them, that’s my inspiration”.
How did you enjoy being in Britain?
“It’s cold! So cold! But immensely beautiful. It’s a stark contrast to the hussle of the Nile. There are open farming fields here, far fewer people, more open space and farm land for grazing cattle. The UK is absolutely spectacular. There are ducks playing on the water, lots of distractions for me. The shoreline is very manicured around London. At the source it was more wild and woolly. It’s been wonderful seeing so many people using the river for recreation and lots of fellow runners.”
What’s it been like running here? How does the terrain differ?
“Running down the Thames, there is often a paved path which is absolutely lovely! But also in parts it is very uneven. Running through fields with sheep and cows and other cloven hoof animals that have carved up the ground. This is very challenging as it is much harder to control your running”.
Why did you want to finish your challenge in London on the Thames?
“I wanted to show people that even though the Thames was in a poor state many years ago, it has been rehabilitated. You can’t believe it was once so polluted that it was in a sorry state of affairs, struggling, with the life being sucked out of it. Now it is back to life, there are fish jumping out!”