After a total of 76 days, 32-year-old Australian ultramarathon runner Samantha Gash has successfully finished her 3,200km charity run across India, for World Vision Australia. Samantha began her journey on the 22nd of August at the Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, one of the world’s driest deserts. From there, she ran across the foothills of the Himalayas and ended the journey on Saturday the 5th of November in the city of Shilong, 65km away from the wettest place on Earth.
Although Run India was Samantha’s third charity run for children’s education, it was also her longest run to date. The Australian lawyer-turned athlete’s previous sporting achievements include becoming the first female and the youngest person to ever complete the 4Deserts Grand Slam Challenge in one calendar year
Throughout her Run India journey, Samantha endured the region’s harsh monsoonal weather and varying air quality, while also dealing with the physical challenges of dehydration, stomach illness and minor injuries. However, Samantha said that she was able to overcome these challenges by focusing on her main mission of making education more accessible to children across India.
Currently, only 42% of children in India complete primary school, and only 10% graduate high school. It’s also estimated that around 4% of Indian children never even get the chance to start school. The reasons behind these low levels of child education in India include numerous complex issues such as malnutrition, lack of access to appropriate water and sanitation, underage marriage, gender bias, and more. In an attempt to increase the Australian people’s awareness of the issue’s complexity, Samantha visited several World Vision project centres throughout her run, and documented the experience on social media.
“The community visits are some of the most powerful moments along this journey. I was inspired by the strength of the women I met in Pauri and Lucknow; women who rallied their community together to devise initiatives to support those in need and establish small businesses. I was also confronted by my visit to a malnutrition clinic in Alwar. There I met ill babies whose mothers dealt with life and death issues relating to food security, lack of education and resources. It has been powerful to see how the smallest things can help, but empowering to realise how much more needs to be done,” said Samantha.
So far, Samantha and her team have raised around $150,000 through the run, which is just enough to give around 13,000 children better access to educational opportunities in various communities across India, for a period of one year. However, in an interview conducted a few weeks before her run, Samantha revealed to us that she was hoping to raise around $500,000. Australians wishing to help her achieve this goal, can directly donate to Run India until January 2017, by visiting their official website. You can also see some of the behind-the-scenes footage of Samantha’s journey and visits to local community centres across India, on her Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.