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Finding a safe space with the Starting Line Scholarship

At the beginning of the Saturday running sessions with the Grand Rapids Starting Line Scholarship Cohort, Abbie is confident, smiles and shares a story that gets others in the group to smile. She is personable, warm, and welcoming.

Abbie is an accomplished runner, previous president of the GR Run Club and for much of her life has dealt with anxiety and depression. She attends therapy to help manage her mental health. When she thought about applying for the Starting Line Scholarship, her family asked questions. “You already run. Do you really think you need to do that?”, “You have a group of friends that you hang out with, what’s the difference” And the question that lingers: “You already go to therapy. What’s the difference with this?”

A new Connection, a sense of Community:

Her connection to Still I Run came five years before she became a recipient of the Starting Line Scholarship. “One of my friends joined and I joined to help support them. Then I found I knew several of the other members in the group.” It was the community that struck a chord for Abbie, a place where she felt comfortable sharing her struggles and supporting others, in addition to her friend.

When she applied for the Scholarship, she thought she had no chance of getting it and assumed she would not receive any updates for a while. Then Kym, the lead running coach of the scholarship, reached out quickly to share her excitement and told Abbie her application had

been accepted.

Abbie was thrilled to be chosen, yet still had doubts. She thought about the place that she was

taking; she was already a runner, having run several races, including 50-mile races. Many of the other members of the group would be starting or re-starting their running journeys. She was concerned others would find her running journey intimidating or unrelatable.

Abbie very quickly realized she needed the community that the group provided. “I was

surprised at myself when we first started. I shared things with this group that not even my

closest friends know.” She had found a place with people who, while dealing with different

issues in their personal lives, were all drawn together by this need for a safe space to be themselves.

“Everyone’s journey is different. We’re all at different places in our lives, we’re all at different

stages of our running or not running.” Abbie stops here in conversation to reiterate, “That is

something I will genuinely miss more than gathering for the running. It was so great to just be

yourself with a group of people with zero judgment.”

At the Conclusion of the program, a New starting Line:

When talking about the finish of the program, at the Lake Michigan Credit Union Bridge

Run 5k, obvious joy underlies Abbie’s words. “We all have to run our own race, but I wanted to start with my teammates, to be together, to have that community and have those first steps.” She continues, “It was wonderful to watch everyone finish. We all stayed until our last person

was in and that was amazing. It’s a huge sense of pride to watch everyone’s accomplishments.”

Now, on the other side of the journey and admittedly in a different place, she is reminded of

the questions that her family posed as she started this process. Why this, what’s different about

This? What’s different now is that she’s part of a group, she’s found a place where she can share who she is. The Starting Line Scholarship and the people in it has allowed her to process more than she thought possible. “I needed this group to get through a lot” She says, “I needed to know it was OK to say I that I was not OK.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from the Starting Line Scholarship, we invite you to check it out at our website here! Applications are selected on a rolling basis!


By Jason Holton

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