Long-distance runners are water-obsessed by necessity, but Mina Guli is on another level. She’s trying to run more than 1,000 miles through seven deserts on seven continents in seven weeks to raise awareness of worldwide water shortages.
She has completed six of the runs, having jogged an average of 150 miles each through harsh conditions in Spain, Jordan, Antarctica, Australia, South Africa and Chile.
Now, the Australian is in drought-stricken California to run her final leg through Death Valley and into Nevada. She hopes to finish Tuesday, which the United Nations has designated World Water Day.
If she does, she will have run the equivalent of 40 marathons.
Guli said she was feeling tired but inspired as she spoke to The Associated Press by phone in Santiago, Chile, where she was boarding a flight to Los Angeles on Thursday, March 17.
“I’m excited about the momentum we’ve created,” the 45-year-old said. “Rest has been few and far between. I really want to do this in seven weeks, so it’s been a rush. A lot of time is spent flying, driving into deserts. They’re not always on the doorsteps of big cities.”
In Jordan, on the second leg of the trek, Guli said she almost made her point about water shortages too well. She planned to use local water supplies along the way but faced a taxing set of days when there was little of the precious liquid to be had.
“The wells are dry,” she said. “Jordan is having major water problems. Places where you expect to get water, you don’t get water anymore. Even places where people assured me there would be water to find, there was none.”
From there Guli made the otherworldly transition to snow-white Antarctica, whose meager precipitation makes it the world’s largest desert.
“It is white from the sky to the ground,” she said. “The only sound you can hear is your own heartbeat.”
Guli, who now lives in Beijing and runs Thirst, a nonprofit dedicated to water issues, said it was almost frustrating to be atop all that ice.
“You’re standing and running on all this fresh water that is inaccessible to the rest of the planet,” she said.
From there came another drastic change, in temperature and scenery, to the red sands of central Australia’s Simpson Desert.
Guli’s desire to run during the day and stay on local time so she can meet and talk to people about water has made things especially complicated.
“Jet lag has been a major issue each time we’ve had a big time-zone change: between Australia and South Africa, I found that extremely challenging,” she said. “I felt like I was running with lead weights around my ankles.”