• Sasha Wolff

Removing Barriers to Running for Mental Health

When I discovered Still I Run was more than just something that friends and family were interested in, I knew I wanted to start making a direct impact on others. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that though. The more I started talking to the broader community, and the more I thought about my own journey, the more I realized there were certain barriers to getting started running for mental health.

How to Get Started

The act of running is straightforward. I’ve got a 2-year-old that just seemingly learned to run overnight. In fact, that’s her only speed it seems like…. run. But what about running with purpose? How does one run intentionally? If you’re training for a race, do you just go out and run your hardest for as long as you can? Do you do a walk/run interval? How long are you even supposed to run for if you’re just getting started?


Running with intention isn’t as easy as it seems when you start thinking about it.

Community

One of the reasons I started Still I Run is because I wanted to know I was a part of a community of like-minded runners. Unfortunately, back in 2012, I couldn’t find a running community that was all about mental health, so I felt alone in my journey. As the Still I Run community has grown though, I constantly think about everyone I’ve met through SIR when I’m out on a run. I feel propelled by all their strength. Even though the community is largely virtual, there’s something about knowing there are others out there running for the same reason.

Accountability

For a lot of people, accountability is a huge thing. If you know that someone is waiting for you at 8 am on a chilly Saturday morning, ready to run, you’re more likely to get out there and join them. The same goes for if you’ve got a coach who has created a running plan for you and checks up to see how you’re progressing. Running mentors are also key. Just knowing someone is cheering you on in this matter means the world!

The Right Gear

One of the first races I ever ran was in the rain, and during that race, I wore cotton tube socks, a cotton shirt, a cotton hat, and shoes I’d found on clearance at Wal-Mart. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just wore what I thought was needed. Turns out wearing all cotton during a race when it’s raining is a horrible idea. I still shudder at the amount of chafing. The shoes I wore for the race (and all my training runs) were just SUPER uncomfortable though. They felt like bricks and they hurt my feet.


I honestly didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to wear all-cotton when running. I didn’t think it would be a big deal! Besides, in my mind, I wasn’t going that long of a distance, what’s the worst a cheap pair of shoes and all-cotton gear could do? Well, it turns out it can make running very uncomfortable and not very fun. For a lot of people, it can mean the difference between continuing on as a runner or not.

Financial Resources

The reason I wore bad shoes and all-cotton clothes is that I didn’t want to invest a ton of money into shoes or running clothes. I thought the reason those items were so expensive is that it was a “ploy” to get my money. Turns out there’s something to it though. Good and proper apparel costs money. The right pair of shoes can make it feel like you’re literally flying!

The Starting Line Scholarship

Knowing all those barriers above and knowing that I want SIR to start making a direct impact on people’s lives, we’ve created the Starting Line Scholarship. The scholarship, which is completely funded through donations, aims to eliminate as many barriers as possible when it comes to running for mental health.


The Starting Line Scholarship will provide recipients with:

  1. Proper running shoes

  2. Proper running gear (shirt, shorts, socks)

  3. Entry into the 5K or 10K of their choice

  4. A virtual coach and training plan

  5. A Still I Run mentor to provide encouragement

Our goal with the scholarship is to eliminate common barriers to running, provide the person with the tools and knowledge needed to run a 5K or 10K, and get them to the Starting Line of running for their mental health. From there, the Still I Run community will cheer them on as they reach the finish line with their own newfound strength.


Since this scholarship is aimed at helping people run for their mental health, the people we invite to apply are the ones that are:

  1. New or fairly new to running

  2. Are serious about running for their mental health

  3. Are experiencing some sort of emotional or financial hardship and would benefit from running for mental health

For more details on the program and to apply, please head on over to the Starting Line Scholarship page.


My Deep Gratitude

I wouldn’t be able to officially launch this new program if it weren’t for donations from the community. Thank you so much. For anyone that wants to contribute to this program, please head on over to our donation page.


I also need to thank Striders in Grandville, Michigan. They’re the running store Still I Run has partnered up with to get the shoes and running gear. Because they believe in this mission as well, the gear is discounted for our runners. On top of providing discounted apparel, they’ll also work with any scholarship recipients in the West Michigan area to make sure they’re fitted for the right shoe. Yes, this is something that Striders offers any person that walks through their doors, but I think that’s just such a special touch. When it doubt, if you need running shoes, go to your local running store!


Others that need thanking include Still I Run ambassadors who have agreed to join the Starting Line Scholarship Team. Thank you, Michael, for helping me name this thing and for agreeing to help lead this endeavor. Kari, Patty, Kristin, and Jamie, thank you for jumping on board to be a part of the selection committee and mentor our recipients. And lastly, Pam…. thank you for agreeing to coach our runners. You are such a light to Still I Run and an integral part of the program!

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