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Beyond the law: Reason to run

Every Issue

Cite as: March 2015 89 (3) LIJ, p.100

The worldwide self-organised running expeditions of Samantha Gash have just stepped up a notch.

Running is only a small part of what this adventure seeking, super-fit, charity worker does. Solicitor Samantha Gash, formerly of Baker & McKenzie, said it’s her legal background that has paved her successful path as a social enterprise founder.

Ms Gash heads Freedom Runners, responsible for raising funds on behalf of Save the Children to help support education and health of young women across the globe.

Through participation in events such as her most recent challenge – a 230-kilometre race along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline in early February – Ms Gash has so far raised almost $50,000 for her cause.

“I studied law because I wanted to have an impact on social change, and it’s because of law that I am more critical in my analysis of organising these expeditions, better at project managing, raising funds and negotiating the legalities of running through some of the most remote parts of the world,” she said.

Ms Gash does not label herself a professional athlete; despite testing her endurance against some of the world’s best ultra trail runners at this month’s six-stage, Costa Rican event. She also traversed 2350 km across South Africa in 32 days in 2014, ran nonstop across the Simpson Desert and later the Himalayas while working at Baker & McKenzie as a young lawyer, and during her law degree became the first woman and the youngest person ever to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam – running across Chile, China, Jordan and Antarctica.

“I work for the not-for-profit sector and use my background in law and sport to push those agendas. I also do high-performance coaching, resilience training and public speaking,” she said.

And there is no slowing down. Ms Gash has already begun preparations for her next expedition – a multi-day journey across India in 2016 to raise funds for better education of local women.

“Lawyers are very well educated and have a lot of opportunities. In other parts of the world girls, particularly, are not able to go to school because they can’t even afford what we consider to be normal fundamentals like feminine hygiene products,” she said. “They miss days of school every month.” Ms Gash hopes funds she raises will help employ women in the countries she runs in to make and sell low cost products to help keep girls in school.

Freedom Runners also works to help educate these women on health and hygiene, as well as offering life skills training and workshops about the importance of attending school.

Ms Gash is modest when asked to reflect on how far her running has come – from a fitness pursuit during law school to a worldwide charity mission. While she loves training near her Dandenong Ranges home just as much as conquering some of the world’s most secluded and pristine environments, she said racing across Antarctica was a highlight.

“I might have spent kilometres trying to get in front of someone and then have to stop to give way to a penguin, but you don’t care because there is a penguin right at your feet,” she recalled.

While Ms Gash stopped practising law in late 2013 to focus her attention on her marathon efforts, she is open to returning to the profession. In the meantime, she said it is the similarities between her two passions that keeps her motivated. “It’s the same in law and ultramarathon running, you are constantly pushing yourself to your capacity and it’s the smallest of things that can make the biggest of differences.”

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Harriet Edmund


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