Running 200 marathons towards a global water solution
On the morning of the 2023 UN Water Conference, ultra-marathon runner Mina Guli has completed a year-long, campaign to run 200 marathons, raising awareness of the world’s water crisis. She completed her last run at UN Headquarters, the location of the major event, the first of its kind in almost half a century.
For many runners, taking part in a marathon is a challenge of a lifetime or, if they’re particularly keen, an annual test of endurance. Mina Guli is built differently: over the past year, she has been running four marathons of 26.2 miles each, every week, across the world, racking up a total of 200 long-distance runs, raising awareness of the global water crisis as part of her Run Blue campaign.
The aim of Run Blue is to draw attention to many of the challenges being tackled at the UN Water Conference, only the second of its kind, following the inaugural summit, which took place in Argentina in 1977.
46 years on, more than 800,000 people are still dying each year from diseases directly attributed to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene practices, and around four billion people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month of the year.
On Tuesday, the day before the opening session of the Conference, Ms. Guli reached the finishing line of her 200th marathon, arriving at UN Headquarters in New York, and handed over a flag emblazoned with the logo for SDG 6 – Sustainable Development Goal 6, which calls for everyone to have access to clean and safe water supplies – and covered with the signatures of people encountered during her campaign, to UN dignitaries.
"I'm running 200 marathons in a year because the world still turns a blind eye to our worsening water crises,” said Ms. Guli. “I run ridiculous distances because it is completely ridiculous that billions of people still lack access to safe water and sanitation. I run to ensure that water and freshwater ecosystems are at the centre of global debates about food and energy security, climate adaptation and sustainable development - and to inspire real action.”
The Australian businesswoman and founder of the Thirst Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness and driving action on water, has spoken at the United Nations and many other global forums.
“Running all these marathons is hard but not impossible - just like the steps governments and companies need to take to solve the world's water crises,” continued Ms. Guli. “The UN Water Conference is an unprecedented opportunity to transform the world’s failed approach to water and the rivers, lakes and wetlands that provide it. We must all act now.”
Run Blue and the UN Water Conference
The UN Water Conference will bring Heads of State and Government, Ministers, and stakeholders across all different sectors together achieve internationally agreed goals, including Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for a fairer future; ensuring access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene for all.
One of the main outcomes of the Conference will be the Water Action Agenda, which will collate all water-related voluntary commitments and follow on their progress. The Agenda aims to encourage Member States, stakeholders, and the private sector to commit to urgent actions to address today’s water challenges.
Ms. Guli has run through countries in Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas since she began the campaign in March 2022. During her time in Egypt, she attended the COP27 UN Climate Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, where she highlighted the critical importance of water and freshwater ecosystems to climate action, particularly adaptation.
Ms. Guli will be speaking during the conference at an SDG Media Zone session held at 11:15 on Wednesday 22 March, entitled “Running the world blue”. The session can be viewed live here.