From Racing High to Asking Why

When I was in my early to mid 20's I went a million miles an hour. I tried so many different things that sent me in every which direction. I guess I had the mindset that if I waited till I was ready, life could pass me by and I would miss out. I was also super eager to find the thing that I felt truly passionate about and connected to. There were amazing things that came with that attitude and of course a couple of challenges. I became very resourceful in my ongoing attempt to travel the road less travelled on a shoestring budget. Simultaneously I know my poor parents were hoping that I would settle down and focus on my studies in law.

There were amazing things that came with that attitude and of course a couple of challenges. I became very resourceful in my ongoing attempt to travel the road less travelled on a shoestring budget. Simultaneously I know my poor parents were hoping that I would settle down and focus on my studies in law.

In 2010, in a combination of my desire to push my personal limitations, experience different cultures and landscapes I decided to sign up for my first ultramarathon in the driest desert on earth - the Atacama Desert in Chile. I put it down to a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity that I would do before settling down and become a serious city lawyer. I should have known myself better.The boiling pot of friendly and fierce competition + extreme environments + cultural diversity = hooked Samantha. Over the next eight months I continued to explore this equation by racing in the windiest, hottest and coldest deserts on earth.

I thought I would have gotten this out of my system like many of the other random experiences I had dabbled in. Yet, when I heard about a race that was supposedly the 'highest' in the world my attention was challenged and then peaked. Nine months later I was flying to India and somehow planning to run 222km'sss in a race that reached close to 6000 metres above sea level and averaged at 4500 metres.

This race was mad and I was incredibly out of my depth. The previous desert races I had done were 250kms over a 6 day period and now I was expecting myself to do a similar distance in one go, up really high! After a few days sightseeing and meeting local runners in Delhi, we flew up north to Leh Ladakh where the race was to be held. I fell in love with this area the moment I got off the plane. With the mountains surrounding us, the quieter temperament of the locals and the intensity of the altitude I felt like I was in a dream.

A week of acclimatisation and the race kicked off. I found myself pushing harder than I had ever had to push before. As the hours ticked by and the race went from mild weather, to sweltering heat, to a whiteout, I began to question what I was hoping to accomplish. I quickly began to feel that if my intentions for tackling a race of this magnitude were not aligned with my values I would begin to unravel. It was somewhere near the summit of Taglang La that I made a commitment to myself that I would use my running on this scale for a purpose outside of myself from this point onwards. In what can only be described as a "suffer fest" I completed the race 58 hours after I began, including a six hour stop that I was forced to take because the weather had become dangerous. It was without a doubt the race that has changed me the most and made me constantly ask "why do we do what we do" and "how can we use what we are extraordinary at for a reason outside of ourselves."

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