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Finding Running, and Creating a Future for Black Runners

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

A discussion and interview with Mireille Sine

Originally from Cameroon, Mireille lives in Los Angeles, or Tongva Land, where her family immigrated in ‘96, and where she’s been since. Being active has been a part of her life from the start, from ballet to choreography and volleyball, but it wasn’t until college, as an Exercise Science major, that she picked up running in a required class where she had to track workouts, her food intake, and run a 5k under a certain time - in the midst of that process, she began to enjoy running.

Some time after falling into the sport, she was diagnosed with Lupus, an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues, which can cause immense fatigue, joint pain, breathing challenges, cardiovascular issues and much more. It became debilitating. She couldn’t regulate her body temperature, working out seemed physically impossible, her heart rate was jumping sporadically - and she had to take time off to focus on her health. She became interested in her nutrition more than ever, out of frustration with the limitations she was being given - “I was put on a blood thinner because of clots, and they told me to cut out leafy greens. I was like - cut out leafy greens? No way is that good for me”. She began taking charge of her health, and wanted to do the same for her fitness again; but, running was immensely difficult - a mile caused pain - so she joined the local Nike Run Club to find a community to help. She was running short distances again after a year, and found that the power of the Nike community was inspiring her. She watched her club mates going for 10 mile runs and pushed herself to do her first half marathon - painful, but a giant leap. She began to wonder “how can I go beyond? Find the next challenge? I was curious about longer distances and trails, but most of the people I knew were men. Fortunately in LA, they were ethnically diverse, which made me feel more at home, and more comfortable asking questions like - how do I drink water on these long runs? Without those club members to lean on, I don’t know who would have guided and pushed me.”

What was one of your first ever running goals?

When I first started, it was running a 5k in less than 35 minutes! And I ended up on a hilly

course to my surprise, after training on only flat roads.

How did you get ready for your first 50k?

“It was after the 2018 SF marathon that I even became interested. Taking gradual steps

helps you build confidence, like, maybe I can do that distance. I got a Salomon running

vest on sale that was way too big, but made it work, and started trying to get on trails

more, because you have to spend time on the trails to be able to do trail races. I’d make

sure to do 2 in one weekend, and link up with a friend who was also training. On weekdays, I kept doing road runs with my local group to change things up and not feel so alone. I googled a training plan, asked everyone who ran what they ate and where to run, and then tested their recommendations - shorts or leggings? Gels or real food? How much water does my body need? Everything takes trial and error and patience”

Fave gel?

“Definitely SIS - Science in Sport - from the UK”

What are your biggest challenges right now?

“Transitioning into trails and hills after lots of flat road running. I used to focus a lot on

speed, and now, it’s more the satisfaction of process and completion”

You’re an advocate for diversity in running. What challenges exist for the black and BIPOC community?

Time is such a limiting factor. I’m a part of Blacklist LA, a group of multicultural runners, and I take note of who shows up - lots of dudes. Why? It is because women are doing the care taking. We meet in the evening, usually very late, when many women are cooking, putting kids to bed, and other expectations that shouldn’t just be on women anymore, but unfortunately still are. The Black community is also full of immigrants who have other things on their to-do list. Running can be seen as a waste of time. My immigrant parents wondered why I was running all the time, and worried - they only respected that there was a potential financial opportunity. We need to think about when things are scheduled, the language around it, and not just frame running as competitive or exercise, but as community building, socializing, making yourself better - things that can welcome and be understood by diverse communities. And, think hard about privilege and who has time to run, and how they might need to actively be invited to make it seem worthwhile. Training is a luxury that doesn’t extend to many BIPOC.

How can race directors and allies do better?

They should be encouraging diversity as a part of their daily work! One way is through

ambassador programs, for brands but also for running series or races. I’ve been a race

ambassador before, and it meant I could help market to and attract a more diverse group

of runners. They should also try to create public, free plans to help people train - a lot of

folks don’t know where to turn for resources, and just need a little hand holding! The media and brands have to show our faces and bodies regularly, and not just one iconic person over and over.

What’s next for you?

Finishing my Masters in Public Health degree in March! And I recently started a new job which has allowed me to start my career in housing and homelessness.When it comes to running, I want to run - and crush - the Berlin marathon. And of course, keep fostering and inspiring BIPOC runners in LA and further beyond.

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