An Australian athlete who is running 40 marathons, across seven deserts and seven continents in seven weeks has gone from the freezing cold of Antarctica to the heat of the Simpson Desert in just a matter of hours.
Mina Guli has faced blistering heat and bone-numbing cold, all manners of deadly creepy crawlies and is literally putting her life on a line for a cause -- to raise awareness of global water scarcity.
Mina Guli running in the Tabernas Desert, Spain. Picture Kelvin Trautman
Guli, the CEO of educational water conservation charity Thirst, has already completed runs through the Tabernas Desert in Spain, the Arabian Desert in Jordan and a gruelling run in Antarctic. Her journey will see her running 1688km through deserts in Spain, California, Antarctica, Jordan, Australia, South Africa and Chile.
Guli told The Huffington Post Australia the hardest part is just the relentless need to run miles.
“All day, every day I’m clocking miles in my head. So when there are weather delays as there were in the Antarctic, the pressure is on to make up the miles. Weather conditions in the Antarctic were very tough and the surfaces were very challenging and it meant I couldn’t start running until just before lunchtime, as it was so cold and then I’d continue until 1 am when it was still bright and sunny. I’d get up around 6 am to check the weather conditions, then it’s a waiting game to see if it’s too cold and windy. The wind can literally blow you off your feet!” Guli said.
“It’s bone-numbingly cold. It’s difficult to describe as it’s a very dry cold with temperatures ranging from minus 16-20. It’s like running on crunchy ground where you put your foot down and it goes ‘crunch’ -- but you don’t know whether you’re going to crunch through the crunch. Imagine running on an apple pie and, as you’re running along, you don’t know whether you’re going to put your foot onto the crust or through to the apple.”
Mina Guli in Antarctic. Picture Kelvin Trautman
Despite the tough physical conditions, Guli said running in the Antarctic was incredibly beautiful.
“Imagine standing on a white quilt and in every direction you see flat white. When the sun shines, all the snow particles shimmer, like somebody has thrown glitter across the landscape. But it can change very quickly. We had a white-out where you couldn’t see the horizon, you can only see white. When you’re running on soft snow you slide around, it can reach your knees when you’re stuck in a snow drift and it is cold -- really, really cold! I’m wearing full survival gear which meant that even preparing to go outside was lengthy. You have to carefully manage the temperatures because if you sweat too much, you’ll be producing liquid close to your body so you get cold. So it’s a constant balancing act between being too cold and not being too hot.”
Mina Guli in Jordan. Picture Kelvin Trautman
Guli expects the biggest challenge of the Simpson desert will be the obvious one: extreme heat.
“When I went to Antarctica I was terrified because I’d never spent time running in the snow. The conditions on the foot remind me of running on sand. As for the Simpson desert, every desert has its own challenges. There was a huge amount of sand in Jordan. In the Tabernas, Spain, it was quite rocky so we ended up running down through old river beds that, 40 years ago were holding water but is now dry. We came across farmers trying to grow crops in this desolate land. I could deal with the heat in Jordan as it was only between 30-35 degrees, so it was manageable. But the Simpson desert will be 40-plus degrees every day, absolutely no shade and no respite from the heat -- it will be a shock coming from minus 20!”
Guli is looking to build awareness of the issue in consumers, to create a base of support to challenge big corporates to review their supply chains in relation to water use and sustainability.
“What I’m doing is raising awareness of the fact that by 2030 there’s going to be a 40 percent difference between water supply and demand. So that’s why I’m running 40 marathons. Right now, 4 billion people have not enough access to water for at least one month out of every year. This is something we need to tackle now and it needs to be a top priority, before it is too late.”
"On top of my goal, it's been a remarkable lesson in how different the planet is and how it adapts to changing environments. The sad part is we’re humans and don’t adapt but we change our environments."
Gulil's journey will end in the Mojave Desert, USA, March 22.
You can follow her incredible journey here: