“I kept my eyes locked on the ground.” Samantha Gash relives the scariest moment of her run across India.

 1. Starting line.

Here I am a few steps into what would become a 3253km run across India, from west to east of the country. The starting point for the Run India journey was Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan, one of the largest fully preserved fortified cities in the world. I was unbelievably nervous at the start, my stomach was in knots and I struggled to get my head around the fact I had no idea what was going to happen over the next 77 days.

'I was unbelievably nervous' (Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography)

2. Community visit in Barmer.

On day three I ran 52kms to Barmer, a district part of the Great Indian Desert. As I ran towards the city monsoonal rain poured down and I was greeted by World Vision staff who ran the final few kilometers with me. As I quickly got changed the rain transitioned to steamy heat. I was driven out of town into the desert where I met community groups that World Vision support. Here I am being greeted by girls from a school. So many of these children will walk up to 10kms each way to get to school.

Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

3. All time low.

About 10 days into the run things went from hard to hardly manageable. My body could no longer tolerate the heat whilst running and coordinating so many of the logistics during and after each days run. My stomach started to swell as did my body begin to shut down. I was fortunate to have Millie the paramedic with me at the time who took incredibly good care of me. My best friend Andy was also there and did whatever he could to ease my discomfort and feed me with positive thoughts. I stopped looking ahead and kept my focus on each 10km stretch which I now had to walk.

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'My body begin to shut down, but I feed it with positive thoughts.' (Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography)

4. Jaipur funrun.

I reached Jaipur and Run India was welcomed with a community fun run event hosted by Genpact. My legs were so tired and I was tempted to have a day off but my spirits and legs were lifted when I embraced the support by the running community. Here I am wearing a safa turban, a traditional headwear of Rajasthan.

Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

5. Jonty Rhodes.

This guy is no other than South African cricket superstar Jonty Rhodes. I don't know how it happened but he joined me for a couple of days for community visits and a day of running. With a shared love of India he became a big support well beyond his time with the Run India team.

Cricket Player Jonty Rhodes (Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

6. 1000km mark.

1000kms... Massive milestone, the entire team was dreaming of this for a while. My body and head were in a great place and we started to move away from the intensity of the highway near Delhi. I celebrated with lots of high fives and a plate of fries and a paneer masala dosa.

Samantha celebrated each milestone throughout her massive run. (Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

7. Dangerous running.

Running through Meerut was the one standout moment that I felt unsafe in India. We were circled by men on motorbikes who were hazing us and also spat at Millie and myself. We quickly realised this wasn't a safe part of India for women. I kept my eyes locked to the ground and without trying my pace naturally sped up.

Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

8. Haridwar spirit.

Swimming in the River Ganga in Hardiwar was one of the most incredible moments. We found ourselves in a 'VIP' section of the river banks and we were able to watch hundreds of people cleansing in this spiritual water. I then had to run another 25kms uphill to Rishikesh.

Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

9. Pauri.

Up in the foothills of the Himalayas is a place called Pauri. It is susceptible to disaster during monsoon season yet the spirit amongst the people who live there is indomitable. This clever girl showed me her books in her bedroom. I saw where the goats lived that World Vision supplied her family, yet devastatingly were killed during storms a few months earlier. Time and time again I saw the calmness and strength in people who faced such adversity.

Image via Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

10. Nikki Kimball, girl power.

The middle section of the run was so hot, so humid and predominately flat highway running. Nikki Kimball is an ultra runner from the United States who joined me for 2 weeks. For most of that time she ran by my side and treated my muscles afterwards. In a nutshell she was a legend and I was so lucky to have her with me.

Girl power with Nikki Kimball (Image supplied)

 

11. Sister Sudha.

Sister Sudha was the most incredible and inspiring woman I met on my journey. Sister Sudha is a social worker, lawyer and Catholic nun in India who has devoted herself to the Musahar, one of the Scheduled Castes of India who are considered the 'untouchables'.

I had watched a video on her before heading over to India and knew I would do whatever I could to try and meet with her in person.

Image via Nic Davidson.

12. Economic development projects.

In many of the communities that World Vision work with across India they encourage and support women establishing economic development initiatives. Sometimes it would use a skill set they may already have or other times, such as in this bangle making initiative, the skill was taught. Whether the women use this as a supplementary source of income or perhaps a primary source of income, the collaborative nature of this activity also brings the women together in a positive way.

Image via Nic Davidson.

13. Running up to Darjeeling.

Running up to Darjeeling provided cleaner air, steeper terrain and a huge lift in my spirits. I live in the Dandenong Ranges and the hilly trails are the backdrop to where I train. This was a section of the route I was so excited reaching as was my crew. We spent two days in Darjeeling being tourists. It was such a change in pace!

Running up to Darjeeling. Image: Bruce Viaene.

 14. Sunrises.

The beginning of every day was pretty special for me. It was the time of day that I would mindfully choose to set up in a positive way and ignore any chaos that may have occurred the previous day. The sunrises were incredible, particularly in the second half of the trip as we made our way east.

The sun rises were beautiful. Image: Bruce Viaene.

15. Finish line.

 The end… pure joy!

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