To Save Water, This Woman Is Running Marathons on Every Continent


The water that keeps us alive is running out at an alarming rate. If something isn’t done to conserve our safe and drinkable resources, the world could be facing a shortage unlike anything we’ve seen before.

While many of us are doing our part by cutting back on time spent taking showers or tending to our lawns, one woman and her customized running shoes are going an extreme distance to make sure others are taking an interest in water scarcity as well.

Mina Guli, the CEO of water conservation charity Thirst, is running 40 marathons across seven deserts on every continent, all within a seven-week period. It sounds crazy, but if she’s successful, she’ll become the first person in history to do it—and for an important cause.
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The 45-year-old Australian businesswoman has already run the Tabernas Desert in Spain, the Arabian Desert in Jordan, and the Antarctic Desert in Antarctica. This week, she started her trek through the Simpson Desert in her native country and will journey from there to the Karoo Semi-Desert in South Africa, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and finally the Mojave Desert in the United States.

So far, she’s completed over 430 miles—a little less than half her target goal. But that’s including times she walked up steep hills or took a break to talk with locals.

“If I can’t stop and have a cup of tea with a Bedouin family that is living in Jordan, how can I understand what their water challenges are?” Guli told Mashable.

Growing up in Australia, Guli said, she thought putting buckets under a tap was helping solve water scarcity during periods of drought. As she got older, though, she learned that excessive water usage wasn’t just a problem in homes—rather, it was something that plagued food, energy, and fashion in a much larger way.

“What I had not fully understood is that even a simple thing like eating a hamburger is the equivalent of taking a two-hour shower,” she told Mashable.

About 740 gallons of water go into a single hamburger patty, as it takes water to grow grains, grass, and roughage to feed cows, not to mention water needed for drinking and keeping cattle clean.

According to Thirst’s site, less than 1 percent of available water is suitable for plants, animals, and humans.

Though a majority of the Earth is covered in water, about 97 percent of it is saltwater, and what little freshwater there is left is exacerbated by the fact that two-thirds of it remains trapped in ice caps and glaciers, and most of the rest is contained in soil and underground aquifers.

Experts say that by 2030, the demand for water will be 40 percent greater than the available supply. This year, the World Economic Forum listed water scarcity as the No. 1 issue facing our planet over the next decade.

“Most people don’t know that we’re going to run out of usable water,” Guli told the World Economic Forum. “We’ve got 15 years to solve the water problem.” Before founding Thirst in 2012, she worked in climate change policy at the World Bank. The CEO was named a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum in 2010.

Some of the ways people can cut back their water usage and start helping to save the world’s available freshwater supply include things like drinking tea as opposed to coffee (it takes about 220 gallons of water to grow and process coffee beans for a pot of coffee), cutting time usually spent showering by three minutes, eating chicken instead of water-wasting beef, and not buying that extra T-shirt while shopping (paper, cotton, and clothing use about 44 gallons of water).

Guli is determined to inspire others to take up the issue of water scarcity, even if that means attempting another headline-making feat.

“My work is not finished,” she said. “I want to make saving water famous, and I’m not going to stop until I do. If that means more running, that means more running.”


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