Water advocate, injured, aims for 100 marathons in 100 days

In this Monday, Dec. 31, 2018 photo supplied by Flux Communications, Mina Guli, an Australian activist seeking to highlight global water shortages, walks across a dried up Leeu Gamka Dam, in Beaufort West, South Africa. Guli is struggling to complete 100 marathons in 100 days across the world. Now in South Africa, 48-year-old Guli is more than half-way through the punishing project, but she's injured and a spokeswoman said Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 that the advocate will walk the rest of the marathons. (Kelvin Trautman, Flux Communications via AP)

Water advocate, though injured, aims for 100 marathons in 100 days around the world

JOHANNESBURG — Crazy, overwhelming, deeply exhausting.

Mina Guli , an Australian activist seeking to highlight global water shortages and encourage people to conserve, talks bluntly about her battle to complete 100 marathons in 100 days around the world.

Now in South Africa, the 48-year-old Guli is more than halfway through the punishing project, but she's injured and a spokeswoman said Wednesday that the runner will walk the rest of the marathons. That means about nine hours for each one.

"I'm struggling," Guli said in a Dec. 30 telephone interview with The Associated Press after visiting Beaufort West, a town gripped by with severe water scarcity.

Guli is the founder of Thirst, a non-profit group focused on teaching youth in China about sustainable consumption of water. She started her odyssey at the New York Marathon in November and has slogged through mud and sand and across cities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

"It's much heavier going than I had ever expected. I probably should have thought that through a little more," Guli said cheerfully. She acknowledged that she doesn't particularly enjoy running. She doesn't get enough sleep or recovery time and sometimes starts a marathon right after getting off a plane.

For Guli, the marathon feat is a vehicle to raise awareness about pressure on water supply as populations and industries grow, as well as the people who are struggling without enough water and those trying to find solutions.

She has visited areas afflicted by water shortages, stopping to talk to Uzbek fishermen at the shrinking Aral Sea and a village elder in India.

Her #RunningDry campaign touts the work of people including Ayman Rabi, head of a Palestinian NGO that focuses on water and sanitation; Eli Raz, an Israeli geologist who has documented sinkholes at the disappearing Dead Sea; and Hermella Wondimu, head of an Ethiopian NGO that provides clean drinking water to rural areas.

In Beaufort West, Guli helped to distribute bottled water to drought-hit residents and saw a parched reservoir.

"These people are really suffering," she said. "They don't want money. They want something far more valuable."

Guli contends with her own suffering, a recently diagnosed stress fracture in her right femur. Specialists say Guli "should be OK" to continue her journey as long as she walks, spokeswoman Kelly Burke said.

The activist is backed by a support crew, including a physiotherapist and a podiatrist. Still on the itinerary are Australia and Latin America before the finish in New York on Feb. 11.

Many nights, Guli and her team pitch tents, start a fire and cook, wash in a cup of water and bed down in sleeping bags. She has done two 40-marathon challenges in the last few years.

The 100 marathons, Guli said, "is a whole new scale of crazy, I do confess."


Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris

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