Running is often touted as the most accessible sport. People say you can just put on a pair of sneakers and head out the door, but if you talk to any runner, they’ll start listing off necessary running gear: the right running shoes for your foot type (or risk injury), sweat-wicking clothing (or you’ll chafe), a high-impact sports bra, etc. And if you want to race? There are entry fees that can range from $20 – $300.
These barriers can be overwhelming for someone wanting to get out the door and move for their mental health. Still I Run wants to make sure anyone that wants to run for their mental health has that opportunity; that’s why we created the Still I Run Starting Line Scholarship.
The Starting Line Scholarship program provides recipients with the tools and support they need to overcome any barriers that may hold them back from their running and mental health journey.
Here are three Starting Line Scholarship recipients sharing how the scholarship helped them begin running for their mental health.
Making Self Care a Priority
Katie Gillespie initially found Still I Run on Instagram. She had always viewed her runs through the paces she was able to run and the PRs she was able to claim, but Still I Run made her flip her thought process on its head. She started running because it felt good, not to hit a specific number.
One day, Gillespie saw a post about the Starting line Scholarship. After some thought, she decided to apply. “I was undergoing a major career change and knew that I needed to have some serious self-care in place and thought running could help, but I struggled to get started on my own. I’m currently finishing my degree in clinical mental health counseling, and I knew that if I wanted to be my best with clients during my internship year, I needed to make caring for myself a priority too.
Knowing someone else cared, helped me care for myself
When she found out she received the scholarship, she was overcome with emotions. “It felt like someone else believed in me enough to take a chance on me, which helped me believe in myself too.”
Gillespie credits her coach for helping her create new goals for running, including becoming a runner for life. She realized that it doesn’t matter how fast she runs as long as she stays healthy and consistent. “I’ve really keyed into how good my body and mind feel after running, which makes it much easier to get out there. I just needed a little help to get started, which was a big lesson. I think going forward I’ll be more likely to ask for help because I see what a difference it makes,” Gillespie said. “Having that accountability and support made all the difference in the world for me. I learned that sometimes I need help, and that’s ok! Life is too hard to do it all on our own – we can achieve our goals in community.”
I Am Capable of Reaching Hard Goals
Eileen Sanchez received a text from her sister with a link to Still I Run’s Starting Line Scholarship application. At first, Sanchez thought she’d just get a free pair of running shoes and she was excited about that possibility. “I don’t get expensive [running] shoes because there is always so much else to buy, and I don’t exercise like I used to, so I felt like I never really deserved expensive [running shoes].” She was even more excited when she found out that the Startling Line Scholarship included so much more than just a pair of shoes.
Sanchez recalls being incredibly nervous because she didn’t want to experience disappointment if she wasn’t a recipient. But she was already finding value in the program by just applying. She explained that when Still I Run reached out to her for her scholarship interview, in that moment, she felt like her story was worthy of sharing.
She was ecstatic when she got the call that she was a Starting Line Scholarship recipient. “When they called me back to tell me that I was accepted for the scholarship I was super excited,” Sanchez recalled. “With my mental health, I struggle with feeling like I don’t deserve much and that I can’t accomplish what I used to.”
When Sanchez found out that the Starting Line Scholarship included a run coach, she decided she wanted to train for a 10k, a distance she had never run before. “When I got my first workout for the week, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I had so much self-doubt and was preparing myself for failure, but by having someone in my corner, I felt responsible to give it my best or at least try.”
Try, and try again
Sanchez found that having a coach on her side was exactly what she needed to push herself towards her goal. “I tried, and the feedback from my coach made me feel special. She made me feel that my ‘try’ was exactly perfect. So I kept trying, and in the end, I exceeded more than I ever thought was possible. Even on the days that I couldn’t do the workout or had to alter the routes, my coach told me that I did everything right.”
When asked what her biggest takeaway from her experience with the Starting Line Scholarship was, Sanchez said, “I am able to see that I am capable and I can reach hard goals. I had forgotten that I am capable of that, but the Starting Line Scholarship reminded me that I am capable of reaching hard goals.”
An Opportunity to Make a Change
Kristin Stewart first found out about Still I Run’s Starting Line Scholarship from an article in Runner’s World magazine. After doing some research into the program, she decided to apply. “At the time I found this scholarship program, I was really struggling mentally and physically. I was having a lot of difficulties shaking my feelings of doubt, worry, and depression. I saw the scholarship as an opportunity to make a change and have some support along the way.”
Similar to Eileen Sanchez’s story, Stewart found the application process validating. “I was nervous, excited, and really just grateful that I was even being considered. The interview sparked my confidence and my competitive nature. It really gave me a sense that I was worthy and could accomplish my goals.”
When Stewart heard about her acceptance, she described the moment as a spark of light in the darkness. She was excited to join a community that would understand her struggles and would support her towards her goals.
Personalized support and encouragement make all the difference
Once Stewart paired up with her running coach, she immediately noticed the difference it made to have someone supporting her. “I have never had a running coach, so it was a new and exciting adventure, and Pam was such an incredible coach. She tailored my training days to my daily life, challenged me when needed, and was an amazing support system through my journey.” Stewart continued, “Just knowing that someone is in your corner, rooting for you, and providing support and encouragement makes a huge difference. There were plenty of days where I wanted to skip a run, but I knew I wanted to prove to myself and my coach that I could come out on top.”
To anyone thinking of applying for a Starting Line Scholarship, Stewart says, “Go for it! This is an amazing opportunity all around – not to mention to cool gear you get! My pair of Altras took me from day one to crossing the finish line in 3rd place for my age group! I’m so grateful for the Still I Run scholarship and the community. Since my race, I have continued to train on my own and work on my mental clarity and stability. It was a blessing to have had this opportunity.”
Interested in applying for a Starting Line Scholarship? Learn more about the program and the application process here.