Marathon “Barsa Kelmes”: Champion Runners Raise Awareness of Aral Sea Catastrophe

September 19
08:39 2023

On Sunday, 17th September, ProRun, led by its founder and Uzbekistan’s champion runner, Andrey Kulikov, spearheaded a first-of-its-kind athletic event to cast the spotlight on the ongoing Aral Sea ecological disaster. Alongside renowned American ultra marathoner, Dean Karnazes, Kulikov ran 42 kilometers along the bottom of the now dried up “Barsa Kelmes” lake—a stark result of mass water resource exploitation in the region, located just 60km from the Aral Sea itself.

This marathon’s mission was not just to draw worldwide attention to the ecological tragedy of the Aral Sea, but also to align with and amplify the discussions at the forthcoming UN General Assembly 2023, happening from September 18 to 23, which focuses on urgent global environmental issues. See footage from the marathon, which was live streamed, at

Marathon result: 4:51:18The sum of steps of Dean Karnazes and Andrey Kulikov: 88280Dean Karnazes: 43420Andrey Kulikov: 44860

What Happened to the Aral Sea?

The Aral Sea, once the fourth-largest lake globally, witnessed a drastic reduction in size starting in the 1960s, primarily due to irrigation projects that diverted its lifeline water sources for agricultural use. This exploitation initiated a mass ecological catastrophe, transforming lush landscapes into barren deserts, disrupting the natural habitat for numerous species, and displacing local communities. The repercussions have been far-reaching, significantly altering the region’s climate and biodiversity, leading to a pressing need for remedial environmental initiatives.

Who Are the Participants?

Andrey Kulikov – a name synonymous with the Uzbekistan marathon community and elite athletics in the region. As the founder of ProRun, he has championed numerous environmental initiatives, leveraging his stature as one of Uzbekistan’s top runners.

In 2022, Kulikov ran 42 km 195 meters along the Aral Sea bed in 4 hours 9 minutes. This previous marathon in the Aral Sea successfully drew substantial attention to the ecological plight of the region.

Dean Karnazes – a world famous American ultra marathoner and author, joining Kulikov in this endeavor. Karnazes is renowned for his awe-inspiring achievements in the marathon world, including running 350 miles in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep in 2005. His participation underscores the gravity and global relevance of the event.

Why Now

As the world congregates at the 2023 UN General Assembly from September 18 to 23 to deliberate on pressing environmental challenges, the timing for this marathon couldn’t be more pertinent. The Aral Sea region stands as a potent symbol of the devastating consequences of irrational utilization of water resources, offering a tangible and tragic testament to the urgent need for coordinated global action on environmental sustainability.

The event also aimed to build on the efforts of Abdukhakimov Aziz Abdukaharovich, Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Abdukaharovich is an environmental specialist with deep experience in the field of environmental protection. For years, he has strived for sustainable development of Uzbekistan and the Aral Sea, solving problems whilst taking into account the interests of nature and future generations.

Alongside the work of Aziz Abdukaharovich, this event aimed to echo the UN’s call for rational use of water resources and urge individuals globally to act responsibly towards water conservation.

A Step Further Than Ever Before

For the first time ever, the marathon traversed the dramatic terrain of the Barsakelmes salt lake’s floor, offering a surreal racing backdrop sprinkled with remnants of prehistoric times, including dinosaur and megalodon shark fossils found in the area. No-one has ever tackled this challenge before, and alongside Kulikov was renowned ultramarathoner, Dean Karnazes, whose participation brought global attention to the event.

This pioneering event was a clear call to action, as participants literally run on layers of salt in a region marked by ecological disaster, every footstep hammering down on the barren ground—a resounding plea for rational water usage whilst fostering a culture of athleticism. Kulikov remarked “To realize the full scale of the ecological catastrophe of the Aral Sea region one should visit here, or better run a marathon.”

Uniting people under the banner of sportsmanship and environmental consciousness, this marathon was unprecedented in its format and message, a beacon to the global community urging action for a harmonized existence with our planet.

Audience Participation

Engaging a global audience, this event encouraged active participation. Wherever they are in the world, viewers were able to tune in to the live broadcast of the marathon on the Ministry of Environment’s YouTube channel –

Additionally, there was a contest hosted on the Instagram account Participants had the chance to win an iPhone 15 Pro by accurately estimating the marathon’s completion time. Followers were able to engage and participate by commenting on the Instagram account.

A Glimmer of Hope: Re-greening the Sea

In the once barren Aral Sea region, a resurgence is taking place. New re-greening initiatives, as reported by Euronews, are fostering environmental rejuvenation through practical actions such as planting saxaul trees to prevent further desertification and introducing flora that thrive in saline environments.

These efforts align with the “Barsa Kelmes” marathon’s mission, emphasizing that a sustainable future for the Aral Sea area is not just a vision, but a reality in progress.

About ProRun

Established by Andrey Kulikov, ProRun has become a frontrunner in Uzbekistan’s marathon scene within the last 5 years. The company offers a wide array of services including timing solutions, medal and textile production, and event concept development, consolidating its reputation as an industry leader and innovator in the realm of marathon events.

To learn more about ProRun please follow them on For PR Enquiries contact Komich Sevil Valeryevna at [email protected]

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Country: Uzbekistan