GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When the Fifth Third River Bank Run began in Grand Rapids 40 years ago, no one was running the race to raise money for mental health awareness; few were even talking about the topic.
Now there are people running to tear down that stigma of a condition affecting those you might never expect.
“I’m the fun friend, I’m the friend that’s always happy and outgoing. And being diagnosed as someone that has depression and anxiety, the shame and stigma, I hid it for years,” said Sasha Wolff.
Wolff held in those feelings until it all came to a head in 2011. A breakdown landed her in Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services for a week.
“I remember just lying in my bed really not being able to do anything and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my pink pair of running shoes,” she recalled.
For Wolff, it started with a short walk and quickly led to running.
“The runner’s high is real. It’s not just this make-believe thing you get after running,” she said.
A runner’s high that led to the healing she needed so badly.
“Running is definitely more of a mental sport than a physical sport, and I think that’s why the two — mental health and running — mesh so well,” she said.
Wolff knew she wasn’t alone. Her desire to share the healing she found through running fueled her to create “Still I Run.”
“So far I’ve had almost a dozen people open up their hearts to basically the internet, the world and be vulnerable and share their story of mental health and running and how it’s helped them,” she explained.
Wolff credits running and Pine Rest for saving her life. That’s why she and her Still I Run teammates will be raising money for the Pine Rest Patient Assistance Fund during Saturday’s Fifth Third River Bank Run.
As she winds through Grand Rapids, Wolff need only look at her “Still I Run” wrist tattoo for a permanent reminder of how far she’s come.
“I got this to remember no matter what I’ve been through, still I run. Still I can get out of bed, and still I can run,” she said.