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Leah’s Journey of Running for Mental Health

When Leah Bristol saw that applications were open for Still I Run’s Starting Line Scholarship, she saw it as a sign. The scholarship was offering help to individuals who needed help running for mental health. This resonated with her because ever since she had been a teenager, Leah had wanted to become a runner. Originally, Leah trained in classical ballet, but during one of her classes, the instructor commented in front of the entire class on Leah’s technique due to her “runners thighs.” This comment didn’t discourage her, but was the catalyst needed to fuel Leah.

Leah then started to run on and off a bit, completing a few 5Ks. Once she started doing so, she saw running as one of her healing agents in her struggle with anxiety and depression. This was something that she desperately needed as a full-time nursing student at her local community college and part time employee at an outpatient hospital. The demands of the job and work environment took a huge toll on Leah’s mental health because she was working in the ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic. For her, running was a positive outlet for Leah during these challenging times of uncertainty, grief, and trauma experienced during the pandemic.

Needing Help:

Even though she was already running, Leah shared in her Starting Line Scholarship application that she struggled to maintain a regular routine because mental health diagnoses and episodes interfered with daily life for a long time. Leah also shared that she felt lost in terms of how to make progress, and finances wouldn’t allow her to invest in proper gear to keep her injury free. She needed this scholarship to help give her the boost she needed in order to turn her running from something casual, to a life-long habit.

Receiving the Starting Line Scholarship ended up being a game changer for Leah. Especially the coaching and community aspect of it all. “I liked that I was able to be straightforward and honest with my coach when I was having a rough time mentally. I also liked being able to talk to everyone in the group chat when I needed a little boost,” shared Leah. “I didn't have to worry about judgment or build up the courage to explain if I didn't complete a run on a certain day or needed to adjust my training slightly...and that is huge for me. My coach, especially, was understanding, encouraging, and super helpful in supporting me throughout the program.”

The running gear Leah received from the program was also helpful. “I never fully realized what a difference it can make to run-in high-quality running clothes until I took my first few runs in the new gear," remarked Leah.

For the Love of the Run:

Running consistently has given Leah a new excitement and purpose for her life, saying it’s a form of freedom and peace. She says it’s also taught her the importance of balancing self-care with the demands of life - especially with her work and school deadlines.

For Leah, the Starting Line Scholarship was just what she needed to bloom into a confident, happy, healthy runner. “I am eternally grateful for everything Still I Run has given me through the Starting Line Scholarship. They gave me a life-changing love of running, guidance and newfound mental and physical strength; all of which are extremely crucial in the first few months as a new runner. I now have a more positive self-image and a renewed belief in myself and what I'm capable of. There’s a profound sense of hope now that I have a new, powerful "tool" to help my mental health.”

Now that she’s completed a 10K race thanks to the Starting Line Scholarship, she has her eyes set on the 25K Amay Riverbank Run in May 2023. She hopes that after that, she can run a marathon one day, saying, “Always keep going, depression hates a moving target.”

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 Michele Krimmel

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