This week, we bring you a Runner Bio Interview with Marilyn Mitchell!
Marilyn Mitchell, SF FrontRunners Member
How long have you been running with FrontRunners (SF and elsewhere) and what attracted you to the club?
I’ve been running with the club since about 2004. I moved from Boulder, Colorado, to the Bay Area for a teaching job around 2000. A technician I worked with in the science department at UC Davis was a marathoner, and I started training with him. I did my first and only marathon about 10 years ago: the Avenue of the Giants, through gorgeous redwood forests. But I was much more comfortable with shorter distances and discovered FrontRunners. It’s been a wonderful experience; everyone is so welcoming, and the women especially have embraced me.
Where did you grow up and what brought you to the Bay Area?
I grew up in a little town I thought no one had ever had heard of: Lima, Ohio. But I was at Martuni’s a few months ago, and a guy there told me that Lima has one of the best gay bars in the country! Go figure. It’s funny, most people think I moved here because of the LGBT “scene,” but the truth is I didn’t know much about San Francisco. It really was a job that pulled me here.
What do you do for work during the day?
I teach physiology at various campuses, SF State and JFK University at Pleasant Hill, as well as online distance learning. I love it. I’ve always been interested in the human nervous and muscular systems. I got my PhD at University of Wisconsin and did a post-doc at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I learned to run in the most extreme weather, from bitter cold to murky heat.
Many FrontRunners may know you from your band, Lipstick Conspiracy, that has played at Pride Runs.
Right, the band got a very unexpected start. I had a friend Tori, who is also a transgender girl. We’d been hanging out together for a couple of years and never talked about music, even though I play guitar and Tori plays keyboard. One day, out of the blue, Tori tells me about another friend of hers who also plays guitar and says we should form a band! So we found a bass player and a series of drummers and wrote our own music. I’d always been a big Police fan; other members of the band found their influences in funk and southern rock. And we all found a way to make it work.
Fantastic! So Lipstick Conspiracy has always been an all-trans band?
It has, with one exception: we had a straight male drummer, with a wife and kids, who toured with us and is on our CD. He was so fun and so talented. But other than that, yes, all-trans. But we never politicized it. It just worked out that way, but it certainly was a good selling point and made us unique. Still, we were sensitive to the band’s image and wanted to make it clear that we weren’t a drag queen band, or a glam band—just transgender girls who happen to be in a rock band. We had our ups and downs but accomplished a lot. After a few years, the band members each went our own way for various reasons, but I’d be fired up to get back together.
Are you involved with any other clubs around the Bay Area or elsewhere?
I love doing volunteer work. Every year I help out with the LGBT Historical Society gala, which is always held on very cool historic sites. You can usually find me serving and preparing food (I love to cook!), or working as a greeter at the new museum they opened in the Castro on 18th St. I also help out an organization called Gender Spectrum, which educates school systems on LGBT issues. And of course, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer with FrontRunners, like water stations at marathons.
Before coming to FrontRunners, did you do much running or any other active activity on a regular routine?
I’ve been running off and on since college at Kent State. Back in high school, I played basketball, which required running training. I can pinpoint the exact moment at which I started running in earnest. The college had just built a new football stadium 2 ½ miles from the dorms. On a whim I thought to myself, “I bet I can run that far and back”. I met this personal challenge and was soon running the distance every day. It became somewhat of an addiction.
What is one of your fondest memories of FrontRunners so far?
That’s a tough one because I love running, helping out, and socializing so much, especially with the girls.
Any advice to newcomers to the club and running/fitness?
Get involved! Volunteer in any way you can. It’s a really fun way to meet new people and get the most out of your membership.
Thank you, Marilyn! We appreciate your taking the time to share so many parts of your life with us.