One year ago, on World Mental Health Day, I launched Still I Run. It was something I’d been thinking of doing for a couple years, but I was scared and didn’t know how to start. I also wasn’t sure how others would react and it meant putting myself out there and being vulnerable. I started with a simple website, Facebook page, and Instagram account. To be honest, I didn’t have too many expectations after I launched everything. I just knew I wanted to help get the word out about the benefits of running for mental health and in the process help defeat the stigma. My hope was that at the least people that knew me would rally around this cause. 365 days later, Still I Run is more than just a small group. It’s a thriving community made up of people around the country. AMAZING people who are willing to share their stories of mental health and how running has helped them. Every time someone shares their story, we’re taking back our power. How? We’re getting rid of the stigma by telling our OWN story of truth. We are not our mental illness. We’re strong warriors.
Still I Run Apparel
One thing I really wanted to have, to help spread the word about Still I Run, was to have apparel. What better way to promote the initiative than to run with others, while sporting mental health awareness apparel? I wanted to create a team aspect with running singlets, shirts, and jackets because that’s what we are…. a team! When people see us in a race, or out and about on a run, I want mental health awareness to come to their mind. And it’s working! Just three weeks ago, participated in a race and someone cheering on the side of the road yelled “Go STILL I RUN!” I’ve had a few others tell me they’ve seen Still I Run race posters on various course as well!
Another amazing opportunity our community got to partake in over the last year was the Fifth Third River Bank Run. When Pine Rest asked us if we wanted to team up with them to help raise money for the patient assistance fund, we had to say yes. We ended up with a team of over 20 strong and together, with the Pine Rest PR Pacing team, we all helped raise over $12,000 to help people in financial need get mental health care!
The Fifth Third River Bank Run isn’t the only run we partnered up with though. We also teamed up with the Brian Diemer 5K, Cookie 5K Run/Walk and the Lake Michigan Credit Union Bridge Run. For all of those race we were able to negotiate a discount for everyone that signed up with our discount code. I’m hoping to once again be able to offer discount codes for more races in Michigan and hopefully in other states.
And I can’t talk about running as a team without talking about the amazing ladies that ran the One in Five Relay! Most of the women on the team didn’t know each other beforehand, but banded together to run for mental health as team Phoenix Rising.
Then there are also those of you that ran for mental health around the country at various races!
Crystal and her friend at the end of the San Francisco Marathon.
Rachel at the Tinkerbell 10K in Disney World.
Mary running the King Coal 5K in Pennsylvania.
Partnering Up With Others
We can’t fight the stigma alone so any opportunity to team up with others is one I’ll take. Over the past year we developed great relationships with The Well Being, i understand, the Upward Spiral, and the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. Those partnerships allowed us to do bigger events such as fitness classes and mental health specific walk/runs. We hope to do even more events and partnerships next year!
Community 5K walk/run with mental health awareness group, i understand.
One of the most amazing things to happen since launching Still I Run though is the PEOPLE I’ve met! You all inspire me and keep me going with your courageous stories. YES, YOU! What I’ve learned is that everyone one of you is filled with so much strength and empathy. You all blow me away at your kindness. Not only that, but everyone I’ve come in contact through Still I Run is such a cheerleader for the cause! When you all spread the word about this community, you help make it bigger. This is what Still I Run is all about. It’s about building a community of mental health road warriors that are passionate about their mental and physical health. These road warriors are passionate about defeating the stigma. I can’t defeat the stigma alone, and neither can you. BUT together, as a strong, bad ass community, we can. Together we’re stronger.
What the Future Holds
It’s hard to plan for the future because the future has a funny way of doing what it wants to regardless of plans. Having said that though, what I would like to do more of next year is outreach through an ambassador program. I plan to share more about that later. I’d also like to team up with more races so that more people can run and represent Still I Run. I’m going to try my hardest to work out the logistics of doing this for races in places other than West Michigan. I want to give every Still I Run community member, no matter their location, the same perks as if they lived in my neck of the woods! Again, you all are amazing, and this community wouldn’t be what it is without you. Thank you so much for welcoming Still I Run with open arms. Let’s keep defeating the stigma together!