Becoming a mother has been one of the greatest sources of happiness in my life.

There is no amount of reading or even chatting to other mothers that could have prepared my partner Mark and I for what was to come.

There are good days, and not-so good days.

The not-so good days are intense and are filled with sadness, self judgment and a heaviness. Fortunately, the good days and unbridled joy far outweigh the bad.

Samantha Gash exclusive insight harry ten

During ‘our’ pregnancy we were repeatedly told that “our lives would never be the same” and “a baby changes everything.” Hearing that so many times scared us both.

Sometimes we would talk about our fear, other times we kept it to ourselves.

Talking about it made what we were fearing very real. Mark and I were proudly independent agents that relished having freedom in our choices and movements.  

Professionally, so much of what I do on a day-to-day basis requires me to move from place to place and then have the ability to focus solely on my goals.

I was smart enough to realise motherhood doesn’t allow for that, and rightfully so.

Professionally and personally, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would lose a sense of myself.

Samantha Gash exclusive insight survivor

I did not want to wake up one day, in the coming months or years, and realise that I had completely lost my own identity. Something that I had spent years trying to understand and develop.

When I was younger I studied law and all I could imagine was a career working for the UN.

I always had a passion for wanting to alleviate social and economic barriers for children and women.

Somehow I ended up working as a corporate lawyer at an international law firm in the city and I felt more disconnected and disillusioned with how I was spending my days.

I started to run as a way to get fit and push beyond the limitations I had placed on myself about my physical ability. I was a kid who felt uncomfortable playing sport because I was little and very uncoordinated.

After running my first marathon, I wanted to push the envelope even further.  

I signed up for a 250km staged race in the driest desert on earth, carrying everything I needed including my clothes, food, sleeping bag.

From here things really changed.

Two years later I made a bold decision to leave my secure job in law and pursue endurance running as a career. But not solely as an athlete.

I don’t regret for one moment becoming a corporate lawyer.

In fact, if I hadn’t I perhaps wouldn’t be in the space that I am today. Sometimes, it takes doing something you really DON’T want to do, to truly realise what it is you DO seek for your professional career.

For me, running became a conduit between all of the things I was most passionate about.

I saw the capacity to run long as a way to explore my own personal vulnerabilities and find the connection between the vulnerabilities of other people.

I started to create long distance expeditions as a means to connect with others and affect social causes I cared about.

So the sport, albeit unconventional, gives me the chance to look at what life is like in a diverse range of socio-economic communities around the world.

Over time, exploring the reasons as to why children are unable to access a quality education is what drove me to work more closely with World Vision.

Accidentally and then very intentionally I embraced a career as a corporate speaker. I speak to audiences throughout Australia and abroad on what it is like to lead a life beyond the comfort zone when the reason you are doing it is greater than yourself.

It was interesting for me to discover that the challenges I faced when I was pursuing feats of endurance are similar to the pursuit of any goal.

I realised the social impact I could create on my own was limited. So I decided to work with a variety of stakeholders from media, government to corporates.

It took me some time to realise this approach required me to be willing to release a degree of project control in order to effectively collaborate with others.

Without doubt being able to do this leveraged my projects and goals. For two years I worked with World Vision as an Ambassador to create a project called Run India.

Samantha Gash exclusive insight survivor india

I would run from the west to east of India, a distance of over 3000kms in 77 days whilst visiting communities they supported across the country.

I would meet families and individuals in the slums in urban centers, villages in the Himalayas, schools, malnutrition clinics and economic development initiatives.

The objective was to share those stories on a global digital platform and raise donations to fund six education programs.

These programs looked at the issues surrounding access to education holistically, understanding that you can’t create a blanket solution.

My personality type has always been to cover all bases, because there are moments when I am literally putting my life at risk – initially during races and now during these expeditions.

During Run India the temperature reached 45 degrees Celsius and was often in excess of 90% humidity whilst I ran along the highway.

That preparation and expedition due diligence has been key in order to mitigate the risks for myself and the team that I work with.

Samantha Gash exclusive insight survivor 2004

Being able to break up the chaos and intensity of the run with the people we meet reinforced why I was doing what I was doing. It also provided me the greatest perspective that my suffering was temporary and self-induced.

Similarly, in 2004 I completed a 1968km run over 32 days across South Africa’s Freedom Trail. In this instance I was supporting an education initiative with Save the Children that related to the access of feminine hygiene products for women.

The challenges here were different. The remoteness and technicality of the terrain made the daily goal of trying to run close to 2 marathons very challenging.

Now after six years with these global charity projects, Harry is now my motivation to get out of bed every morning. And you know what, I couldn’t be happier. Everyone was right, life is different but it is better in so many ways.

Samantha Gash exclusive insight harry

And whilst I still have cravings to head out for a long run I remind myself I have plenty of time for that down the track when my body is healed and I have more time.

Endurance running has been at the centre of my life since my mid 20s.  

Even with Harry now in the picture, I am still so passionate to make sure I can help create global change so that he can live in a future where better access to education is available for all of our world’s children.

Right now, I am engaging in more corporate speaking engagements to achieve that end as opposed to running. However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have another expedition churning in the background.

In a couple of months Mark, Harry and I head to the Pilbara region in Western Australia with World Vision. We will be visiting communities they support with maternal health and education initiatives.

The stories we hear and lessons we learn will form the basis for a new expedition in the not so distance future.

I’m loving my new identity – both the person in the mirror and the little boy who has brightened up my world.