Healthy Talks with Mireille Siné
A Runner, Activist, Storyteller, and Vegan, Mireille Siné is an impactful voice in our run community. Speaking to issues that continue to need addressing and voicing her concerns to the struggles that we’re still fighting for, all while focusing on her run journey and goals, Mireille is a true fighter who has battled her way through some very serious health scares in recent years. Yet she perseveres, and most of all enjoys life to the fullest running many half marathons, full marathons, ultras marathons, and guess what… Mireille has also skydived! (For some reason we keep coming across runners that skydived. It’s starting to feel like this is a sign.)
MSM: Welcome to Mid Strike Magazine. I’ve read that your run journey officially began back in 2012 when you ran your first 5k. What was life like for Mireille prior to starting your run journey?
Mireille: You know what, life was pretty fun! I was in college and having a lot of fun even though in retrospect I was very stressed by my intense major and plans for the future. I lived away from home for college and most people can tell you what that’s like if you grew up in a strict household. I’ve always been a social person and so I say I lived it up in college through clubs, Greek life, and dance teams. I really enjoyed having the space to find my own way and get to know the world a little bit more. If we want to take it way back to even before college, I was the kid juggling AP and honors classes with student government and sports and all those fun things. In many ways, I am still that person.
MSM: What led you to take up running? I like to ask this question as there are so many fitness activities we can all do or focus on yet I find that most people really gravitate to running. When I first started it was always the mental battle with self that kept bringing me back. How do I become mentally stronger and able, train the mind to defeat the body and not the body to defeat the mind? So why did you choose running?
Mireille: I initially chose running because of my major. I was an Exercise Science major and we got to both do and learn some pretty cool things through our classes. I had anatomy classes, exercise prescription classes, biomechanics, and some fitness classes. I truly loved learning about the body and what it could do and when it came to our fitness classes, we learned how to track our physical activities and meet certain benchmarks. One such benchmark was the 5k run. I really rose to the challenge for that class because I’d never run that far before, at least not consecutively. So I’d say I chose running because it was challenging and it was a way for me to test my body while still having a little bit of fun.
MSM: Was running something that was always embedded in your DNA? Something you did in your past?
Mireille: I wouldn’t say that it was embedded into my DNA. Before college, I did join the track team in high school. I like to give the caveat that I only did it to hang out with my friends since we didn’t have to take regular PE anymore. And fine, I also wanted to put it on my college applications, haha. But even then, I was only into sprints and hurdles. We had a cross country team, too, but that never appealed to me. My family didn’t run so it wasn’t like there was someone I could take after. Prior to running, my main forms of physical activity were dance and general workouts.
MSM: As runners we all tend to see our successes more so than our struggles, we see most of the good but rarely get to dive into the struggles that led us to be successful runners. Take us through some of the run struggles that you’ve been through which essentially led you to being the strong runner that you are today.
Mireille: This is a tough one because I don’t feel like I focus on either my successes or struggles more than the other. I’ve reached a point in running where all I see is growth when I look back. Growth as a runner and as a person. I’ve found that with running, you’ve just got to take everything as a lesson. I’ve encountered my biggest struggles when I tried to rush to process or when I did something that felt more like I was showing off than being true to myself. I’ve gone through the struggle with the basics [run fuel, hydration, cramping (major!)] as well as the ones we may not talk about as often like feeling unmotivated or stuck. You can’t be successful without having gone through the struggles and I believe that’s a universal truth in running. Try and test out as much as you can, that’s the only way to find what works for you.
MSM: In 2013 you had a health scare as you were diagnosed with lupus. When you were diagnosed what were some of your thoughts as you heard the diagnosis. As a runner, I find our mindsets are a little bit different than others when it comes to facing things head-on. Was running something that helped you work through it?
Mireille: It took quite a long time before I was given a diagnosis. Almost a year before that, we thought it might’ve been juvenile arthritis because I had unbearable joint pain. I had several inconclusive blood tests but meanwhile, I’m in more and more pain, losing weight, and experiencing very weird (for lack of a better word) changes in my body. I took myself to the ER a handful of times because I felt so terrible and on that last trip I was finally admitted but a few of my fingers had begun to turn black like they were dying off. I was admitted to the ICU and more tests were given. When I received the diagnosis, I felt relief over finally having a name for this thing but that relief was immediately followed by confusion, anxiety, and grief. I was so healthy and still so young, so how did I get this way and what could it mean for my future?
MSM: I’m sure when hearing such a diagnosis you start thinking of many things that you can do to create a lifestyle change. I’ve noticed you have a plant-based diet. I always find myself having these discussions with other runners when it comes to plant-based vs meat-based. As a runner that started off running while eating meat, I eventually switched over to plant-based and noticed within weeks recovery started happening way faster. Take us through some of your experiences as you moved over to plant-based. Do you feel this helped you with your battle against lupus and helped you improve as a runner?
Mireille: When I moved into my first apartment during college, I was suddenly tasked with cooking for myself and I will be very honest with you – the thought of having to touch or cook meat of any kind never sat well with me, even as I watched my mother do it hundreds of times. Because of this, I really only bought and cooked chicken and that stuck with my lupus diagnosis. Post-diagnosis, I was given diet restrictions because of some of my medication. These restrictions didn’t make sense, however, because I felt that many of the things I couldn’t eat would actually make me feel better. I advocated for myself and had my doctors change my plan accordingly. I still ate chicken sparingly up until I started getting more serious with running. I read so many things about runners who were plant-based and it had changed them. I went vegetarian for two years before deciding to eliminate eggs completely and dairy occasionally. Changing my diet has definitely helped with keeping lupus at bay [as] food is so closely connected with our emotional, mental, and physical health. And like you, I did notice that I was able to bounce back faster by eliminating meat.
MSM: You’re from Cameroon, Africa and now residing in Los Angeles. One thing I like to do is to paint a picture for our readers, especially those of us that have yet to visit or return to our original homeland. Take us through a little bit of what the experience is in Cameroon. What is life like in your homeland? When you have a chance to go back do you run through those same neighborhoods you’re from? I’m sure it’s very exciting and inspiring.
Mireille: I immigrated from Cameroon when I was very young and lived in Los Angeles for 20 years before I was able to visit four years ago. Cameroon is humid, bright, and busy. Life is very simple and is divided between the humble villages and bustling towns. There was so much to take in from my time there and I can definitely say it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I’m sure this might be hard to grasp for some runners but can you imagine having to pump water so you can shower? Or hand wash your clothes? Or even pay for a cafe to use the internet? I’m glad I was able to experience all of that during the trip because it put life in America into perspective. The fact that I got to run a little while there was the icing on the cake. I can say that I ran on the African continent. Granted, I did get lost and one of my cousins had to go and find me but that just makes for a better story!
MSM: Speaking more to inspiration, as runners we inspire each day but to inspire those that are outside of running is special. You’ve been a voice speaking to our struggles inside and outside of the running community working to create a sport that’s fair and equal for all of us. You’re also an activist fighting against homelessness. Running can be a bridge to have these discussions with each other with different races. Do you find that these necessary conversations have been easier to have as a runner?
Mireille: I definitely agree that running can be a bridge. Once you’ve trained with someone, seen them at their running best and worst, it makes it a little easier to see the person they are outside of running. When you have that foundation, I do believe it’s a little easier to talk about things that matter to you and to be more vocal about changes you’d like to see. The thing about running is that we grow so supportive of our goals, in running and in life. And while these conversations can lead to a lot of awakening, we’ve also seen that they can cause a reckoning for some as they struggle to grip the status quo.
MSM: I read a comment that you made which really stood out to me. You’re running to become the best and highest version of yourself. There are days where the run or the race has a tendency to overshadow the goal that you mentioned. Is this how you approach your goals as a runner?
Mireille: I feel I have to preface the answer by saying that first and foremost, runners should decide the type of runner they want to be and let that determine their goals. That being said, yes, this is how I approach my goals as a runner. I still very much want to PR a marathon while still maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. I believe that the best and highest version of me gets enough sleep, is fulfilled at work, has nurturing relationships, and consistently shows up to train.
MSM: Your run experience is pretty stacked with marathons and ultra-marathons. Marathons are a beast within themselves. What made you cross over to the land of Ultras. Also, eight marathons is amazing. Out of the eight, which one stood out the most?
Mireille: I started doing Ultras for two reasons. First, I wanted to bring more representation to trail running. If you’ve ever attended a trail race, you know that 98% of those participants are white. I had the age-old question of “why don’t any of the runners in the magazines look like my friends who do the same sport?” Second, I was really curious about what it felt like to go beyond 26.2 miles. I feel as if Ultras give off an intense vibe, but I believe trail running was one of the best decisions I made in terms of improving running performance and attitude as well as personal health. I recommend everyone take a break from the pavement every once in a while.
I know you asked for one, but I have three that stand out to me:
- My first marathon (LA Marathon 2017) – I cramped up bad and was so confused as to what was going on so I went to the med tent for almost 20 minutes.
- Fourth Marathon (San Francisco 2018) – Till this day I look back on that performance with pride, given the course. Great atmosphere overall.
- Seventh Marathon (California International, 2019) – My first sub 4:30 marathon (4:28). Took A LOT of grit out on that course.
MSM: Anyone can train but it usually takes a team to push you to your full potential while holding yourself accountable. Tell us a little bit about your run family BlacklistLA. How did you link up with such a cool bunch?
Mireille: BlacklistLA is one of the OG run clubs in Los Angeles…we’ve been around for almost eight years! I heard about them through word of mouth through other runners back in 2015. The staple BlacklistLA run was a 10 PM art run on a Monday night. In December of that year, I finally joined them. I didn’t drop back in till I found out they were training for a half marathon and the rest is history. I trained for my first marathon with them, and honestly, BlacklistLA has taken hundreds of people through their first marathon cycle and more. My coach is the founder and the fact that we see eye to eye on many things outside of running makes the coach-athlete relationship that much better. I make sure to shout out BlacklistLa (and runLISTA) every opportunity I am because I do not believe I would be the runner I am today without them.
MSM: For folks in the LA area or looking to link up for a group run, where can they find BlacklistLA?
Mireille: Follow the group on IG! @blacklistla. Prior to the pandemic, we had four runs a week, including our @runlista women’s lead run on Thursday night. BlacklistLA has been able to safely host one weekly run on Wednesday’s through the #ConRunX experience. We really look forward to seeing everyone like old times and in mass numbers when we can!
MSM: We’ve spoken to many runners over these past few publications and I must say that I’ve met more than a few that have skydived. I must ask, WHY? (lol). But also the theme I’m noticing is it gives a sense of release or feeling of fearlessness that can be translated to how we approach things in our lives. Do you find yourself seeing things differently after the jump?
Mireille: I’ve wanted to skydive for as long as remember, even though I have a fear of heights! There is a bit of surrender involved because I have to trust the instructor and you have to trust that everything will go smoothly. Not sure about others, but I know I like to keep a tight grip on things in my day to day life. Having to let go of all that and just be in the moment is a feeling we should seek in our own ways. Even though it’s been a few months, I still can’t believe I actually went through with it. When you’re afraid of something, you just have to do it afraid. That’s the only way to find out what you’re made of.
MSM: What does the future hold for Mireille Siné?
Mireille: Oh, good question! Well, I just finished my Masters in Public Health degree so I feel as if the world is my oyster. Professionally, I’d like to plan a path for public office. Athletically, I will definitely be running as long as I possibly can. I see many more marathons ahead of me. I also foresee philanthropic and activist work within my local and global running community. Overall, I hope for a healthy, adventurous future with lots of stories to tell!
MSM: For our reader how can we all keep up and keep track of your journey.
Mireille: You can follow me and find everything on Instagram @mireille.sine
Please don’t hesitate to reach out!
MSM: Any last words that you would like to share?
Mireille: Thank you for the opportunity to be featured! I think Mid Strike Magazine was one of the best things to be born out of 2020 and I look forward to seeing how MSM continues to be a voice in our community. To all the readers, thank you for taking the time to check out my feature. I wish you all the best in your individual journeys.