Sport Athletics One woman’s truly staggering run for charity

One woman’s truly staggering run for charity

samantha gash india charity run
Gash running through India. Photo: Bruce Viaene
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Try running a marathon.

Then throw in a few more kilometres for good measure.

Do it in the intense Indian heat, too, but be sure to conserve some energy, because you’ll be running the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next …

That was the herculean task facing Australian Samantha Gash when she decided to run across India to raise funds and awareness for World Vision Australia’s education projects in the nation.

Ms Gash, 32, is an ultra marathon runner, but had never completed a task like this before.

She ran 3253km, from the West of India to the East, a journey that saw her jog through Indian deserts, Delhi and the foothills of the Himalayas. And she did it in just 76 days.

In the process, Ms Gash and her team raised over $150,000, money that will assist more than 13,000 children to access educational opportunities in India for a year.

“It’s a great feeling,” Ms Gash told The New Daily after arriving back in Australia.

“I always backed myself and just took it one day at a time during the run, which was incredibly challenging.

“It was just so hot at times – the first couple of weeks I was running and it was in the 40s with high humidity.

“But the money is going to make a significant difference – and I want to raise more.”

samantha gash india charity run
Samantha Gash had to battle incredible heat. Photo: Bruce Viaene

Ms Gash’s passion for issues facing the Indian people inspired her and, as if the run was not enough, she also found time to make 16 community visits in Delhi, Kanpur, Jaipur, Barmer, Hardoi and Pauri.

The money Ms Gash raised will help in addressing issues such as malnutrition, water access, underage marriage and gender bias in these Indian communities.

She said the hardest part of her journey was not the run itself.

“Walking through slums and visiting the homes was very tough to deal with emotionally,” she said.

“It is tough to see and hear of sick children, sick babies, from problems that are so easily solved in Australia.

“Things like malnutrition … it was hard to get my head around and just left me wanting to do more.

“I met so many incredible women who face so much adversity – the monsoon season can hit those communities so hard.

“People die from landslides and flooding just because of their geographical location.

“Those visits always put my pain into perspective. The run was hard, sure, but I knew I had chosen that situation.”

samantha gash india charity run
Ms Gash on one of her many community visits. Photo: Lyndon Marceau

Ms Gash ran on all bar “eight or nine” days of her trip, with her rest days usually occupied by community visits.

On her running days, she would wake between 3.30am and 4am, have a muesli bar, apply tape and set off on her first run of the day.

Ms Gash ran between 50 and 76 km on every day she ran, but broke the runs up into 15km blocks, allowing herself the luxury of a coffee once the first stint of her day had been complete.

Breaks were often dictated by heat but she would finish between 1 and 5pm each day, before beginning the oh-so-crucial recovery process of protein shakes, supplements, lots of eating to maintain energy and bed.

She faced struggles along the way, of course, with niggles threatening to derail her journey as early as week two.

“My body just overcooked in week two, my muscles started to break down,” she said.

“Week three was really rough and I just set my goal of making it to Delhi, which was under four weeks in.”

samantha gash india run
Victorious! At the finish line. Photo: Bruce Viaene

Once she made it to Delhi, Ms Gash found rhythm and kicked on from there, completing the run like she always knew she would.

World Vision chief advocate Tim Costello hailed her “awe-inspiring” effort.

“Samantha began this epic journey with a deep desire to use her passion and talent to make a difference in the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable children,” he said.

“Her completion of this awe-inspiring run across India is a reminder to us all of what can be achieved when we have determination and an open heart.”

You can still donate to Ms Gash’s run until January by visiting this website.

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