Her bio reads like that of your typical over-achiever, but Samantha Gash tells me she really is just like everyone else.
The long-distance runner has thus far raised nearly $300,000 for charities while clocking up more than 10,000 kilometres around the world completing what she describes as her ‘projects’. She holds the record as the world’s first female and youngest person to complete Racing the Planet’s Four Deserts Grand Slam in a single calendar year. Not bad for someone who only started running in her mid-twenties.
When I call to interview her, Gash is puffing slightly and there’s the unmistakeable sound of an infant in the background. The indefatigable athlete tells me she’s just finished a brief run with her six-month-old in the stroller.
“I’ve been carrying him along on walks since he was born,” she explains. “First I was using a simple sling, but now I have him in a Baby Bjorn carrier. My husband and I are planning to take him on a multi-month hike not too far in the future, so we’ll probably need on of those Kathmandu or Osprey packs that include the baby carrier by then.”
The self-described “lapsed lawyer” explains how she had practised commercial law for a few years in Melbourne before her life in advocacy and endurance running took over.
“I always wanted to work in human rights law and although I worked for a commercial law firm I wanted to focus more on the corporate responsibility side of things. I always felt there’s a real, great power in people using the thing they’re good at to make positive change.”
Now, Gash is able to combine her talent for running, her knowledge of law and her knack for public speaking all in the pursuit of making a difference in the lives of the underprivileged.
“Initially I wanted to do a little bit of fundraising, but then I became attracted to creating initiatives on a deeper level. That match of legal expertise, the capacity to run long, advocacy work and working with the corporate sector had all rolled in together.”
And while it all came together in a somewhat organic progression, Gash is reticent to be defined as a career athlete for the simple reason that she came to it quite late in life. In fact, she tells me it’s taken a long time to get used to the notion of describing herself as a runner.
“I don’t come rom a background of being very sporty – I only started running on a more serious level in my mid-twenties – I was terrible at sport growing up,” she said. “I picked up running as a means of release during my university studies.
“It was before mindfulness was the movement it is today, but essentially that’s exactly why I was doing it.”
In the same way she’s only just become used to being known as an endurance athlete, Gash also explains she doesn’t like the thought that people might consider her activities to be ‘extreme’. Instead, she believes similar achievements are available to anyone.
“People might say what I’ve done seems crazy and puts me on a different spectrum, but plenty of people could do what I’ve done, they’ve just chosen not to. Sure, it’s not a typical career path and you have to do a lot of specific things to make it work, but I don’t believe I’m exception by any means.
“We’re all normal people until we choose to do things from time to time that gives us a different perspective.”
It’s this message that Gash intends to bring with her for the upcoming Adventurous Spirit 2018 speaking tour, which brings together a number of prominent Australian adventurers to present their stories across four different cities later this year. Gash’s experience as an adventurer, and now also as a mother, has taught her that everyone needs to find ways to inject a little bit of adventure into their daily life.
“I was just watching my son earlier as he was peering up at the light filtering through the leaves above us,” she said. “We may not be able to regain the ability to see things for the first time, but by bringing little moments of adventure into our lives we can at least give ourselves a fresh perspective.”