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Running After Loss with the Starting Line Scholarship

Running has always had a strong impact on Angela’s mental health. But after her daughter Anabelle died last year, Angela found it tough to even get out of bed, let alone go for a run. Then Angela discovered the Still I Run Starting Line Scholarship. It gave her the motivation and support she needed to start running in earnest again.

Finding Anabelle:

Angela first met Anabelle when she was a baby in foster care. Anabelle suffered from a stroke that might have been caused by shaken baby syndrome and the doctors didn’t think she would survive long. That didn’t matter to Angela. She fell head over heels for this little girl and decided to adopt her.

Anabelle surpassed all expectations and lived to see her fifteenth birthday. During those years, she was the center of Angela’s life. Anabelle couldn’t move much or speak due to her disabilities, so Angela had to stay very in tune with her needs. Anabelle also had ongoing medical issues, which meant a lot of time in the hospital together.

Angela says Anabelle taught her that life is bittersweet. While there was always the threat of a health crisis around the corner, there were small moments of simple pleasure that Angela learned to fully enjoy, like seeing Anabelle smile when she felt the warmth of the sun on her skin.

The two also shared joyful moments running together. Angela pushed Anabelle for training runs and races. They were getting ready for their first Disney race—Anabelle adored all things Disney—when she had another medical emergency. Sadly, she passed away just days before the race.

Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do:

Angela tried to run after this devastating loss because she knew it had helped her with anxiety and depression in the past. But it felt nearly impossible, especially in those early months. When Angela came across the Still I Run Starting Line Scholarship, she thought it might help give her the motivation she needed to get back into running. She applied and was quickly accepted.

As part of the program, Angela connected with a Still I Run coach. He had her start with shorter distances to slowly build up her base. Angela always felt like she had to go all out right away when she was training, but she knew her coach had the right approach this time. Starting with shorter distances allowed her to be patient with herself and gradually rebuild her strength and confidence. She could feel a sense of accomplishment even if she was only running a mile or two a day.

Angela’s coach kept her mental health at the forefront as he helped her train. Rather than simply telling her to move past her feelings and run, he encouraged her to find motivation in ways that worked for her. Angela started placing notes around her house that said things like, “Go run and you’ll feel better.” She left her running clothes out so she’d be more likely to put them on and get outside. She also created a Disney playlist that helped her feel connected with Anabelle when she ran.

With the help of her coach and the scholarship program, Angela was able to get back into running again. Since the program ended, she’s run several Disney races dressed as some of Anabelle’s favorite Disney characters, including Rapunzel and Elsa. While Angela is still struggling with her loss, she finds comfort celebrating Anabelle’s life with these runs.

Grief is the Loudest Silence I ever Heard:

When asked what advice she has for others struggling with grief or mental health issues, Angela said it’s important to find things that work for you. In addition to running, Angela journals about her feelings. Although she doesn’t always love journaling because it brings up difficult emotions, she knows it helps. She’ll challenge herself to sit down and write maybe one or two words and it usually flows from there.

Angela is also a strong advocate for therapy, support groups, and medication. She suggests reaching out to your doctor, especially when nothing else is working. Although there is still stigma around mental health issues, there is no shame in reaching out for support when you need it.

Every Stride is a Possibility:

Angela recommends looking into the Starting Line Scholarship if you think it might be a good fit for you. It can help remove barriers that block you from running for your mental health. Scholarship recipients receive personalized coaching, new running shoes, running gear, and free entry to a 5k or 10k race or a 10-week plan.

If you’re interested, she suggests applying and talking with someone in the program to learn more. Angela knows firsthand that it can be tough to take that first step, but once you do, it can make a real difference in your life.


By Heather Mansfield

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