While most have been training to conquer just one marathon this weekend at the TCS New York City Marathon, Mina Guli has been training for 100 marathons. That is, 100 marathons in 100 days starting on November 4 in NYC. Guli, 48, is tackling this venture to raise awareness for the water crisis that is happening across the globe and plans to run in some of the most water-scarce places on the planet to interview and talk to the people who are experiencing the crisis firsthand.
Guli started a foundation called Thirst for Water back in 2012 to help solve the global water crisis. Currently, 130 million Americans experience water scarcity for one month every year. Guli wanted to create a campaign that would help people identify how they are connected to the problem and the ways in which they can get involved to help put an end to it. This journey to complete 100 marathons in 100 days across the globe is an extension of that, and she’s partnered with Colgate to help spread this awareness. We chatted with Guli on the phone just a few days out from her first marathon to see where her head is at as she prepares to lace up for NYC after one year of training.
How are you feeling leading up to your first of 100 marathons?
It’s Halloween [time], and I see all these ghosts and ghouls, and I think that’s pretty much how I feel inside when I’m thinking about what I’m about to do. And while I’m absolutely determined that I’m going to smile my way through this, I think there will be a lot of places which will be both depressing and confronting, as well as physically challenging.
Definitely. Speaking of the physical challenge though, what have you been doing to prepare for this attempt?
So physically, I’ve been obviously doing just a bit of running. But I’ve also been doing quite a lot of cross-training. I’ve been doing a lot of bikes, training that doesn’t have huge impact on my legs. I’ve done a lot of deep water running—so putting this big foam belt around my tummy and jumping in the deep end of the swimming pool and running up and down, which is intensely boring. I’ve also been doing a bunch of working in the gym. It’s a lot of functional training, making sure that all my muscles are working together properly, that one is not unbalancing the other ones. So a lot of pulling and pushing and lifting and jumping and dancing and all kinds of things I never thought I’d have to do in order to run, but apparently it does make you into a better runner.
How do you plan to approach running 100 marathons in 100 days mentally?
Most people at some point have found a pace where they’re like, “Oh, I could do this for a long time.” That’s golden, that moment. That moment where everything is kind of humming along and you’re like, “Yeah, I could just keep doing this.” And you can get into a kind of meditative state. That’s the goal. And normally, when you just do one marathon, you never reach that stage. You’re constantly against the clock. For me, this is not about a clock, this is about water. So I’m not spending my time looking at my watch, looking at the time. I look at my watch purely for my heart rate to make sure I’m not going too hard, and then I enjoy every single piece of the planet, the people and the opportunity that I have to go to these amazing places and talk to people about what I care about, which is saving water.
So it’s a different approach. I’m not doing it for myself, I’m doing it for others. I’m doing it because I want to make a difference in this world that we live in. I want to leave a world for the next generation [where] there’s enough water for everyone forever, and that’s my inspiration.
Where are some of the amazing places you’ll be going?
I will do two marathons in New York, and then Monday night, we leave to go to Europe, and we’re in Europe for two weeks. Then to Uzbekistan. I’m going to run to a place called the Aral Sea. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-biggest inland ocean in the world, and it’s now shrunk to a tenth of its size. So I’m running a whole series of marathons back-to-back [there] and interviewing the local fishermen and some government officials about what happened and why it happened and how we can avert it happening in other parts of the world. Then we’ve got two weeks in India and then 10 days in Hong Kong, China. [Then] from Israel through Jordan, from Jordan through Israel into Palestine, and then we’re flying down to Ethiopia, and I’m going to run in a place called the Afar Depression, which is going to be completely epic. And then to South Africa and to Australia, to Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and then across the United States in the end.
That is an impressive schedule. How do you hope that this journey will impact the water crisis overall?
I really hope that there will be two things that happen. The first is that people become inspired to become part of the solution—whether they’re CEOs, whether they’re government officials, whether they’re moms and dads or kids—that everyone understands that we can all make an impact. So I think my goal through the run is to inspire people to see that every one of us is capable of making change. For most people, running one marathon—let alone running 100 marathons—is a big deal, and most people aren’t going to do that to change the world. But all of us have the opportunity to take small actions in our daily lives that have a huge impact.
The second is [this]: We know from studies that we’ve done that when people know about a problem, they can become part of the solution, and we can achieve change at a global scale. So I think that really, if we can maximize the number of people that are aware of this problem—and certainly the goal is that by running we can connect people to the problem—then people can become part of the solution. And when that happens, we can achieve a massive impact not just for us, for our lives and our generation, but for generations to come.
If people could change one thing they do on a daily basis to save water, what would it be?
I think the simplest thing for all of us is to turn off the faucet when we’re brushing our teeth. It saves four gallons of water every day. That’s like 64 glasses of water.
You’re right, that’s super simple. And I think you’re on the right path to creating this change. What’s your mindset like as you approach NYC this weekend?
I’m completely terrified about it. Not because I’m worried about the running part, but because I really want to solve this global crisis. I want to make saving water famous. When I’m physically exhausted, mentally my mind is shot, the thing that [will drive] me to continue this is really my emotion and being passionate about what I do. It’s about believing in the cause, and it’s about knowing that every time I take action, I make an impact, and that’s very powerful.
Follow Guli’s journey on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with #RunningDry and #EveryDropCounts.