This Woman Is Setting Out to Run 100 Marathons In 100 Days

Mina Guli is already the first person in the world to run 40 marathons in 40 days—all to raise awareness about the global water crisis.

Despite my distaste for running in the past, I currently find myself preparing to complete 100 marathons in 100 days. Intriguing, isn't it? My journey began when I was 22 years old and sustained a severe back injury after being pushed into a pool during a playful scenario with friends. The medical prognosis was daunting: I might never run again. At that moment, an unexpected desire to run emerged within me. This frightening incident served as the catalyst propelling me towards a goal I had previously despised. My injury presented two starkly contrasting paths. One included the enticing prospect of lazing on a couch while indulging in pizza for the rest of my life. The other involved the chilling realization of potentially losing my mobility forever. It dawned on me that I would be the only one imposing limits on my capabilities. Consequently, I questioned my doctors about the possible activities I could pursue to retain my active lifestyle post recovery.

Beginning my journey to recovery, I was advised to consider swimming as a safe and low-impact method for cardiovascular exercise. Accompanying a friend to a triathlete training camp nearby, I found myself struggling to complete 10 laps while others swam 6 miles effortlessly. However, the overwhelmingly positive and encouraging environment fostered confidence within me, making me believe that someday, I too, would be able to swim those 6 miles. (Nine months down the line, feeling stronger than ever, I was ready to take on a more rigorous physical challenge. That's when I was introduced to the Ironman - a daunting triathlon comprising a marathon run, a 2.4-mile swim, and a 112-mile bike ride, all performed consecutively without any breaks. (Take a look at these unique multi-sport races you won't want to miss.) The very thought of it was overwhelming. Why would someone willingly subject themselves to such an ordeal? But then a fellow athlete said something that struck a chord. "If you want to prove to yourself that only you can set your own limitations, this is the way to do it." This was the first time I realized the power of mindset and its role in achieving anything one sets their heart on.

In the aftermath of my injury, I focused on improving my swimming skills, alongside incorporating cycling gradually. To overcome my apprehension about running, I began with long walks after seeking medical advice. As I got accustomed to walking over extended distances, I initiated some running until I managed to run several miles continuously without taking a break. Almost two years post-injury, running had become an integral part of my routine, and I felt well-equipped to complete a half Ironman. Successfully finishing a full Ironman coincided with the end of my law school journey, reinforcing my belief in my capability to push beyond predefined boundaries.

Upon securing a role as an attorney in a Melbourne-based firm, I pursued my passion for swimming, biking, and running. Career advancement led me to Washington DC where I co-established Peony Capital, an investment firm aimed at promoting eco-friendly projects. It was during this period that I stumbled upon the issue of "invisible water." Prior to this understanding, I underestimated the severity of the worldwide water crisis. Many are unaware of the massive amounts of water used in the production of everyday items like clothing, footwear, and electronics - quantities far exceeding an individual's lifetime consumption. Additionally, the fact that millions globally lack access to clean, safe drinking water compelled me to act. Thus, in March 2012, I initiated a non-profit organization called Thirst. The organization's objective is to cultivate a generation of socially aware young individuals who are capable of contributing to the solution for the global water crisis.

My campaign as an ultra-runner advocating for water started here. I committed myself to run 40 marathons across seven continents within seven weeks, a feat never attempted before, to raise awareness about Thirst. My passion for the cause empowered me to take on this challenge. Preparing for such an undertaking involved two key components. Clearly, the physical aspect was crucial - it required consistent running sessions. As anyone who has trained for a marathon or any endurance event would know, consistency in training is vital. However, being 45 years old at the time, I realized I had to do more than just run to prevent my body from failing me during this period. Consequently, in addition to running, I devoted equal time and effort to strength training, stretching, recovery, and maintaining a clean diet.

When your body is on the brink of giving up, it's a robust mindset that needs to step in. Having a solid reason behind every stride keeps you going, even when fatigue sets in. For me, the driving force was to run for the farmers who took their lives due to lack of water which devastated their crops and livelihoods; for individuals I encountered in Utah concerned about their Great Salt Lake diminishing into a mere puddle; for healthcare professionals anxiously watching the implications of the global water crisis. This was my mental fuel as I embarked on 40 marathons in 2016, an endeavor that attracted widespread attention, prompting me to retain this momentum. Therefore, in April 2017, I pledged my support to the United Nations' Global Goal #6: Universal access to clean water, by running 40 marathons in 40 days along six global rivers. Why specifically 40 marathons? Because by the year 2030, the demand for water worldwide will outstrip its supply by 40 percent.

I'm on the brink of my most daunting task yet, but my drive remains undiminished. In association with Thirst, Reebok, Colgate, and the United Nations Development Programme, my ambitious plan is to finish 100 marathons over the course of 100 days, all in the name of promoting water conservation. The number 100 isn't arbitrary — it signifies that we must all be completely devoted if we're going to make a real impact on this pressing problem. No one has ever attempted this feat before me, and though there are moments of self-doubt, I recall being told I might never run again, which reminds me of my inner strength and resilience. This incredible journey commences in November, starting from New York, and will take me across diverse terrains like Europe, China, Australia, India, the Middle East, Africa, and South America. The last leg of this 100-day marathon will bring me back home to the United States. I'm urging everyone worldwide to join in this noble cause for water preservation by tweeting "count me in because #EveryDropCounts." However, the purpose goes beyond water conservation. If, through this quest, I can inspire people to place faith in their dreams and in their own abilities, then I would consider this endeavor a significant success.

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