On August 22, 2016, Samantha Gash, a young Australian endurance athlete, will begin running her biggest ultra-marathon yet: #RunIndia, a 3800 kilometres run across several states in India from Rajasthan to Meghalaya. The run is expected to take 76 days at a planned pace of 50 kilometres a day and during the journey, Samantha and her team will visit 18 World Vision projects in India.
#RunIndia is the latest initiative from Samantha Gash, who is a Social Entrepreneur and Corporate Speaker apart from being an Endurance Athlete. As an Endurance Athlete, she was the first female (and youngest person) to complete the Four Deserts Grand Slam in one calendar year (that’s Four 250kms marathons in deserts of Chile, China, Sahara and Antarctica). Since then she’s run 379km solo across the Simpson Desert in Australia, and 250km in Nepal, among many other notable achievements. And she’s raised tens of thousands of dollars through her runs to support development programmes.
Samantha is co-Founder of Freedom Runners and supports and patronises several charitable initiatives. Her #RunIndia initiative is aimed at raising funds for children’s education. During #RunIndia, Samantha will explore and find out first-hand the challenges facing Indian communities today. She will visit 18 World Vision’s Area Development Projects across India and share the stories of people she meets in these communities. One can participate and support her endeavour by donating to the fund raise: #RunIndia. The route plan would seem intuitive (she did spend considerable time in India planning her run), it cuts across different climates, states, and regions some well known and others not often visited.
In this crisp and timely interview, Samantha takes some time to talk about her philosophy, goals, and approach.
How do you see yourself, and the relationship with the world around you?
Samantha: I feel like thats a: ‘what is the meaning of life’ type of questions. A question that my very full and overwhelmed head and heart is not quite sure how to answer right now. I have spent two years intensely planning for my very imminent run across India. By far the most complex and meaningful project I have ever embarked on. One I couldn’t have contemplated doing if I hadn’t had such a diverse range of life experiences to draw from. This project has required to develop trusted relationships with partners from the not-for-profit sector, government, corporate sector, community groups – in both the Australia and India. I certainly believe in collaboration and the need to be aware and connected to our global community. And once you are aware, I don’t believe you can ignore. And once you can’t ignore, you need to have the belief in yourself that you can contribute to some type of positive change.
What legacy are you aiming to establish with your work?
Samantha: I want to share the realities around the barriers that children face when accessing quality education.
I want to have a tangible positive impact to address and remove some of the barriers through my work as a World Vision Ambassador and corporate speaker.
I want to authentically share the stories of the people i am privileged to meet through my work.
How do you approach training and performance?
Samantha: Holistically and in a manner to allow my body to stay strong and resilient for as long as possible. My training is a mixture of trail running, strength & conditioning, hot yoga and also adventure racing.
I often try and put my body and mind out of their comfort zone to push my limits and deepen my understanding of who I am.
Do you see yourself moving on from running and if yes, any ideas what the future might look like say 5 years from now?
Samantha: Let’s ask that question again after I finish my run across India 🙂
What is a Freedom Runners and what are the other initiatives you have founded/run?
Samantha: Freedom Runners was a 32 day run over 1968kms across rural South Africa. The idea was to use the run as a mechanism to raise attention to the high cost and inaccessibility of feminine hygiene products for many women in South Africa, particularly those in rural SA. This situation becomes a barrier for young women and girls to attending school.
I am also on the board for a new organisation connecting and empowering women from multicultural backgrounds into sport.
(Interview conducted over email; Photos courtesy Samantha Gash).