Trigger warning : sexual violence
“I believe that each of us has an inner drive to achieve what we want. You have to find it yourself, I can tell you that from my own experience.”
These are the words of HOKA Racer, ultra-runner, nurse and human trafficking survivor Sameena Van Der Mijden.
Sameena was born in Arnhem, Netherlands, and from the age of 12 had an increasingly troubled home life. After her parents divorced, her mother became dependent on alcohol and grew increasingly violent towards Sameena and her younger brother. But while her brother found support in foster care, Sameena was left with her mother to fend for herself. At just 17 she left home for good, but was vulnerable while depending on the good will of friends, and unfortunately this often meant sleeping on the street.
Sameena formed a relationship with a man when she was 18, but he quickly became possessive and abusive, separating her from her friends, taking her money, and eventually forcing her into sex work. After he branded her and the wound became infected, she ended up in hospital. Here she found a way to escape from her situation and in January 2013 she moved into student housing in another town. She was still suffering from severe depression, but she found solace in running.
“I started running in 2013,
after I escaped the situation
of human trafficking. I had
no money, only a backpack
with some clothes.“
After taking those first steps in January 2013, running has become her greatest passion.
“At first my condition was pretty bad. I started with 2k, then 5k, but now I can run 100km or more. Ultra running brings balance, perseverance, the ability to view things from different angles and above all a lot of positivity.“
In 2016 she ran her first 100 km, and just 2 years later during the RUN Winschoten she became the Dutch Champion over the distance with a time of 8h 47 min and 51 sec.
“It was my biggest accomplishment, to become the Dutch national champion. But the most special races are those in Thailand and Borneo, where I’ve met so many nice people. Running there is amazing”
“I can relate ultra running to the years that I was in the human trafficking situation and being sexually abused. It’s like you can endure your pain, and you can translate it in to power. I think we all have those kinds of power. Whether its running, cycling, or swimming or even painting, I believe every human being has an inner power and inner fire. You just have to find it and you can do whatever you want.”
“I can relate ultra running to the years I was in the human
trafficking situation... You can endure your pain, and you can translate
it into power. I believe we all have those kinds of power.”
Now Sameena works full time as a nurse, but having studied and trained in the areas of sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and social media, she is also a public speaker and human trafficking advisor.
Last year she also ran 500km on a 3.5km loop, almost 143 laps in 4.5 days, in order to raise money and awareness for the effects of COVID 19.
“Now I am preparing for my next big ultra race, which is 1000km in 10 days or less, but my main goal is to raise awareness for human trafficking.”
makes you happy.
Push your limits,
push your boundaries,
don’t stay in your
But for Sameena running isn’t just about setting big challenges.
“I run everyday. For me it’s very important, it’s part of my daily routine. As a nurse I have to fit it around my shifts – if I have a day shift I run after at 3 or 4pm, if I have an evening or a night shift, I run beforehand. It keeps me balanced, and I think it makes me a better person. I can relate more, I can understand people better. I think it’s the perfect combination to be an ultra runner and a nurse.”
She has shared her important story with us as part of her mission to raise awareness of human trafficking and bring hope to those struggling. But she also wants to inspire every member of our community to get out there and stay active.
Sameena talks to us as part of our ‘find the #TimeToFly’ campaign, encouraging people to prioritise their physical and mental health through running. In June she is running 1000km in 10 days or less to raise money and awareness for victims of human trafficking. You can support her here, or even join her team: