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Oct 05, 2016

Samantha Gash Talks to Jonty Rhodes About Run India

In an exclusive interview, ultrarunner Samantha Gash talks to TOJ ambassador Jonty Rhodes about running across India for children's education.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

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

Samantha: Pardon?

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

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

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