Ultra athlete running through Greene County to raise money for clean water

Katie Spotz running during another challenge. Spotz will be running 11 ultra-marathons in 11 days to set a Guinness world record. She will be running the length of Ohio. CONTRIBUTED

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Katie Spotz running during another challenge. Spotz will be running 11 ultra-marathons in 11 days to set a Guinness world record. She will be running the length of Ohio. CONTRIBUTED

Endurance athlete Katie Spotz will be running through Ohio in an attempt to set a Guinness world record and raise money for clean water in Uganda.

Spotz will run 11 ultramarathons in 11 days, or about 31 miles a day. That’s 341 miles in total. She will begin her journey in Cincinnati on June 21 and end in Cleveland on July 1.

Spotz will run through Greene County toward the beginning of her challenge. She will end her second ultramarathon on June 22 at Walton Park in Spring Valley about 3 p.m. She will then begin her third ultramarathon at the same location on June 23 the following morning. The third ultramarathon will take her through Greene County and will end in South Charleston in Clark County.

“I love going as far as you can go,” Spotz said.

Spotz, 34, is the youngest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She has run five Ironman triathlons, cycled across the U.S. twice, is the first person to swim the 325 miles of the Allegheny River and has run 100 miles in under 20 hours.

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Spotz has also run across three states, including running 138 miles in 33 hours across Maine. Spotz is a Cleveland native and currently in the Coast Guard stationed near Portland, Maine.

Each of these physical feats has been for the purpose of raising money to help get people without clean water a vital resource. Her challenges have raised enough money to help 25,000 people get clean water in Haiti, India, Guatemala, Nigeria and other communities.

“Not bad for running around in circles,” she joked.

Spotz said she found out about the water crisis when she was in college in Australia. There was a drought there. At that same time, she had a professor who said the wars of the future will be fought over water.

“It was just this new awareness of a resource that I always took for granted,” Spotz said. “The more I found out, I was pretty shocked about the severity of the issue, but then also very encouraged because it’s an issue that has solutions. With water, there are proven solutions and they aren’t even that expensive. So I love water because water affects everything. It affects health, education, women’s empowerment. All parts of life can be helped through this one foundational need.”

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Spotz said she has been doing these challenges for about a decade, but she started as a “bench warmer.”

“I was trying to take the easiest gym class I could possibly find. And that ended up with being a walking/running class and I was expecting to put the minimal effort in. But I figured I’m already here, I might as well try to run one mile straight. It was just kind of a personal challenge to see if I could do it,” Spotz said. “The thing about if you sit on the bench for long enough, you start to believe it’s because you belong there, so I never thought I could even run one mile.”

Her latest challenge aims to raise $34,100 to fund 11 clean water projects for Ugandan schools through a partnership with nonprofit H2O for Life. Spotz said she has done challenges to support H20 for Life for about four years.

“On average it’s about $50 that could get one person access to clean water, so I hope people feel encouraged to know that it doesn’t take much to make a difference,” Spotz said. “It’s an investment into a better world.”

This is her first challenge doing an activity day after day — usually she runs or rows miles all at one time. While she is running for a good cause, the running doesn’t always feel good, Spotz said.

“I could be feeling on cloud nine having a runner’s high and then an hour later, just be in a funk and just feel like my legs are bricks,” Spotz said. “It’s a huge unknown and even now, every race, every adventure is unique to the next. Even though I’ve done a lot of adventures, I’ve done them enough to know that you never really know until you’re out there doing it what’s going to happen.”

To track her progress, visit water.katiespotz.com.

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