I am an adventure athlete, qualified lawyer and recently appointed Head of the Sports & Entertainment client group at Wealth Enhancers (a boutique GenY wealth management company).

In 2010, I decided to take on the challenge of racing in the 4Deserts Ultramarathon series. Which was four, 250km desert ultra-marathons in the hottest (Sahara), windiest (Gobi), driest (Atacama) and coldest (Antarctica) deserts on earth. During these multistaged races, I had to carry everything in a pack on my back for the five days of the race - sometimes up to 25% of my body weight.

In 2010, I became the first woman and youngest person ever to complete all 4 of these races in one year.

Desert Runners is a documentary movie made by Jennifer Steinman that follows myself and three other nonprofessional runners as we took on this challenge. It’s a really exciting film that captures the beauty of the locations and the intensity of the race. It’s a part of the Something to Talk About documentary series and will be airing on DirecTV’s Audience on November 21st. It’s also showing at the Starz Denver Film Festival this weekend.

I am drawn to extreme landscape and environments and since then I've run in several other ultramarathons marathons and been involved in many advocacy programs. I believe in these harsh environments, where individuals are brought down to their raw state and are on the edge of survival, that you have the opportunity to explore serious and sensitive issues.

My website: http://www.samanthagash.net/ twitter: @Samanthagash

Proof: https://twitter.com/samanthagash/status/398613150733312000

Information on the film and the Something to Talk about Series:



Comments: 116 • Responses: 48  • Date: 

abhijeetpathak30 karma

What's your take on barefoot running? Is it actually beneficial/effective?

SamanthaGash3 karma

I run barefoot when I am doing speed work around an oval.. But for any type of race I wear more supported footwear. I might wear slightly more minimal shoes for road races but I have found my feet hold up better on trail races with a tad extra support. Everyone is different and there are so many different opinions on this.

Comborepairman13 karma

Which desert did you find the most challenging?

SamanthaGash18 karma

I think China's Gobi Desert was the hardest for me. The terrain for the long 110km stage was very monotonous and as it reached 7pm at night, the clouds parted and it got incredibly hot - just when you thought you would have a rest from the heat..

Comborepairman8 karma

Did you see any interesting wildlife during your marathons?

SamanthaGash16 karma

When I did the Simpson desert I saw a few dingoes who were stalking me from behind.

In Antarctica plenty of penguins - who we had to give way to.

thegreatgazoo8 karma

What do you wear when running in Antarctica? I presume in layers and with some sort of mask?

SamanthaGash2 karma

no mask - just a buff to cover my face from the wind chill..

I wore a stack of layers. I battle in the cold quite a bit so I probably wore more layers than most (base layer, mid layer, then an outer shell).

John_Blair7 karma


I HATE everything about running. I hate the anticipation right before the run. I Hate the clothing. I hate how I feel while I'm running. I hate how I feel when I stop. I hate that I have ran later that afternoon. It's painful, depleting, depressing, and boring.

But. I love my girlfriend and she loves to run.

What is it that you love about torturing your self for hours running? What can I do to shift my perspective?

prv44444 karma

As a cross country runner I would say the anticipation subsides after running for a while. It is just important to give your body the advantage of the necessary proteins and sleep before you run. The more you run the better you feel and the stronger you get. This is when you start to crave more. Listening to music helps a lot with the boring part too.

John_Blair2 karma

I will say that Running is the one activity that I've seen major and rapid progress.

I remember when a half mile made me feel like I was dying, and I'm almost able to run, with out walking, a full 5k (I know. I suck.) but it's not getting any better. My girl is energized and excited after a run. I want to curl up and die.

SamanthaGash3 karma

Hmm do you ever run on trails? Think about the environment in where you choose to run in. I find running on the road can be quite uninspiring, although it is great for speed work. I truly found my love for running through running in beautiful places. I run a lot with friends and it is also my way of catching up - the time can fly by when you are having a good chat.

Don't be hard on yourself - running doesn't have to be for everyone but try and change where you are running first.

And you don't have to wear lycra if you don't want to :)

lizFOVE7 karma

how did you juggle law school and running those races?

SamanthaGash6 karma

I took off six months when I did the first race, to also do a three month placement in a capital defence office in Texas. Then when i decided to do the other three races I fitted in whatever I could when I was in Melbourne. But really I ended up listening to lectures online, cramming just before the exams. Luckily I managed to get through it and had learnt how to "study" in the 6 years of university study before that point.

670706 karma

What drove you to do these races? What inspired you?

SamanthaGash8 karma

I ran cross country in school - predominately because I was pretty uncoordinated at most other sports and found I couldn't mess up a team by running ;)

Then I really started to take it up in my last year of high school as a needed release from the study.

I did my first marathon in 2008, which felt like a big step up from what I had done before. Then I decided to take on an ultra marathon because I wanted to test out my personal capabilities in an environment where I knew no one. Then I got hooked!!!

Little did I know, that you always draw from the strength of other people during these events.

rhineauto5 karma

What did your feet look and feel like after each one?

SamanthaGash8 karma

You would hardly believe but my feet were really reasonable in all of the races except for Atacama - when I wore the wrong shoes for the technical salt flats.

When I ran for 3 and a half days straight across the Simpson Desert, my feet were very swollen.. Incredibly swollen - but I still didn't have any blisters.. Very lucky (recommend the combination of Injinji socks and Brooks shoes)

AintNoSoop4u5 karma

First of all, WOW. Second, what was the training process for this? Events like these make me wonder how much time and effort must be put in before the event.

SamanthaGash7 karma

Thanks buddy.. Well I really didn't know what I was doing at the beginning. I tried to absorb as much advice as I could find online, but a few years ago there was much less information out there.

great source for training, nutrition, gear advice - www.ultra168.com

It really is about preparation - training wise and also with your nutrition and gear. What works for someone else wont work for you.

Now I have a coach - Ray Zahab from Canada and my strength coach is Mathieu Dore (also from Canada).

Depending on the event the training can be quite different. For a multistage race you do a lot of back to back run with a backpack. For a 100miler it is different again

awcheng3 karma

What goes through your mind when you are running?

SamanthaGash3 karma

When I am training I find it hard to switch off from everything else going on in my daily life. I try to but because i am running before work, during my lunch break or after work - it is hard for other things to completely leave my mind. So i sometimes use my training runs to get perspective from the other challenges in my day.

During a race, my mind is completely clear and I somehow manage to think of nothing except moving forward and enjoy my surroundings. It is pretty magical when I can get into that headspace.

zants2 karma

This is what I'm most interested in seeing answered. My biggest obstacle with running has always been "what do I think about for the next N minutes/hours?" Unfortunately my mind seems to go to nursery rhymes....

SamanthaGash3 karma

Hey... embrace the nursery rhymes :)

originalbanana3 karma

Which condition was the hardest? Also, what was your most memorable moment?

SamanthaGash3 karma

Each race had different elements that made it very challenging.

The terrain in the Atacama with the salt flats, The extreme heat in both Gobi and Sahara The upredictability of the environment in Antarctica.

I also find altitude quite challenging as well.

One of my memorable experiences - running 74kms on the long stage of Atacama (longest run to date at that point), and the sun was setting and I was amazed I was running in such a magical place.

faretheadpk3 karma

When did you start running? What made you want to start running extreme marathons?

SamanthaGash6 karma


I ran cross country in school - predominately because I was pretty uncoordinated at most other sports and found I couldn't mess up a team by running ;)

Then I really started to take it up in my last year of high school as a needed release from the study.

I did my first marathon in 2008, which felt like a big step up from what I had done before. Then I decided to take on an ultramarathon because I wanted to test out my personal capabilities in an environment where I knew no one.

Little did I know, that you always draw from the strength of other people during these events.

Evolve093 karma

I just wanted to say I admire your accomplishments! AMAZING! I am also curious how you carried 5 days worth of food.... Did you resort to MRE's?

SamanthaGash6 karma

Thanks :)

I ate a combo of freeze dried food, instant noodles, salt & vinegar chips crushed up in a zip lock bag, porridge & a few light snacks during the day. It's all in how you pack it!! Get rid of all of the bags & crunch/compact into ziplocks

SeamanSock2 karma

With the type of training that you must have to die with multistage races with a backpack, how has your disks and spine been able to keep up without any serious erosion?

SamanthaGash1 karma

Thats why you do strength and conditioning work to work on having a strong back..

Pcasstgayle2 karma

I LOVED Desert Runners! It's one of the best docs I have seen this year. Were you aware that the camera was on you? Or, were you so intensely into the race that you tuned the camera out?

SamanthaGash8 karma

Ahh that is such a lovely thing to say. I think Jen (filmmaker) did an incredible job truly portraying what happened out there.

To be honest I really tuned the camera out - for the exception of the one on one interviews when we weren't "racing". Jen and the cameraman Sevan became good friends to all of the four runners in the doco, that seeing them became an outlet to express our pain, happiness, anxiety with during the race.

iambobanderson2 karma

Hi Samantha! How have you found your knees have held up over the years? Is there anything special you do to keep them from getting damaged? I ran a ton when I was young and it seems like my knees can't really take it anymore. Any tips?


SamanthaGash1 karma


I have had the occasional knee injury and I for me it came down to imbalances and weakness in my hips and gluts. So, I really work on these areas and see my sports massage therapist whenever things get too tight..

Rolling out on the foam roller can be great as can be yoga/pilates.

KindergartenRedditor2 karma

Besides running, what other things did you do to train for this? What's a typical training week look like?

SamanthaGash1 karma

I don't really have a typical training week but this week for example has been 15kms a day (everyday), alternating each day at top speed to recovery speed. I am training for a month long expedition next year where i am going to need to run high volume every day so my coach (Ray Zahab) is working with me on a resistance and building up phase.

Each run has been on different terrain from road, trails (undulating to more hilly, etc).

I have also done hot yoga twice and a strength and mobility program.

I also cycle - which I don't love but I know it is good for variety.

Training for an ultramarathon also requires me to train walking on steep and technical terrain.

perche1 karma

What do you eat, normally and during races?

SamanthaGash1 karma

I am a pescatarian (no meat except fish).. I tend to eat pretty healthy. Lots of salads, vegetables, salmon, etc. During races it is a completely different approach. If it is a multistage race and you need to carry your food - it is more about finding high calorie food that is light.. During desert races you really crave sodium - so salt & vinegar chips and noodles are my favourites. During a single stage race - I will normally have a liquid nutritional base of hammer's perpetuem, topped up with a few gels (which I mix up myself to add more liquid).

Anjni1 karma

I know these races aren't about the speed, but if you know or if you were to guess, how fast are you running in these 250k marathons? Also, thanks for this AMA, I find what you did incredibly impressive :)

SamanthaGash1 karma

Hey Anjinji,

Ultramarathons are a lot more about speed than they used to be. I think the sport has had a rise of fast marathon runners moving over to trail ultra marathons as they want a different type of challenge. The guys and girls who are at the pointy end of the field and breaking records and redefining what it is to be a competitive ultra marathon runner.

In terms of pace - it depends on the terrain and environment. Running in soft sand can really slow down your pace, as can running at a very high altitude. That said the more practice and experience you have in these conditions, the more adapt and quick you can become.

zarmala1 karma

I had a chance to see the film and there were some very intense moments and close bonds between runners. Do you still keep in touch with the people you met during filming?

SamanthaGash3 karma

Hi Zarmala,

I don't think you can go through those experiences and not form strong bonds - for life.

All of us who are in the film are quite close and we make an effort to see each other in all corners of the globe. Luckily with the film coming out we have seen each other in Edinburgh and NYC this year.

We also try and link up for races..

Kitkat24011 karma

What kind of training did you need to do for that? :)

SamanthaGash2 karma

I made it up a bit for the first one and then in between each race (5 to 12 weeks) it was about recovery and then building up again.

I now would train completely different for those types of races. You need to practice with the pack, plenty of back to back runs. And make sure you build up gradually. I also believes its important to experiment with the type of food you will eat whilst racing.

waffles3451 karma

What were you thinking when you dicided to participate in such a big race as these four? I can imagine that you ran a couple of other, smaller marathons, but why did you want to do bigger?

SamanthaGash1 karma

When I ran my first marathon, I battled a lot in the last 10kms. Everything in my mind was saying stop - I thought the pain was excruciating and I don't think I have faith in my own abilities to push on. I was running with a girlfriend and she ended up pulling me along - and I am pretty confident in saying I wouldn't have finished if she wasn't running next to me.

So I really wanted to put myself in a situation where I knew no one (on the other side of the world) and push my own limitations (mind, body). I possibly chose to do such an audacious goal on the other side of the world because in the back of my mind I thought no one will then know if I fail. Very quickly once the race started I discovered that you nearly always draw from the strength of other people.

Before my first ultra, I had completed two marathons and about 4 half marathons.

Gullogullo1 karma

I'm getting into running, what type of music do you listen to or recommend when trucking down a trail.

SamanthaGash1 karma

I listen to music when I am training and I like such a mix..

Just had a look at my ipod and my last songs listened to were: Drive By - Train Team - Lorde Riptide - Vance Joy Replay - Julia Sheer & Tyler Ward Brother - Matt Corby..

During races i don't listen to music until I am really battling.

2popes1 karma


SamanthaGash3 karma

I haven't heard them complain recently.

Ryan_CuDi1 karma

what shoes would you recommend for just plain running, also is there a certain breathing technic to use while running?

SamanthaGash2 karma

I have worn Brooks for years and are now lucky enough to be sponsored by them. They have a massive range and i find they wear well, don't cause me blisters and as i described above, I think they are my "ever faithfuls"...

ST5 for road Cascadia or PureGrit for trail

profound5631 karma

I believe in these harsh environments, where individuals are brought down to their raw state and are on the edge of survival, that you have the opportunity to explore serious and sensitive issues.

This is really interesting to me. Sounds almost like you have the potential for some profound realizations or insights while running through these deserts... Could you possibly speak a little on your personal insights or how your views of things may have changed thanks to your ultramarathoning in extreme environments?

Also, do you listen to music while running for 250k?

SamanthaGash1 karma

oh boy... I have had a few realisations whilst running in deserts. Particularly when you are running on your own and there is noone near you for miles. But often your thoughts when you are racing is about survival and just doing everything you need to do to put one foot in front of the other.

Because my races have been located in all different types of places, I have viewed a lot of different cultures, people and it just opens your mind to what people all over the world experience. When you witness injustices, inequality and how hard some people's everyday survival is - you realise how lucky you are. If you can do something positive to reduce someone else's struggles or suffering - why would you not want to do it.

thefrybitesback1 karma

That sounds amazing to be able to run that far through such remote terrain. I had never heard of Desert Runners before either so, I'll definitely watch it now. As far as a question, what do you plan on doing next? Do you ever want to organize a race?

SamanthaGash4 karma

Well my interest at the moment is creating an expedition and attaching a charitable campaign with it - that is just as important as the run itself (if not more so). So i have a run planned in South Africa next year and we hope to set up a social enterprise business there.. Details will be on freedomrunners.org - site not up yet.

gozunz1 karma

Keep it up! you rock! :)

SamanthaGash1 karma

Thanks!!! I am sure you do too!

Cujo66601 karma

The only question I have is WHY? Why would you do something like that?

SamanthaGash1 karma

Because I love what pushing your body and mind to those limits can teach us about ourselves.

I love the people I have met through these races and expeditions, the cultures I have experienced and the places it has taken me.

TJBAM1 karma

When you say you're in charge of the "Sports & Entertainment" at a boutique wealth management firm, I assume that means you accompany clients on adventures/sporting events? That sounds like a badass job? Please advise if this description is accurate.

SamanthaGash1 karma

haha, what a great job :) But my job (which is also being great), is working with people in the sports and entertainment industry to achieving financial security/management through financial planning..

The link to the company I work for is here..


nomecks1 karma

4 250k marathons is a lot of running. Is running an addiction for you, and do you think there's a point where it crosses from healthy exercise to unhealthy compulsion?

SamanthaGash1 karma

I guess in some ways it is an addition but I think the adventure is more of an addiction to me than the running itself. That said, I have a very acute awareness to the dangers of racing in extreme environment and where possible I will either mitigate risks or abort the race if need be.

I was involved in a race in the Kimberley's in 2011 where a bushfire took over the course and five people were seriously injured. Two of those being girls under the ages of 35. I am super aware of the fine line between pushing your body and needing to pay attention to signs that you should get out of that situation ASAP.

shortzi1 karma

How has running like this changed you as a person, if it has at all?

SamanthaGash2 karma

I think running has made me more self aware and given me a greater sense of perspective of what is important to me. It is hard to go through those experiences where you are pushing your mind and body so far and not learn a lot about yourself.

batmanisavampire1 karma

What has been the place most or least welcoming to runners?

SamanthaGash5 karma

hmmm.. Most welcoming - the running community in Melbourne is pretty great. Always someone available on the weekend to run up to 50 or 60kms with. Least welcoming - probably places in Egypt.

CJ_the_dude1 karma

Do you participate in the Ragnar series throughout the United States?

SamanthaGash2 karma

No, I haven't heard of it before now.

CJ_the_dude1 karma

How does someone begin training for these ultramarathons in extreme conditions? Did you have to subject your body to the strains before actually going to location?

SamanthaGash4 karma

You just have to build up for the distance and then prepare as best as you can for the specific extreme conditions. As said in a previous comment, you can't always be completely prepared for all of the elements you would face.

I did a solid block of altitude training before going to the Himalayas to race. For Sahara I was a bikram yoga regular.. Otherwise, it just comes down to mentally preparing yourself for those extreme conditions. Prepare your mind for the worst case scenario & visualise yourself getting through it..

SamanthaGash2 karma

Living in Melbourne Australia, it is hard to simulate many of these conditions - e.g. altitude, mountains,etc.

Also working full time makes it challenging to get the amount of kms you need to do. BUT i really believe in mental preparation. Healthy and strong mind plays a massive role in these extreme ultramarathons.

daWalruss1 karma

What do you feel like afterwards? What types of recovery do you do after submitting your body to that kind of hell?

SamanthaGash8 karma

Gosh good question. Sometimes you are in a bit of a daze crossing the finish line after several days of racing. Other times you are completely in the present and the feeling of bliss and happiness is overwhelming.

There are many runners and sometimes I too have experienced the feeling of emptiness after completing a race. I think this is because you have focused on that goal for so long, it is hard to know where to put that focus afterwards.

I have now learnt to relish the time of recovery and reflection after a big race.

SamanthaGash5 karma

Recovery wise - if you are able get those legs up, compression tights on, drink plenty of water/electrolytes that is all great stuff. Increasing your protein consumption afterwards is important too.

I also think the biggest thing is to get some good sleep afterwards.

Last year I ran 379kms non-stop across the simpson desert. It took 3 and a half days and I was seriously wrecked afterwards. I had to go straight back to work (as a lawyer) and there was no rest time. Definitely pushed back my recovery and I didn't feel strong running for some time afterwards.

daWalruss2 karma

As a college athlete, I couldn't imagine doing what you're doing now. Keep up the amazing-ness (if that's a word) and thanks for the reply!

SamanthaGash3 karma

It is an incredible way to see the world and meet some AMAZING people along the way. Gives you a whole new perspective on what is important.

BipolarSmith1 karma

Hi. What shoes are you using for training & racing?

SamanthaGash6 karma

I wear Brooks shoes..

For the 4Deserts and most endurance trail events I wear Brooks Cascadia - ever reliable, no blisters. Also like their PureGrit shoes

For road their ST5s

BipolarSmith2 karma

Thanks for the reply. I'm a fan of Brooks too and I'm using Glycerin 10. Good luck for your future races

SamanthaGash2 karma

Thanks. you too!!

Didalilpoo0 karma

Have seen a pic of a guy running a marathon who had shat himself, has this ever happened to you, and is it quite common?

SamanthaGash1 karma

Luckily not.

perche0 karma

This is not something everybody can do. What unique physiological traits were you born with that make this possible?

SamanthaGash1 karma

My parents who are not runners and the toughest people I know.. So being mentally strong definitely helps, even if you aren't the quickest or strongest.

quadrillions-1 karma

You think you're better than me?

SamanthaGash3 karma


spectraglyph00-1 karma

I once ran 1 megameter (1000 kilometers) around the mouth of a volcano, during a hurricane. The hurricane force winds kept on blowing molten magma into my face, but I prepared for that during my training by having my coach throw boiling bacon grease onto my face, while I did a few laps around the park.

Now, I am currently training to run 1gigameter (1,000,000 kilometers) on the surface of Mars. In order to be successful, I will need to hold my breath for extremely long periods of time, since Mars doesn't have an oxygen rich atmosphere as Earth's does. In order to prepare, my coach has me wear a plastic shopping bag on my head, tied tightly around my neck, while I do a few laps around the park.

I am currently seeking a training partner to help keep me motivated; are you interested? I train pretty intensely though, just giving you a heads up. If you pass out with the plastic bag on your head or run into a tree, I'm going to call you a pussy and keep running. I'm that fucking hardcore. I mean if you can't even do one lap around the park without asphyxiating, how are you supposed to do a gigameter on Mars, without a space suit?

SamanthaGash1 karma

Good luck with that.

Drewthing-3 karma

Wow 4 250k marathons!?!?!?! Do you think your better than me?

SamanthaGash5 karma


phuqueyoo-5 karma


SamanthaGash6 karma

hahaha.. no.. I have a mild obsession with salt & vinegar chips.