On 22 March 2023 world renowned water campaigner, Mina Guli, completed her 200th marathon in one year. Her journey began a year earlier on World Water Day, 22 March 2022 and saw her running 8440km in 32 countries from Australia to Zambia and ending on the steps of the UN headquarters at the start of the UN Water Conference – the first global summit on water in 46 years.
This was all part of her global campaign, Run Blue, to raise awareness about the scale of the world’s water crisis, inspire a global grassroots movement for change, and drive real action at the UN Water Conference. The world is facing a worsening water crisis. Two billion people still lack access to safe water and sanitation. Climate change is impacting weather and rainfall patterns and we have lost one third of the world’s wetlands and 83% of freshwater species populations since 1970.
Anyone who’s run a marathon knows how hard it is both physically and mentally. To do 200 in 365 days seems crazy, impossible even. But to Mina it was not impossible. Hard she says, but not impossible.
Her final three marathons were part of the largest ever World Water Runs, with tens of thousands of people participating in more than 195 countries and territories around the world. Collectively, they ran more than 470 000 kms – equivalent to 12 times around the Earth.
At the conclusion of her 200 marathons we asked her to share the lessons she learnt running 200 marathons in one year.
Mina Guli ’s 10 Lessons From Running 200 Marathons in 365 Days
Sometimes all it takes is one person to put up their hand and say ‘we can do this’. Whether it’s a ridiculous number of marathons or solving a massive global crisis, what can start as a crazy single idea sometimes really does have the capacity to move the planet.
Every day. One step, one kilometre, one marathon at a time. It’s the same for life. Break down your big goals into bite size chunks and focus on achieving them – one by one. Before you realise, you will be where you wanted to be.
Expectations can be hard to manage – whether they are our own or those imposed on us by society, communities, or the media. They can invoke a sense of fear of failure, or limits we think we can’t surpass. Never be afraid to think big and dream bigger. When we aim for the stars, we may just land on the moon.
It’s not only essential for life, but it’s used for everything in life – food, fibre, power. It underpins societies, communities, economies, and supply chains. It provides jobs and opportunities across the planet, and it sustains the ecosystems we rely on for our survival. Water is everything but we treat it as if it’s nothing. We fail to fix leaky taps, to reschedule our irrigation from midday to midnight, to implement new and different water management techniques. We fail to adapt to our new, water challenged reality. That needs to change.
It’s easy to focus on giant leaps, but great progress can also be made through a multitude of small steps – small actions. Never underestimate the power they can have to contribute to bigger goals.
Without the food we need to fuel our bodies and our minds, we wilt – physically and mentally. To operate at full strength, we need to give our bodies the fuel they need.
There’s an old adage – change can’t be made by one person. It’s true. We all need support from our ‘tribe’ – the people who give us love, support and encouragement. The people who are there to pick up the pieces when everything falls apart and celebrate when it doesn’t. These people are everything. Find them. Hold them. Cherish them. They are the most important things in your life.
They will challenge you in ways you can’t imagine (and often don’t like!) but will force you to confront fears, and help you build strength and resilience that will support you for the rest of your life.
Even when you are tested. Be clear about what drives you. Your ultimate reason why. The thing that will keep you going even when everything is against you. This is your power and it will help you go farther than you can imagine. When you are tested, as you will be, focus on this purpose. Stay true to it. And let it guide you forward.
When we are tired, it’s easy to get distracted by the things that don’t matter. Focus only on the ones that do and clear your mind and energy by removing those that don’t.
Mina ran her first Run Blue marathon on World Water Day 2022 (March 22) in Uluru, Australia. Since then, she has run marathons in Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Egypt (COP27), Germany, France, Hungary, India, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkey, UK, USA, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Originally from Australia, Mina is a global leader committed to protecting the world’s water resources. Following a 15-year career in law, finance and climate change, Mina established the Thirst Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness and driving action on water. She has spoken at the United Nations and many other global forums. In 2016 Mina ran the 7 Deserts Run (40 marathons across 7 deserts in 7 weeks). In 2017, she ran the River Run (40 marathons across 6 rivers in 40 days). And in 2018, she attempted 100 marathons in 100 days for the Running Dry campaign. She broke her leg on marathon 62 with people around the world uniting to help complete the campaign.
The campaign is supported by the Netherlands and Tajikistan governments, WWF, WBCSD and Bayer. More information on Run Blue here.