SOUTH PORTLAND — In high school Katie Spotz was reluctant to even walk a mile — now she’s preparing for a 130-mile nonstop run from the Canadian border to Belfast, Maine, in September.

Spotz, a Coast Guard member stationed in South Portland, has a goal of raising $10,000 in the Run4Water charity fundraising initiative, she said. All of the funds will be going toward the Lifewater International charity organization, a nonprofit that brings clean water to communities all over the globe.

There are 780 million people worldwide who are living without access to an improved water source, said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. An improved water source would include a public standpipe, piped home water connection, or a protected dug well or spring.

Such a large number of people may seem daunting and hopeless to some, but Spotz said that she is taking on the challenge and raising awareness in hopes to shrink that number to zero some day.

“Sometimes when we see big problems, it’s almost like we tell ourselves we can’t do anything about that,” she said. “But $50 can give someone clean water for the rest of their life.”

Impossible situations don’t scare Spotz, who said she didn’t think that she could even walk a mile before she took a mandatory gym class in high school, having believed that the activity was a waste of time.

“I picked a running-walking class because I was trying to find the easiest A,” she said. “I didn’t have that want to push myself. And then I figured since I was already there, I would try to run one mile. I never thought I could run a mile straight. Even though it was difficult and didn’t feel good, I was curious. And that one mile turned into two and into 10 and it’s just a constant journey.”

Now Spotz has been running races, marathons, and has been pushing herself for the last 10 years, she said. According to her blog, she raised $100,000 for water projects in 2010 when she rowed across the Atlantic Ocean solo.

Katie Spotz said that her first marathon was about 10 years ago, and now she’s preparing a 130-mile run across Maine. Courtesy photo of Katie Spotz

Spotz became interested in water shortages when she was studying in Australia in her college years, she said.

“The professor said the wars of the future will be over water,” she said. “And I was like, what do you mean? Water is the most basic, easily accessible thing. I was just used to being in a world where I couldn’t imagine having a shortage of water.

“Water is really the first step in a life of poverty for millions. In Australia, they had droughts and I was seeing their insecurities for water.”

The 130-mile trip she will be undertaking will represent “10 percent of the total distance someone in a village without water travels annually to access a water source, which ultimately is not clean and sanitary,” said Spotz in a written statement.

Gary Weyel, director of communications for Lifewater, recognized Spotz’s determination.

“Partners like Katie make this life-changing work possible,” he said. “Because of her efforts, vulnerable families in very remote regions of Tanzania will have clean water, improved health, and hope for the future.”

In order to train, Spotz will be running a 60-mile trip across New Hampshire, in four weeks, she said.

“I think it’s human nature to sometimes sell ourselves short,” she said. “When I do these things, it’s not just ‘Wow, look at what she can do.’ It’s ‘Wow, look at what we can do.’ I’m not superhuman.”

Originally from Ohio, Spotz is used to flat terrain and is also training to run across the hilly Maine surfaces, she said.

“Even though I run long distance in the past that doesn’t mean my body will respond comfortably,” she said. “I think the biggest challenge for me is comfort. I’m constantly finding what works, trying to see what’s comfortable when doing something that’s taxing. Like posture, all these little things that you don’t have to worry about on a five-mile run that you do on a 100-mile run. There’s so much you can constantly improve and adapt.”

Spotz will be posting updates to her social media pages and blog, she said. Information about supporting the fundraising initiative can be found at www.katiespotz.com/run4water, and she hopes people will join her journey in spirit.

Throughout Spotz’s adventures, she has learned to “just be encouraged to know that if there’s something you’re interested in doing, someone has probably done it before,” she said. “It’s OK if you don’t have the answers because someone else does.”

For more information about Lifewater or Run4Water, visit https://www.katiespotz.com/run4water.

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