Run India is a 12 week challenge where you form a running/walking team who will choose a distance (that corresponds with a leg of Samantha Gash’s 3800km run across India) to split between your team to raise awareness and funds to better children’s education in India. No, that’s not a typo in regards to the distance Sam’s running! We’ve interviewed Sam to find out about her physical and mental training and preparation to help strengthen her to deal with the long distance, heat and humidity. Perhaps her determination and mental stamina will inspire you to join the challenge!
1. What inspired you come up with the idea for Run India?
It was during one of my first ultramarathons in 2011. I was running 222 km non stop between the two highest motorable passes in the Himalayas. I was totally unprepared for the extreme conditions that I was facing, as my experiences were pretty limited. But it was during this run, when I was battling hypothermia and pushing myself to my limits that I realised I wanted to use my capacity to run long distances for a purpose outside of myself. Through travelling around India and making many Indian friends I started to understand the extent of the challenges that Indian children face when it comes to accessing education. Their barriers are diverse and reflect the diversity that is India.
Feeling inspired by the landscape of India, I started to talk about a one-day run in India and linking to a social impact cause. By the advice of a close Indian friend we decided that the route from the Rajasthan desert in the west, to the mountains in the east of India would be incredibly unique to explore on foot. Back in 2011 this idea was really a dream and I knew I had much to learn about myself and the complexities of running in India before it would become a reality.
2. When did you develop your passion for Children’s education?
I’ve always been passionate about children’s education. It goes back to my belief that through education a human being can fundamentally change their life for the better.
It’s more than just about formal academic education as well; but an education of life skills, such as hygiene and health. It’s well known that a substantial and quality education can break the cycle of poverty and become a tool for empowerment and resilience.
Even in my history of running, I’ve always found great passion in running for children’s education projects. In 2010, I ran 379 km across Australia’s Simpson Desert and in 2014, 1968 km across 1986 km South Africa, both raising funds for Save the Children Australia, an organisation focused on improving disadvantaged children’s education.
3. How have you prepared for the hot and humid conditions in India?
Physically, I’ve been preparing for this run since 2011, through self devised expeditions and racing, but on a smaller scale. To cope with the Indian climate, I have a very varied workout, including running in an altitude chamber, which simulates conditions 3200 metres above sea level, and running for hours in a hot yoga studio at 38 degrees. Yet, I can’t but help confess that the humidity and heat of India is something that scares me. I will have to take the first few days very conservatively and allow my body to adapt to the environment.
Photo Credit: Ilana Rose, World Vision (2015)
I put so much effort into my training, so I wholeheartedly trust and rely on the expertise of my trainers, like adventurer Ray Zahab who devised my running program, and Mathieu Dore for my strength and conditioning.
4. What do you do to mentally strengthen yourself to be able to run such long distances?
I like to practice a bit of mindfulness and meditation, even as I’m running, to focus on myself and each kilometre. It’s always easier when I’m training alone to meditate, so especially in India, such a densely populated country I think it would be harder to go into your own place. I think I’ll just focus on taking it a day at a time, in all the heat, dense population and some of the confronting things I know i’ll see, it would be better to acknowledge it and move on ready for the next day.
5. Are there any places you are excited to see?
Some areas that I am really excited to visit are Jaisalmer, Pauri, Darjeeling and Shillong. I have some great communities interactions in Jaipur that will also be a highlight. I imagine it will often be the things that I don’t expect that will blow my mind away as well.
6. How many pairs of shoes do you think you’ll need and what model/brand do you use?
Photo Credit: Ilana Rose, World Vision (2015)
Nike Zoom Odyssey. A supported yet light shoe that I feel with support me for this huge physical challenge. I have brought 4 pairs of shoes.
7. How can people support you on this journey?
Australian’s can donate via the Run India website or join World Vision’s 12 Week Challenge, where Australians from all ages can form teams up to 10, track the distances they run against my distances to see how far they’ve made it across India and raise funds for World Vision projects battling barriers to education.
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