6 River Run, an interview with Mina Guli

Please find below a recent blog posting I wrote for Cotswold Outdoor, all about the 6 Rivers Run challenge being undertaken by Mina Guli for Thirst and LifeStraw.

6 RIVER RUN, AN INTERVIEW WITH MINA GULI

Mina Guli ran 40 marathons in 6 weeks, 

By Cotswold Outdoor

If you have ever run the London Marathon, it probably left you exhausted, emotional, and very sore. So how about getting up the next day to run another, and another…

Mina Guli, CEO of the water charity Thirst, has just completed the 6 River Run. An epic feat that involves running 40 marathons in six weeks, along six of the world’s biggest rivers. All to draw attention to what she calls “our global water crisis”.

Leaving Las Vegas on World Water Day, Mina ran along the Colorado River, the Amazon River in South America, the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia, the Yangtze River in Asia and the Nile River in Africa, finishing on the River Thames on 30th April.

6 River Run, Lifestraw

Her inspiration has been the future of our water supply. To strengthen this message, she chose to drink from the rivers she ran along, using LifeStraw, an innovative product that acts as a mobile filtration straw, meaning you can drink directly from a river, lake or even a puddle.

LifeStraw has partnered with Mina Guli to help raise a critical message –the world’s future and our lives depend on having enough clean safe water. LifeStraw’s ‘Follow the Liters’ campaign provides community purifiers to those without access to clean water. As a result, anyone who buys a LifeStraw provides one school child in a developing community with safe water for an entire school year.

We caught up with Mina when she reached the UK to find out how she managed to achieve such a formidable challenge.

Question

Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you prepare for this feat of human endurance?

“I am old! I’m 46 and female, which means my body struggles to retain muscle mass and I’m more easily injured. So I spent a lot of time with my coach in the gym, lifting weights and getting strong.

I also did a lot of running. I needed to get used to just being on my feet for a long time, being exhausted every day and getting up the next morning to go again. Your body gets beaten up emotionally, physically and mentally and you have to be able to withstand that. So a large part of the training has been making sure I am ready to do that”.

Question

How did you make the transition to an extreme, long distance runner?

“First, you have to transition your mind.  I am doing this for a purpose – water. So, you have to stop looking at your pace and your time. You need to find things that inspire you, find an area you want to explore. Pack some money or your sandwiches and then just plan a route. The UK is great because there are a lot of outdoor cafes and pubs where you can stop, have some water, something to eat and then carry on running.

6 River Run

You also have to transition from running 5k, for example, at a high heart rate, to running much further at a much lower heart rate. Learning how to run very slowly for long periods of time. Sometimes I am just shuffling along”.

Question

How many pairs of trainers have you been through?

“I am on my sixth pair!”

Question

You say your purpose is water, can you explain?

“I am very concerned that we are running out of water. We’re using it faster than nature can replace it. And I’m worried about two aspects – supply and demand.

LifeStraw works on the supply side, making water available for us to use by ensuring we can drink contaminated water.

On the demand side, look at the shoes and clothes you are wearing, the mobile phone we’re talking on. These things have all taken more water to make than the amount we will drink in our entire lifetime. We just don’t realise or understand how much water goes into our supply chain.

6 River Run with Lifestraw

We need to make this invisible water visible and make people aware that we have a water crisis. It’s difficult in the UK because when we turn on a tap, water comes out. There’s water everywhere. I’ve been running along the Thames and it’s full. But the reality is that most people in Britain buy and live on products that are made elsewhere. It’s a global water issue”.

Question

How has LifeStraw helped you on your journey?

“People are afraid to drink local water supplies. But they want to be mobile, they want to extend their stay in the outdoors, they want to run for long periods, but they are limited by the amount of water they can carry. With LifeStraw you can just carry a straw and you know wherever you drink, you’re drinking safe water.

I chose LifeStraw firstly for its filtration abilities, but secondly, and more importantly, for its innovation towards solving this problem. They are an inspiring story”.

Question

What has been your most testing time during your challenge and how did you get through this?

“During the last couple of weeks, I have been injured. My body is tired and sore and I’ve had problems with the inside of my shins, as well as a lingering issue with a small muscle in my backside. It’s left me in huge amounts of pain and frustration as I could only run very slowly. This is very depressing.

6 RIver Run

But when I need inspiration to continue I think about the next generation and the world I want to leave for the kids of the future. I want to make sure there’s enough water for them, that’s my inspiration”.

Question

How did you enjoy being in Britain?

“It’s cold! So cold! But immensely beautiful. It’s a stark contrast to the hussle of the Nile.  There are open farming fields here, far fewer people, more open space and farm land for grazing cattle. The UK is absolutely spectacular. There are ducks playing on the water, lots of distractions for me. The shoreline is very manicured around London. At the source it was more wild and woolly. It’s been wonderful seeing so many people using the river for recreation and lots of fellow runners.”

Question

What’s it been like running here? How does the terrain differ?

“Running down the Thames, there is often a paved path which is absolutely lovely! But also in parts it is very uneven. Running through fields with sheep and cows and other cloven hoof animals that have carved up the ground. This is very challenging as it is much harder to control your running”.

6 River Run with Lifestraw

Question

Why did you want to finish your challenge in London on the Thames?

“I wanted to show people that even though the Thames was in a poor state many years ago, it has been rehabilitated. You can’t believe it was once so polluted that it was in a sorry state of affairs, struggling, with the life being sucked out of it. Now it is back to life, there are fish jumping out!”

What you need to know about waterproofing

Please find below a recent blog post I wrote for the Duke of Edinburgh website and Nikwax, through my freelancing with the PR agency, Spring PR based in Foxley.

How to stay dry, warm and comfortable on your expedition

By Nikwax

Whether you’re working towards your Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, or helping others to do so, keeping your kit dry on expedition will be a top priority.

With the British weather as unpredictable as ever, keeping your outdoor clothing and equipment dry could be the difference between a comfortable and enjoyable expedition and a miserable, soggy one.

Having gear that protects you from the rain, wind and cold is an important part of your expedition kit.

Your waterproof coat, fleece, base layer, fabric or leather boots all help to keep you dry, warm and comfortable; even your sleeping bag, tent and rucksack too.

As with all items like these, they’re usually made of technical fabric and need the right care. These fabrics are designed to breathe, whilst keeping you dry and warm. Over time and through use, dirt and grime will reduce their effectiveness. This can all mean your waterproof gear no longer works as well as it once did. To make sure it stays water repellent and breathable, you need to clean and re-waterproof it regularly.

How Nikwax can help

Nikwax has a range of easy to use aftercare products specifically to care for outdoor clothing and equipment. Nikwax products clean them effectively; reviving their breathability and water repellency. It means your clothes and boots will work as they should to keep you dry and comfortable on expedition.

Very importantly, as Nikwax footwear products are designed for the fabric and leather your walking boots are made from, they‘ll keep you dry and comfortable whilst maintaining their essential supportive features.

How can you tell if you need to clean and re-waterproof your gear?

There are two key times to check and treat your outdoor gear – before and after your expedition.

You can tell if your clothing and equipment is losing its water repellency if it ‘wets out’. This means you’ll see darker patches forming where water is being absorbed through the surface of the material.

For your clothing, cleaning and re-waterproofing with Nikwax Tech Wash® and TX Direct® will revive breathability and restore water repellency and make water ‘bead’ on the surface – forming into droplets. This means you’re ready for the off.

For your boots, if they’re dirty, cleaning them using Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel™ will gently remove this and revive their breathability. Then applying Nikwax Fabric and Leather Proof™ afterwards will restore their water repellency.

Nikwax aftercare products are all really easy to use. Depending on which product you’re using, you can either use them in your washing machine, apply it by hand or spray it on.

Nikwax is safe on the environment

Producing high performance, low impact products that improve everyone’s enjoyment of the outdoors is really important to Nikwax. All Nikwax products are safe on the environment, water based, non-flammable and don’t use harmful chemicals like fluorocarbons (PFCs).

Nikwax is incredibly proud to be the first, and only, outdoor company to receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development and is recommended aftercare for the DofE Award and many leading outdoor equipment brands.

Use your DofE Reward Card for money off the whole Nikwax range at Cotswold Outdoor.

You can also play the Web Quiz click here to win free Nikwax samples.

Directing Dairy and Drones

Tonight’s Wales this Week looks at the struggles facing dairy farmers and the plummeting prices they’re experiencing for their milk.
A milking parlour on a dairy farm
Milking Parlour
It’s the first time I have ever produced and directed an entire half hour programme, which was an exciting challenge and a chance to develop my script writing skills.
The programme features many voices from the National Farmers Union in Wales, to a local Cardiff milkman, industry analysts – DairyCo and a Welshpool farmer who is in the process of growing his business into a 1,000 cow dairy farm in order to become as efficient as possible.
Fraser Jones was a particularly good speaker – passionate about the industry, forward looking and confident that the future will be bright.
His story also gave me a chance to use the hottest, most talked about piece of filming equipment so far – a drone. Manned by ITV Wales cameraman, Mark Doleman it gave us some gorgeous shots showing a bird’s eye view of the land that will be developed.
A drone view of Fraser's farm
Drone camera over Fraser’s farm near Welshpool
I think there is a danger that drones could be over-used in TV. People are very excited about them but I believe you have to base your decision to use one on editorial and journalistic reasons, not just because it will give you pretty shots! In this instance I felt it was justified because we were talking a large scale farming development that couldn’t be viewed properly from the ground.
See what you think. Have a watch tonight, 8pm, ITV Wales or catch up afterwards here.

A windy one!

Did you know, at one stage there were around 50 working windmills on Anglesey? That’s quite a lot when you consider the island only measures around 270 square miles.
It’s all down to a combination of the perfectly warm and wet land – ripe for growing grain, and the windy weather ready at all times to push the sails.
But despite these helpful aids, it’s not an easy job turning grain into flour. As demonstrated by ITV’s Ruth Wignall, who I filmed on a recent visit to Llynon Mill – in the north west of the isle. And the only working windmill left in Wales.
Ruth helps Miller Lloyd to lift the grain to the top of the Mill
Ruth helps Miller Lloyd to lift the grain to the top of the Mill
The Mill itself was recently refurbished by Anglesey Council who spent thousands on it. It’s now run by the very cheery two man team of Miller, Lloyd Jones and his Assistant, Arwen Owen.
They were fantastic hosts for the day, even allowing us to film right inside the very top of the mill, where the huge cogs turn and you get the privilege of a fantastic view right across the isle with the sails floating past you.
Cameraman Llew filming at the top of the Mill
Cameraman Llew filming at the top of the Mill
The piece aired on last Friday’s Coast & Country. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

A chilled out filming day

Tonight’s ITV Wales’ Coast & Country, features an item I produced on something known as “mindfulness”.

It’s a meditation technique that’s been hitting the headlines recently for its celebrity status and the strength of its academic research.

It’s said to help by focusing your mind on the present, rather than tonight’s plans, your to do list or what to have for dinner! And is often combined with a walk conducted in silence – leaving gaps between you and the person in front of you – so you’re not tempted to chat!

But, I tell you what, it’s not the easiest thing to film! A silent walk…! With long gaps in between people!

Luckily our interviewee, Sholto Radford from Wilderness Minds, helped to put it into context, “One of the first things that people begin to notice when they first practise mindfulness is how often our minds are actually elsewhere…I think meditation in its essence is quite simple, it’s about training the mind to be more aware”.

Presenter Carl Edwards (@carledwardsitv) was great at vocalising his feelings during the walk to enable us to paint a better picture in the viewer’s mind, “I kept drifting and started thinking about other things, like is the gap between me and you too small, is it too big, is the person behind me wanting me to go faster. But then in the moments where I wasn’t thinking about things like that, I was noticing much more than I normally would walking”. 

Coast & Country with the Newborough Nordics walking group
Us with Sholto and the Newborough Nordics
I was helped along the way as well by local walking group, the Newborough Nordics and members of the Anglesey Federation of Women’s Institutes. I find it always works best to include some other newbies in a piece like this to get their view point on a new trend.
If you missed the show, you can catch up here later tonight.

Filming Downton….well sort of!

I recently had the opportunity of filming at the fantastic National Trust property, Erddig Hall, for the ITV Wales Coast & Country programme.

National Trust property Erddig Hall
National Trust property, Erddig Hall

This stunning 18th century country manor house near Wrexham is often compared by its visitors to that most loved of TV programmes, Downton Abbey. And it comes down to the remarkable relationship that existed between the upstairs and the downstairs.

And so, of course, that had to be the focus for the piece I was producing. It is to become a six minute item for the programme, presented by Ruth Wignall (@ruthwignall) and filmed by North Wales ITV cameraman, Mark Doleman.

The house holds a stunning collection of treasures – in fact one of the largest ever owned by the National Trust.

The Yorke family, who lived there for 240 years, were hoarders. And it shows! But of course that only makes it a fantastic location for filming – so many delicate treasures and interesting curiosities to focus on. 

National Trust property Erddig Hall
Filming inside Erddig Hall, Wrexham

Most members of the Yorke family were also tee total and vegetarian. It doesn’t sound far fetched in our day and age but this is the Victorian period!

What was really fascinating about the Yorkes though was this relationship they held with their domestic staff – encompassed in the fact that they often had portraits commissioned of their servants and each squire to own Erddig often wrote poems about them. The art works line the walls of the servants hall and passage. The Yorkes couldn’t afford to pay their staff very well, so instead they chose to treat them well – often providing better food and accommodation; and this attitude of gratitude. They would even allow them to enjoy the gardens and watch the sunset on occasions! A sackable offence in most other houses of the time.

But what was really fun during the shoot was linking this to Downton Abbey. And we did it by recreating the opening titles for the start of our programme piece.

As TV producers, we’ve recently had some good news concerning this style of filming. New laws have come into force when it comes to allowing the parody of copyright works. This means we can film something like this without fear – as long as we aren’t damaging the reputation, or defaming the subject. Which in the case of Downton Abbey, of course, you would never do – it would be like criticising a national treasure!

Check it out on Coast & Country – ITV Wales, 8pm, Friday 7 November 2014 

Filming The Dyfi Osprey Project

As a freelance director currently working for the ITV Wales’ Coast & Country team, I do feel pretty smug with the fantastic filming opportunities I am given. Travelling to some of the most inspiring locations around Wales isn’t too much of a chore. But one of the highlights for me, and my film crew has to be the day we paid a visit to Cors Dyfi.

Our production team at the Dyfi Osprey Project
Our production team at the Dyfi Osprey Project

It’s a stunning nature reserve on the Dyfi Estuary near Machynlleth, run by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. But, what’s most fascinating about this reserve, is it’s become the nesting ground to two of the most magnificent birds I’ve ever seen.

Ospreys, Monty and Glesni, have recently flown 3,000 miles back from Western Africa where they spent the winter. It’s their second summer here together and the Dyfi Osprey Project at Cors Dyfi was waiting with baited breath for their return – along with hundreds of people glued to their online live streaming feed and Facebook page.

As a crew we stayed overnight in Machynlleth the night before, visiting a local pub to debate, over steak and chips, what it is that makes these birds so fascinating. The next day the sun was out, despite the rain warnings. It had to be a sign for a good day’s filming, and we weren’t disappointed.

The nature reserve was a dream to film at – everywhere you turned there was a beautiful shot – and that was even before we reached the nest.

For the last few weeks I had been secretly glued to the Dyfi Osprey Project live streaming website – telling myself it was work and the boss wouldn’t mind! But seeing the birds in real life was a dream come true. It’s their eyes that get me – the mesmerising bright yellow hue (or orange in the case of Monty!). Always alert, watching, unaware of the huge number of eyes on them.

A brand new 360 degree observatory has been built this year and it means the nest is just 200 metres away. But even that short distance demanded a change of lens. Our cameraman switched to the “long lens” and the double up function on the camera. This means the camera becomes very sensitive to movement but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell the small children to stop jumping around with glee!

We were treated to three different interviewees from the Wildlife Trust, Janine, Alwyn and Kim, whose passion for the ospreys and the reserve was infectious. You could see why they loved their jobs so much. They told us all about the, somewhat dramatic, return of Monty and Glesni this year. It sounded like a soap opera to us, and being ITV we should know!

Our presenter, Andrew Price, was enthralled and kept it coming with the questions. I just wish we had the space to feature them all. Monty and Glesni could fill their own hour long special.

As a programme we wanted to share this amazing journey with our viewers who might not have had a chance to hear about Monty and Glesni yet. We hope you catch the bug too!

You can watch the programme featuring the Dyfi Osprey Project by clicking here.