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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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Dec 06, 2018

Film Review: Ode to Muir. A Snowboarding Movie, and an Important Covert Education

Lost in amazing scenery, and one of outdoor's great personalities. Prepare to learn, even if you won’t realize it’s happening.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

Before we get to the movie itself, don’t be put off by the narration that you’ll hear in the trailer. It’s a tone that you might expect from the X-Factor announcer, or any movie trailer that starts off with, “In a world…” and it’s important to give you an incentive to push on, in case you might need it.

To answer the question that I suspect you have… yes, the same narration continues throughout the film. I know, it doesn’t seem like a good thing, but I have my own personal relationship to that voice. Something that develops as the film continues, and you recognize its purpose.

WHAT WERE WE EXPECTING FROM “ODE TO MUIR”?

The film is called “Ode to Muir”, so an education about John Muir and the John Muir Wilderness? Probably. Great scenery? Sure. Another awesome Jeremy Jones snowboarding video? Very likely! I was correct on 2 of 3 fronts.

“Price of admission: lots of calories”

In short, this is a nine day, 40 mile foot-powered trek through the Sierra Mountains, as two-time Olympian Elena Hight, and a guy introduced as the “Sierra Phantom” accompany Jeremy Jones deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness. The remoteness is exactly that, and it is earned. Jeremy takes joy in mentioning the “Price of admission: lots of calories”. His point is a good one, that this is something that we can all enjoy. Crest after crest, the views are stunning and beautifully shot (as you might expect from a Teton Gravity movie). Jeremy indulges himself in pointing across valleys, and announcing that they must make their way in that direction. By his own admission, he has spent a lifetime in the Sierra, and continues to see landscapes the first time. The outdoors is a big place. 

Of course, Jeremy Jones does not need any introduction. His snowboarding movies have adorned bookshelves around the world for decades now. This, however, was something different. It was something more important. There is less of an emphasis on the music, or even snowboarding (don’t expect death-defying descents here). Instead, you will find more of an emphasis on Jeremy, the landscape, and more than anything else, Jeremy’s message. This is propaganda, just the positive kind.

Ode to Muir is a little like trying to subtly slip the bad news into an everyday sentence using snowboarding to distract us. “Honey, have we got milk at home, I crashed the car, because my parents are coming around this evening”.

Note: Whilst this is not your typical snowboarding movie, I could still hear the customary Jeremy Jones’ oooohs and ahhhhs from those sat around me.

THE MESSAGE

Time is spent on recalling a bygone era, when politicians spent time in the outdoors, they appreciated them and fought for them. They sat around fires, and really experienced the outdoors, they didn’t just swing clubs at The Mar-a-Lago Club. This movie is a call to action, that we must do something now, but gives us hope, that things can be done correctly, with the attitude that we have seen in presidents past. 

The movie is interwoven with animations that paint an important, and scary picture with regards to the future of our climate and planet. Key messaging that continually remind you that this is not just a snowboarding movie. This is an education, but not algebra, the information is presented well, it sinks in and you immediately recognize the importance. You’re going to bring this up and discuss these newfound stats when you’re next hanging out with friends.

Whilst the animations play an informative role, Jeremy contextualizes them. He refers to the terrifying term “last descents”, the chilling concept that people are now doing things that might not be possible in subsequent years due to climate change. As someone who lives in the outdoors, Jeremy can see these detrimental changes in his everyday life, and of course, it means a great deal to him. He isn’t just using what he is, but who he is to pass on this important information. Not stood behind a podium, but communicating important information to us whilst he uses his skills, and the beautiful shots to hold our attention. Jeremy obviously loves what he does, but he now chooses to do what he has done for so long, in such a way that communicates an important message. It’s commendable. What’s more, this isn’t a one-off, Jeremy is the founder of “POW”, or “Protect Our Winters”, an initiative with a mission to turn passionate outdoor people into effective climate advocates.

Find out more about POW: Protect Our Winters.

Still, an important point is made, real change can unfortunately only be sparked in the wilderness. Walking up the mountain isn’t enough, we need to walk up to the White House, and up Capitol Hill too.

THE PERSONALITIES

“The older I get, the more I love my snow”

A great element of this movie is easy to miss, Olympian Elena Hight trying to understate her own abilities. Elena is, of course, a very accomplished snowboarder, she’s more than comfortable on the snow and her modesty with regards to split skiing wasn’t fooling anybody. It’s an attitude that is great to see, but will make your average Joe, with your average abilities (like me), smile. Her reservations regarding her own ability are not shared by anybody else. Nor were there any problems for Elena when it came to the descents. She’s awesome, and a great addition to the film.

Jeremy introduces the “Sierra Phantom” pretty quickly. In effect he’s presented in a way that you would describe what Mogli is to the jungle, “ he’s out there all day and you just see his tracks”. A brief appearance, but worthwhile. 

Elsewhere, there are laughs from those who are sat around me watching the movie, as Jeremy reaches the crest of ridge and summits alike. You might expect “f*ck, that was hard” or “Jesus, I need some air” but no, invariably you will only hear “Good job”, another “Good job”, or “The older I get, the more I love my snow”. As impressive as Jeremy’s attitude is, and of course, it’s due to his familiarity with something that he has done for so long, it is also the relaxed nature of those that that summit with him. You won’t hear them telling JJ to “shut up and pass me the water”, it’s all fist bumps!

The movie ends with JJ suggesting a moonlight ride, to “get the last bit out of it”; spare a thought for those that might have fancied an early night. You would really have felt for the production team, had it not been for the stunning shots caught under moonlight. As someone who can relate to these guys, they live for such shots, and wouldn’t have required much encouragement. Not that their skill shouldn’t be acknowledged, something special is happening behind the camera. Many of the shots are powerfully engaging, whilst the audio is picked up perfectly, regardless of powder being thrown around.

BACK TO THE NARRATION

Here’s the thing about the narration. What would the movie be without it? Whilst Jeremy brings credibility as someone who is acutely aware of “last descents”, John Muir’s words hold unparalleled sincerity that can only belong to a different time – a time when people were less cynical, and in this context, given that this is propaganda, a perspective from that time counts for something.

I had a relationship with that voice. So much so, that I almost felt apologetic by the end. In a way, the voice is synonymous with the film, you need to absorb the delivery in order to absorb the information. It was just harder to do so in comparison to appreciating fresh pow.

Who would I recommend the film to? People who like ski docs? People who care about the environment? Just general outdoorsy people? It’s of interest to each, they all cross-pollinate in a way that was definitely intended.

This is an important film to watch, it’s incredibly digestible, and it will raise awareness of important issues. It’s the kind of content that we need more of.

You can find more information, and a calendar of tour dates should you like to go and watch the movie for yourself here. We encourage you to do so.

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