The lesson Samantha had to learn about making money as an ultra-runner


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Samantha Gash is a Melbourne-based endurance athlete, social impact entrepreneur, corporate speaker and host of the Sam Gash Podcast.

She has run ultra-marathons and completed expeditions across some of the most extreme and harsh locations on the planet, from the deserts in Chile, China, Egypt and Antarctica to the mountains of Nepal, India and New Zealand.

She has raised more than $1.3 million for charities, supporting access to education for underprivileged children and for bushfire relief.  She is an ambassador for World Vision and the Royal Flying Doctor Service and was a competitor on the TV show Survivor (2017), where she met her husband.

samantha gash can you make money as an ultra marathon runner

How did going from your law career to running across continents change your views on money?

Running started and remains a space where I can be physically and mentally present. Initially I used it as a means to push my boundaries outside the legal profession, but it quickly taught me how I value experiences over material objects.

Through running I have travelled all over the world, well off the beaten track. It has given me a global perspective, which has taught me to be grateful for the fundamentals, such as having shelter, food and the opportunity to be educated.

What was your first job?

I worked in the kitchen at McDonald's. When I got the job, I presumed I'd be a "cashier chick" as there were no other women in the kitchen. Although surprised, I quickly took it as a compliment that I could learn a new skill and pave a unique path.

What's the best money advice you've ever received?

My parents strongly advocated that my sister and I spend within our means and not go into debt. They also encouraged us to work from the legal age of 14 years and nine months. We ended up using the money we earnt from our jobs in high school and university to pay for our university fees, taking advantage of the 10% upfront discount.

Still to this day it impacts my mindset with spending and going into the red. I think their advice stemmed from the belief that if you continually go into debt for things you think you want, your enjoyment in that thing is reduced by the stress you gain.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

It was to leave full-time employment and start working for myself. Initially I didn't know where that would lead me, but I knew I felt like a square peg in a round hole.

Walking away from security and stability was a difficult decision. Where I landed is that I could use running and adventure as a vehicle for social change through storytelling - a career path that didn't really exist until I created it.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

Recently I made an impulsive decision to invest in some shares off the recommendation of a friend. I am usually conservative with my investments and do plenty of research beforehand, but this time I made a quick decision with little information. It may turn out to be a good idea, but that isn't my usual approach.

ultra runner samantha gash making money as an ultra marathon runner

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

My husband and I like to live simply at home. We rarely go out to dinner (thank you, parent life) and our interests revolve around the outdoors.   Yet we do like to have getaway holidays regularly in rural settings. At the time of writing we are on the south-west coast of Western Australia in a farm cottage stay.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

I would put half on my mortgage and half into a current project I'm working on. I'm a big believer that you need to financially back your own projects and ideas.

Not only does it embed your personal commitment, but why should anyone else back your ideas if you are not willing to put skin in the game. Currently I am creating an online resilience course, so that money could go into an instructional designer.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

I would put in a Facebook ad, "who is looking for a run coach?" I would also turn off my direct debit for Netflix and stop buying takeaway coffees.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

Yes, I definitely do. I will leave an inheritance but I will balance that with also ensuring I fully live my life as well.

What's been your best money-making career move?

Realising the value in sharing my story, and not merely the highlights - rather the struggles, the chosen sacrifices and the steps in between.

What lessons did you learn from being an endurance athlete?

Perseverance and knowing things are not always going to turn out the way you plan. And that is not always a bad thing, as we are all capable of creating the next best plan. In fact, my TED talk is about creating the next best plan.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...

... opportunities and increases options.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.