We Fight Spotlight: Still I Run

Still I Run is a West Michigan-based nonprofit organization, emphasizing the intersection of mental health and physical health. Founded in 2016 by Sasha Wolff, Still I Run aims to “run for our health, raise awareness of mental health issues, and stop the stigma.” Last week, Still I Run was also named an official charity partner of the 2022 New York City Marathon!

Still I Run works to help new runners get started on their mental and physical health journeys, through their Starting Line Scholarship to assist with upfront costs associated with running. In addition to their online community, their local ambassadors also work to connect people with Still I Run on a local level. Their Run.Write.Fight program, one of the first ventures of Still I Run, matches Still I Run members to write letters of encouragement.

We Fight chatted with Still I Run Executive Director Sasha Wolff and Traverse City Still I Run ambassador Jennifer Symons, as we prepare to collaborate with Still I Run in the month of May.

We’re extremely excited that Jennifer, who’s also a We Fight member, will be working with us to coordinate twice-weekly running groups to help complete Still I Run’s May Run Streak for Mental Health! Interested? Sign up for the Run Streak today, and fill out this form to stay in touch with We Fight’s run/walk group!

Still I Run Executive Director, Sasha Wolff

Still I Run’s Founder and Executive Director, Sasha Wolff

What is your role in the organization?

I’m the Founder and Executive Director! I started Still I Run back in 2016 after I made the connection between running and my own mental health. After being hospitalized for depression in 2011, I took up running as a healthy habit to help cope. When I discovered how integral running was to my mental health toolkit of therapy and medication, I immediately wanted to connect with others that also ran for their mental health. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a group like this anywhere, so I just decided to start it up myself! What started as a Facebook page and a self-built website in 2016 is now a flourishing little non-profit that helps people all across the country.

How would you describe your organization to a stranger?

Still I Run is the country’s only running non-profit community that works to promote the benefits of running for mental health while also helping people overcome any barriers they may experience when it comes to running for their own mental health. We’re a community fo mental health running warriors passionate about breaking the stigma, one stride at a time!

What are some resources you offer that are underutilized?

Our most underutilized resource is the Starting Line Scholarship. It’s a program where we award quarterly scholarships to individuals that want to get started running for their mental health, but may experience barriers in doing so. Recipients receive a pair of running shoes, running clothes, a running coach, training plan, and entry into the 5K or 10K of their choice, and more!

What would you love to overhear someone say about your organization?

Oh, man… I’d love to hear someone oversay “I’m so thankful for Still I Run for giving me the courage and strength to get out there and start running for my mental health” or “I’m thankful for the inclusive and safe community I’ve found in Still I Run”.

What are you most proud of about your organization?

I’m most proud of our volunteers. We’re 100% volunteer led right now and what we’ve accomplished has been nothing short of amazing. We’re also pioneers in this area in that we’re the only group in the country to do what we do.

What are some misconceptions about your organization?

One of the biggest misconceptions is people think they need to be runners in order to be a part of the Still I Run community. That is NOT true. ANY movement for mental health is valuable and means you’re a part of our community. We have people that walk, roller blade, bike etc when they do our virtual events and that’s ok. At the end of the day, this is all about moving for mental health while bringing awareness to this important topic.

If you had a blank check, what would you fund?

Hands down, we would build out the Starting Line Scholarship so that in addition to help people run for mental health, we’d also help people find and get mental health. It would be so amazing someday to be able to pay for people’s co-pays or medication. Money should never be a barrier to mental health care!

How can people help?

There are SO many ways people can help! Funding is always the biggest challenge for us and to help people can donate, sign up for one of our virtual events, purchase apparel at our online store (store.stillirun.org), or fundraise for us while training for their next race through Team Still I Run.

Traverse City Still I Run Ambassador, Jennifer Symons

Jennifer Symons, Traverse City Still I Run Ambassador

What is your role in the organization and how did you get involved?

I am an ambassador for Still I Run. I got involved when I heard Sasha talk about the organization on a podcast. I love running and work as a mental health therapist and was beyond excited to find a nonprofit that combined those two passions.  

How would you describe your organization to a stranger?

Still I Run raises awareness for mental health disorders through running. It provides support, funding, and advocacy for those with mental health disorders. It promotes using running and walking as a means to help manage symptoms. 

What are some resources you offer that are underutilized?

I’m a huge fan of the Run.Write.Fight program through Still I Run. People can request a handwritten card if they are having a difficult time or just need some sort of connection. We mail individualized cards out that offer support. I love that people get physical mail that they can keep and read whenever they need a boost or reminder that someone out there cares. 

What would you love to overhear someone say about your organization?

I’d love to know that this organization is helpful for people. It’s a great community that offers a safe space for those struggling with mental health symptoms. It makes me very happy to hear that people are benefiting from this awesome organization. 

What are you most proud of about your organization?

I’m so proud of how much it has grown! It has reached so many people all over the world. I’m so proud of the people who have the courage to take control over their mental health disorders and start running. I feel like this organization has influenced a large number of people positively. 

What are some misconceptions about your organization?

I second Sasha’s answer. You most certainly do not need to be a runner to be part of the Still I Run community. We support any movement or really, any healthy method of managing mental health symptoms. 

If you had a blank check, what would you fund?

Whoa, boy, where to start? People need access to mental health services. In the Traverse City area, waitlists to see a psychiatrist are up to 6 months, even longer if you are a pediatric patient. There are not enough inpatient psychiatric beds in Michigan and people often have long emergency room stays while waiting for a bed availability. I’d love to have funding for both inpatient and outpatient mental health services with adequate staffing. 

How can people help?

Advocate! Share your own mental health story if you feel comfortable. Get to know people with mental health disorders and learn that there is so much more about them than just their diagnosis. A great way to support Still I Run is to wear their awesome gear and keep spreading the word about how this organization can help people. Most of all, be kind. Many of us have mental health disorders (myself included) and you never know what is going on in someone’s head.

Please join in celebrating and building awareness for Still I Run. There are lots of ways — big and small — We Fight members can help, including the following:

We Fight members can nominate organizations/initiatives to spotlight using this form.

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