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After Fleeing FLDS, Running Became Her Saving Grace

Paige Kaptuch of Runner's World looks at how a running club has helped a community heal
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2024 2:45 PM CDT
After Fleeing FLDS, Running Became Her Saving Grace
Woman running in the desert.   (Getty / mihtiander)

When Darlene Barlow Stubbs was growing up in Short Creek, Arizona, she wasn't allowed to have toys, a bike, or even books. Under the new leadership of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prophet Warren Jeffs, a sect of the Mormon church, strict changes in what was allowed shifted the tightknit community's contact with outsiders. Children were no longer allowed to attend public school, including Barlow Stubbs, who left in fourth grade. At age 15, while working 11-hour daily shifts at a chicken restaurant, she realized she wanted out. "I didn't want to live in a plural marriage," she told Paige Kaptuch of Runner's World. "I didn't want to have a baby so young. Marriage meant it was unlikely I'd ever have a chance at a formal education."

Knowing her family would turn their backs on her if she fled, Barlow Stubbs made the harrowing decision to ask an estranged brother to help her leave the community. Kaptuch notes that with little education, money, or understanding of the outside world, leaving is an enormous task both emotionally and logistically. Many former members turn to substance abuse, but Barlow Stubbs had her sights set on getting back the education that was stolen from her. She earned her GED and eventually enrolled in college, but her grief still remained—so she began channeling it into running. While weaving in her own family's history in the FLDS church and tandem running history, Kaptuch tells the story how running helped Barlow Stubbs heal and band together a new community. Check out her full piece here. (And read more Longforms here).

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