Like many young people her age, Samantha Gash had a desire to challenge herself and to make a difference in the world. Ambitious, determined, naïve and stubborn Samantha couldn’t have imagined that her journey would take her to the 4 corners of the earth and impact so many lives.
Samantha took up the sport of running in 2008 as a break from study while completing her Bachelor’s Law and Performing Arts degree at Monash University. After hitting the wall at 32kms and on the verge of quitting, she just managed to complete the Melbourne Marathon that year – side by side with a friend. Motivated by the experience of pushing her mind and body beyond what she thought was possible, Samantha ambitiously took the ultimate challenge and entered the ‘4 Deserts Grand Slam’.
The ‘4 Deserts Grand Slam’ requires competitors’ to run four, 250km ultra marathons across the driest (Chile), windiest (China), hottest (Sahara) and coldest deserts (Antarctica) on earth. When all four races are completed in one calendar year, it is regarded as one of the toughest endurance events on the planet. Samantha made history by becoming the first woman and the youngest person at the time to complete the Grand Slam. Her journey was captured for the big screen in the award winning film ‘Desert Runners’.
Samantha’s view on what she was capable of changed forever from this point. With an increasing desire to push the physical envelope even further, the following year Samantha found herself entered into a 222km non-stop run across the Himalayas. This race required Samantha to run at 6,000 metres above sea level, in an event that had only been completed by one man. This was by far a tougher experience and Samantha was lucky to somehow survive the pain, sickness, extreme heat and then white out conditions to complete the race.
The penny dropped during Samantha’s journey across the Himalayas that she wanted to use her capacity to run long distances for a reason outside of herself. The following year, while working as a lawyer at Baker & McKenzie, Samantha ran 379kms non-stop across Australia’s Simpson Desert. Receiving national attention, the run took 3.5 days and nights to complete and raise over $32,991 for Save the Children Australia.
Within two months after returning from the Simpson Desert, Samantha co-organised a fundraising community running event on behalf of Turia Pitt and Kate Sanderson – victims of the Kimberley ultramarathon bushfire. A race that Samantha was also a competitor in. They raised over $40K to support their continuing rehabilitation, to be split between the two ladies.
In September 2014, Samantha ran an average of 61kms for 32 days in a row across South Africa’s Freedom Trail (1968kms in total) with UK runner Mimi Anderson. It was reported that year that almost nine million South African girls aged 13 – 19 miss time at school due to a lack of sanitary products. Mimi and Samantha raised $55K on behalf of Save the Children to support a holistic initiative that increased access to feminine hygiene products and provide education around the importance of attending school.
As an Ambassador for World Vision, on November 25th Samantha returned from a 76 day/3253km run from the West (Jaislamer, Rajasthan) to East (Shillong, Meghalaya) of India. She raised over $150K to fund six education focused programs and visited 18 communities that World Vision support across the country. These stories were shared through a digital platform with organisations and individuals taking part in global peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
Samantha’s experience has made her an inspiring and energetic communicator with a unique ability to inspire people to push through their limitations. She is a dynamic corporate speaker, empowering audiences in Australia and internationally.
In addition to being a World Vision Ambassador she is an Ambassador for Run Melbourne, the Sunshine Coast Marathon, Impossible2Possible, Travel Play Live and the Mindful in May campaign. In 2016, she was selected as a delegate for the Australia India Youth Dialogue Conference hosted in India and was a finalist for the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards in the Agenda Setter Category.