By Nidhi Kumari
Samantha Gash , the ultramarathon runner from Melbourne is all prepped to run a formidable distance of about 4000 Km across India to raise funds for World Vision projects tackling barriers to quality education. Beginning on August 22, the 12 Week Challenge is going to be the longest and the hardest run for the athlete.
Indus Age reached out to the 31-year old ultrarunner where she has spoken about her doorway to the adventurous sports arena, her love for India, her collaboration with World Vision on Run India and a lot more. Excerpts from the interview:
A lawyer, a corporate presenter, a social entrepreneur and now an athlete. What has been the driving force that brought you in this entirely different world of sports?
It has been an interesting ‘trail’ to land where I am right now. I have always had a deep focus when I pursue a particular goal and I have often tried to be as creative as possible in the way I decide to approach it. Even though I worked as a commercial lawyer, my drive was to have a career in social justice and advocacy. Specifically, my area of interest has been towards creating access to quality education for children in Australia and overseas. I feel my travels, past experiences and own education has taught me to look more holistically into the complex reasons why a child might not go to school, beyond the physical presence of a school building. I never would have thought endurance sports and corporate speaking would become a far more powerful medium to have an impact in this space.
With hard work and lateral thinking, I believe anyone can use the thing that they enjoy the most, to achieve the goal they are most passionate about.
Were there any challenges on your path when you ventured in this field of adventure and sports?
Certainly and challenges will always exist, which is perhaps what makes the journey exciting and overwhelming all at once. It is a process to try and challenge people’s perspective around the capacity for sport to be used as a vehicle for social change. Many people presume that running is the number one objective for me and my goals towards education are a little added bonus. However it is the other way around. I definitely love to run but there is no way I would be running across India or South Africa if it was purely for the love of forward motion.
A challenge but also an exciting component for me is using collaboration with different stakeholders to transform an ordinarily solo endeavour to achieve a far great objective.
Your past records show that you have run to support noble causes. And now you will be working with World Vision to run across India. Tell us about that.
I am incredibly excited about my partnership with World Vision. It is a global charity that I have had a connection with since being a child, through the 40 Hour Famine and their child sponsorship programs. To be able to reconnect with them as an adult in a highly meaningful and innovative way is a dream come true for me. Last year I travelled to India to see the life changing work they do with children and communities across differing environmental and cultural backgrounds. I began to understand the complexity, successes and continual challenges that children in India face on a day to day basis. Things we would take for granted and not even presume to be an issue can be the difference between life and death in some communities. It was definitely eye opening and has fuelled my passion even greater for the work I am doing today and hope to continue with in the future.
What inspired you to collaborate with World Vision on Run India?
It goes back to my belief that through education a human being can fundamentally change their life for the better. I don’t just mean formal academic education but also education of life such as health & hygiene. There are countless studies around how education can break the cycle of poverty, increase self belief, be a tool for empowerment and resilience. India is a place that has my heart and from my very first visit in 2011 I knew that one day I would do a project like this. That project has certainly developed through my partnership with World Vision and the other amazing partners that have come on board. It is certainly an example of the benefit when you can combine multiple strengths and experiences.
What all preparation have you made for this arduous run?
On a physical level I have been building up my experiences to tackle this project since 2011, through racing and self devised expeditions on a smaller scale. My training is very varied and I rely on the expertise of adventurer Ray Zahab for my running program and my strength and conditioning is devised by Mathieu Dore. I practice yoga two to three times a week and I also take part in adventure races that constantly put me out of my comfort zone, which is perfect when it comes to preparing for an expedition like this.
What often isn’t known is the logistics for Run India far surpass the hard work I put into my training.
You’re going on a journey which seems impossible; 4000 Km across India, a gruelling run indeed and its people like you who prove that impossible word does not exist. What would you like to say on that?
Things are only impossible when you don’t even attempt them. The power of the mind and your ability to prepare and connect yourself with a critical yet highly supportive team are the things that can make the impossible…possible.
You’ve visited India in the past. Do you’ve any fond memories of the subcontinent?
The time I have spent in communities where World Vision works and the incredible landscape that is India are the grounding force that allows me to push through all of the perceived adversities this project has thrown its way in the lead up. I met so many inspiring and resilient young women when I was there last October. It is their optimism and faith despite the true adversity they face, that allows me to believe that a project like this can be successful.
You are a quintessential of discipline, dedication and hard work. What is it that you want to say to your followers?
I may be the individual that is running across India but everyone can play a role in positively impacting the lives of children across India. I am so excited that Run India offers a way for anyone as an individual or team to do a virtual run of India. Beginning July 11th we are launching a 12-week challenge, that not only provides a platform for people to be active, but for people to engage with the stories we discover from the field… in real time, in a raw and authentic way… Stay tuned to runindia.org.au for details!!!