Mila Guli ran 40 marathons in seven deserts in seven weeks to raise awareness for the global water crisis, here she discusses the highs and lows of her journey
When I was 22 I injured my back in a swimming accident, and a doctor told me I’d never run again. My first thought was, ‘Nobody can set limits on what I can and can’t do.’ I vowed to prove him wrong.
Nine months later I did my first Ironman triathlon. My bike broke and I didn’t know how to fix it so I walked most of that leg and only just finished before the cut-off time. I wanted to prove that I could do it properly so I signed up for another one; I’ve since done six Ironman triathlons.
But my greatest challenge came this year when, aged 45, I ran 40desert marathons in seven weeks, starting in the Tabernas Desert in Spain and ending in the Mojave Desert in the US – via Jordan, Antarctica, Australia, South Africa and Chile.
The temperatures were extreme – they fluctuated between -20C in some deserts and 47C in others – but I wanted to raise awareness of the global water shortage crisis, so running in a desert was fitting. I started training in June 2015, running long distances to build my stamina, and I began the challenge on February 1.
My biggest worry was my feet – I knew that I had the determination to do the challenge. The only thing that could let me down was a foot injury, so a podiatrist travelled with me for five of the seven deserts and ensured I wore proper footwear and clean socks each day.
Thanks to her, I ran 1,049 miles and emerged with no blisters and all 10 toenails intact. The most rewarding part of the experience was the people I met. While I was running in the Simpson Desert, Australia, two men stopped their car to ask why I was running in 47C heat.
I told them about my challenge and they zoomed off leaving behind a cloud of red dust. Then 30 minutes later they reappeared with cold drinks and ice creams for me. They said it was their small way of supporting me. I was so touched, I almost cried.
During my last day in Jordan, as I was running through Petra, a man came up to me and asked whether I was ‘that runner’. He had read my story in a local newspaper and had stuck copies of it on all the bedroom doors of the hotel he owned to encourage people to use less water. People like him are why I did it – they make every step worthwhile.