In an exclusive interview, ultrarunner Samantha Gash talks to TOJ ambassador Jonty Rhodes about running across India for children’s education. Watch our video to find out more.
The Outdoor Journal ambassador Jonty Rhodes caught up with Samantha Gash during a section of her run in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The Australian ultrarunner and World Vision Australian ambassador is running 3800km across India from east (Jaisalmer, Rajastan) to west (Mawsynram, Meghalaya) to raise funds for the children’s education in India.
During the course of her run, she is visiting World Vision communities and highlighting the various barriers to quality education in India.
In the video interview below, she talks about her journey, her project Run India, her training and what ultimately motivates her to run.
Transcript of the Interview
Jonty: Samantha! Wow, 4000, nearly 4000km is the plan to run across India. You’ve been going for two weeks, or probably about two weeks? Firstly, how are you feeling today? You are looking pretty fresh and rested for someone who has been running in the desert across India.
Samantha: Yeah, its been hard. It’s definitely been the hardest two weeks of any project that I have ever done. I’m not saying that I do this stuff all the time but I’ve done a couple a bit like this, and yeah the heat’s been incredibly challenging. I probably didn’t expect the humidity to be as high as it was, and the monsoon comes later. So conditions wise, its definitely taken a toll on me, even though I’ve…I’ve showered (laughs)…looking all fresh for you Jonty (laughs)..so maybe I’m looking a bit better than I normally would.
Jonty: OK so on the inside not as comfortable as you are looking right now
Samantha: Two days ago, I was in a bad place..umm maybe it was three…three, two days ago…days are definitely blurring…if you tell…I don’t even a 100% know how many days I’m in now. I know when I started, the 22nd of…August…yeah 22nd..
Jonty (cuts in laughing): yeah pretty much!
Samantha (laughs out loud): I’m like is that the month! But everything else is a bit of a blur. Two days ago I was in a bad place. The heat just…the heat cooked me.. You just pushin so hard everyday, we are getting up really really early… The recovery is not what we would nromally have back home.
Jonty: Your story, from an ultramarathon runner point of view, have you always been someone who has had the stamina and tenacity to head down and get across the line even though its hundreds of kilometres away? What is your introduction to ultramarathon running?
Samantha: I think, on a mental perspective I’ve probably had what’s needed to an ultramarathon. But on a physical perspective, like running and even sport is, a thing I have done later on in life..umm..
Jonty: So you have always been a little bit crazy?
Samantha: I’ve been a little unique (laughs)
Jonty (laughing): Unique haha…I can handle that handle
Samantha: yeah… So India was the place that changed why I chose to run. And I think, in the back of my mind, one day I wanted to run across India or run somewhere around India, and make it for a reason connected to social justice and social change.
It’s been in the back of my mind since 2011. My first thought was to run south to north. And I have this really good Indian friend who said don’t go south to north! It’s done so much! He said go west to east, go desert to mountain. He said, doing that kind of route, you’d see such a change in landscape and geography, culture, people, and it goes in the central part of India..the northern central part. He goes, that is the real India. That’s the part that doesn’t often get looked into.
And so from a cultural perspective I think, that’s kinda what excites me about the run, and then to make the run actually make an impact, well, I think that’s why I am committing so much of my heart and soul into this project.
Jonty: Logistically this is more than just getting out every morning and running. It requires a team. You are out there completing 3,800km not on your own. You have a big team? How do you get them all together?
Samantha: So I have a bunch of friends who have come out from Australia, who each, kinda fulfil a different role….
Jonty: Are they still your friends? Two weeks into the trip
Jonty: Are they still your friends? Two into the trip?
Samantha: Yaa, I’m sure they have at times been going, “Why was I friends with this person!” (both Jonty and Samantha laughing)
Umm..yeah I think all of us…I always knew that the people in my team need to have a couple of quality traits beyond their technical skills. Technically they are brilliant, but I said to myself that they need to be incredibly resilient individuals, they need to be culturally sensitive and aware, and they need to be really positive. And I actually think those are three qualities that are more important than their technical skill. Even though it is great with them having strong technical skill.
Jonty: Your motivation to getting into ultramarathon is unique to you. Do you have any advice to give to people wanting to get into ultras?
Samantha: Yeah I mean, there are so many cool ultramarathons around the world. Like if you know that you are excited about a place, that you actually get to experience that event, the hard training that you gotta do to prepare yourself for it become a little bit easier. You have that very tangible goal to work towards. I think working, or training with other people with ultramarathon running can help. And I would say body awareness. If you can start to listen to your body and your mind in unison together, you can achieve an ultramarathon.
Jonty: I know your body and mind are telling you that you’ve got other places to go and things to do so Sam thank you for your time, we really appreciate it! Good to have you on The Outdoor Journal.
Samantha: Thank you!
Feature Image © Lyndon Marceau/marceauphotography