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Passionate about Running for Mental Health

While Ayana is a little fuzzy on how she initially found Still I Run, her impact on our organization is clear. Not only is she a Still I Run Ambassador and Chapter Captain for St. Louis, Missouri, but she’s also formed a valuable partnership with a local race director. Because of Ayana, they’re helping to promote Still I Run and donating a portion of their race fees to support our programs.

Ayana is passionate about the Still I Run mission and is committed to spreading the word about our organization any way she can, including through her choice of clothing. “Whenever I get on a plane or travel, I put on my Still I Run shirt,” she said. “Even if people never say anything to me, they see it and maybe they’ll find their way to the website.”

Ayana feels a strong connection with our mission to promote awareness of the benefits of running for mental health because of her personal experience.

A Diagnosis Does Not Define

About 10 years ago, she realized that she has seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression characterized by shifts in mood and behavior that occur when the seasons change. For Ayana, the symptoms of SAD including a lack of energy and difficulty concentrating begin every October and get worse by February. She calls it “a heaviness that’s tough to explain.” It makes daily tasks feel nearly impossible for her during the cold months when daylight is sparse. When SAD sets in, she’d find herself asking, “Did I cook or even eat today?”

SAD is a mental health issue that’s often misunderstood. Not everyone gets that it’s more than just the winter blues, and that it can have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life. Even Ayana didn’t fully buy into it at first. But realizing SAD is something

she actively needs to manage—and not something she can simply “shake off”—has changed her life.

Ayana relies heavily on running to ease the symptoms and help lift the feelings of anxiety and depression brought on by SAD. Of course, it’s not always easy to go outside and run in the winter, especially when the temperature drops like it does in St. Louis, but it’s well worth it to Ayana. “Running in the winter made such a big difference for me. There’s not a lot of people out. It’s peaceful. Quiet. I can feel my heartbeat. Feel my feet moving.” said Ayana.

Long Runs = Best Runs

Ayana makes sure she’s proactive about running and signs up for running events in October and February when SAD tends to hit her the hardest. She enjoys longer runs and her sweet spot is around 8 or 10 miles. When she runs long, she finds it easier to settle into a calm and peaceful state of mind. Ayana understands that not everyone likes to run long—or even run at all—and that’s OK. She doesn’t always either. She experienced injuries over the years that kept her from running for periods of time. But she always comes back to running to help with mental health issues even if she needs to take it slow at first.

Join Ayana Run

As part of her role as Still I Run Chapter Captain, Ayana organizes monthly 3-mile run/walks where everyone is welcome regardless of their running abilities or where they’re at in their mental health journey. That’s one of the things she loves most about running. It’s an inclusive activity. You just need a pair of sneakers and a little motivation to get going.

If you’re in the St. Louis area, feel free to join her run group anytime. Don’t let the cold keep you away. And keep your eye on Ayana. She’s going to help take Still I Run to great places!

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12/14/2022 | 3 min read

Meet Ayana: Committed to Still I Run and Cold Weather Runs

By Heather Mansfield

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