Katie Spotz considers herself to be an “accidental runner.” She used to hate to run, but that changed when she was forced to take a gym class so that she could graduate from high school. She picked a course called “Running and Walking,” because she “thought it would be an easy A.” To her surprise, she fell in love with the sport, and ever since then, she has been driven by the question, “How far can I go?” This year, she’s looking for an answer to that question once again, and she’s hoping to become the first person to complete the 130-mile (209-kilometre) run across the state of Maine while raising money for Lifewater International, an organization that is working to ensure children everywhere have clean water.
Past endurance challenges
Spotz has completed some incredible endurance challenges since stumbling upon her love for running in high school. “Running is what helped me find this love and joy for endurance challenges,” she says. “I found out about the Big Ride Across America, a 3,100-mile ride from Seattle to Washington, D.C.” That ride was in 2006, and two years later, Spotz completed a personal challenge that she dubbed the Swim for Water, in which she swam the 523-kilometre Allegheny River in Pennsylvania and New York. In March 2010, she completed the Row for Water — a 70-day, 4,900-kilometre solo row across the Atlantic Ocean, from Dakar, Senegal, to Georgetown, Guyana.
Spotz has run several ultramarathons, including a few 100-milers, and she says ultrarunning is “very similar to ocean rowing, where the first oar stroke is just as important as the last. In ultras, the first step is just as important as the last.”
Although she finds the two sports to be similar in some ways, the challenges she’s completed in both are quite different. She says she feels excited halfway through an ultramarathon, because she knows what it took to get to that point, but with the ocean row, she was “pretty overwhelmed” after the first half.
“For my row, I gave everything I possibly could to get halfway. It seemed impossible to do that again.’” Instead of focusing on the more than 2,000 kilometres of rowing ahead of her, she thought of the journey as one mile at a time. “The present moment was as far as I could see and as much as I could handle,” she says.
In preparing for her run in Maine, Spotz recently completed a run close to 100K long across the state of New Hampshire. She ran the route in 11 hours. When she runs across Maine, she very well could face some dark moments over the course of the 209K route. Her past experiences won’t make the run easy by any means, but they will certainly help her with the mental side of the challenge. She has had a lot of practice focusing on the present moment, and that could come in handy when she tackles the run in a few months’ time.
Many of Spotz’s challenges have been to raise funds for clean water projects across the world, and her run in September will be no different. “I rowed for water, I swam for water, I rode for water,” she says. “I figured it’s time to run for water.” Spotz learned about the water crisis when she was living in Australia. “I vividly remember one of my professors mentioning that the wars of the future will be fought over water. My eyes were opened to this issue.”
Spotz says she has “a lot of hope in the projects that aren’t just helping get water, but with education, business and health. Water is the first step out of poverty.” She’s partnered with Lifewater, which has water projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Cambodia. Since Spotz started her campaigns and projects, she has helped raise close to $400,000 for the global water crisis. She speaks at schools about the issues other countries face, and she even has a book, Just Keep Rowing, about her experiences as an endurance athlete. All of the proceeds raised from her book sales go directly toward helping the crisis as well.
Spotz will start the Run4Water on September 5, and she expects the route to take between 30 and 36 hours for her to complete. To find out more about Spotz and her challenges, click here. To learn about Lifewater International, visit the organization website here.