Katie Spotz pushed her mind and body to become the youngest person to row across the Atlantic Ocean for charity. That was a decade ago. And since then, she has continued to challenge herself with feats few have even attempted.
Now, with a revitalized faith in God, her next quest will come on land when she'll run nonstop across the state of Maine to bring clean water to Tanzanian communities.
Spotz, a Christian endurance athlete, will run 130 miles to raise money for Lifewater International on Sept. 5. Run4Water is her latest challenge benefiting clean water initiatives. As donations and efforts grow, Spotz's faith has also grown over time.
“I’ve done different challenges like swimming and rowing, and now it’s a chance to run for water,” Spotz told The Christian Post. “When God sees people having clean water, it brings a smile to His face. Providing clean water is an extension of how I believe God wants us to live.”
Spotz said she originally ran and pursued endurance challenges as a means to fight anxiety and to feel accomplished. She enjoyed pushing herself to see how much success she could bring to herself and the charity.
“I believe that we’re all created in God’s image and we all have value, we’re all loved,” she said. “Faith has been a big part of how I see clean water. “It’s an active obedience of God to share what we’ve been given.”
When Spotz finished her row across the Atlantic in 2010, she received media attention from around the world. She said at first she saw the attention as a way to benefit her goals of clean water, but said she was "duped" by the attention at times.
"When you don't know God, something else becomes it. For me it was achievement, I bought the lies of achievement," Spotz, co-author of Just Keep Rowing, said. "I had this extreme thirst for more and this discontentment. I did not get that promise achievement could bring."
Spotz said she remembered a day she visited a museum with her friend, Meghan. As the friends walked through the museum, they discussed God, which led to Spotz attending church with her friend. Spotz has been growing in her faith ever since, and said it is clear that personal achievement will never earn a love similar to God's.
"When you're no longer attached to 'love is earned,’ it frees you to receive this never-ending love," she said. "Before I was running on fear. Now I'm running on joy. There's no words that can justify how good and amazing God is … we constantly witness God's goodness and love and if that's not an adventure, I don't know what is.”
In speeches to children, the 33-year-old athlete shares with them the Gospel as well as the valuable outlook she learned as she started endurance challenges with a 1-mile run and continued to push for longer runs.
“We are capable of more than we think,” she has told audiences. It just requires taking “one step after another.”
Starting at the Canadian border and ending in Belfast, Maine, Spotz will be the first person to run across the state. She ran across New Hampshire and Vermont with the same initiative, and stands as the only woman to complete the two feats.
Billions without clean water
According to the World Health Organization, some 2.2 billion people (40% of the global population) do not have access to safe drinking water. Water insecurity may be assumed to only impact impoverished countries and communities, but Spotz has found the issue to be widespread, even in developed areas.
She said she learned how water insecurity can happen to anyone and any country while living through a drought in Australia. Despite wealth, technology and infrastructure, Spotz said she was surprised to see the limitations on life due to a shortage of water.
“Australia is a developed, progressive nation and they had restrictions on when you could water your grass or wash your car,” she recalled. “That made me think, ‘no one is exempt from something that can and does affect everyone.’ We even see it in the U.S.”
An environmental science class extinguished any hesitation Spotz had about the importance of clean water after her experience in Australia. She said the class described how water could be the reason for a war in the future because it's so basic and fundamental.
“Everyone could live in a world of clean water without huge sacrifice,” she stressed. “Water is the first step in medicine and education. Water affects everything.”
Lifewater’s Tanzania campaign is a new installment to provide clean water by the company that has been invested in the issue for the last 40 years. According to Lifewater, half of Tanzania’s population does not have access to clean water, leading to nationwide illness.
Rural Tanzania communities receive little to no government help, according to Lifewater. Funds raised through Run4Water and the Tanzania campaign as a whole will be used for education, transportation and technology in addition to water.
Run4Water has already surpassed its original goal of $10,000 toward the Tanzania project, with a new goal of $20,000. All in all, Spotz has raised over $400,000 for clean water initiatives from previous challenges.