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Woman Crush Wednesday: Mirna Valerio

You might know Mirna Valerio from her blog Fat Girl Running or from the Runner's World story or from CNN or NBC or from a certain AMR podcast. And if you don’t already know Mirna, you really should.

Which is why she’s kicking off our series of Women Crush Wednesdays. I, Adrienne, find Mirna’s buoyant spirit infectious and I do my best to channel her whenever my running loses its joy. I’m a fat girl running, too, and Mirna’s attitude helps me move further down my path toward loving the body I have. 

Mirna took a few minutes in between teaching and mothering and marathon running to talk with me about writing a book, tackling Tough Mudder, and facing her fears.

My first question is something I wonder about every time I see your Instagram pictures: How do you maintain such a positive attitude?

I just love to be outside and I love to be moving. Even if I don’t feel good in the moment I know that I’m always going to feel good afterwards. I’ve never felt mentally, emotionally or spiritually worse. Physically, yes!

How did you get started with obstacle course races like Tough Mudder?

When Merrell asked me to be their ambassador, they asked if I was interested in doing one because they had just signed on as Tough Mudder’s title sponsor. I said, “sure.” I almost immediately regretted because I was like, “Oh my God. I’m going to have to do this.” I actually have to train. I’m going to actually have to jump off of things. The mud didn’t phase me at all – but all of the other stuff that was scary to me.

What scared me in general is that I didn’t have enough upper body strength to do any of the obstacles that required that. I work on weight training but it was always so that I could make sure that I’m running with correct form. I felt I had to change my training to gain a significant amount of strength in my upper body.

There were also a couple of obstacles that scared me. There’s one obstacle, King of the Swingers – I’ve done it five times and each time it’s like I’ve never done it before. You’re up on this platform between 12 and 15 feet up in the air on a ledge. There’s a t-bar you have to jump to and swing across the water under you. There’s a bell that you are supposed to hit if you have enough momentum. I’ve never been able to hit the bell. I only last about two seconds and then I drop.

Being on a ledge in itself is not scary. I’m not afraid of heights. Swimming is not scary in and of itself because I am a swimmer. But when you put those things together and there’s this brief moment where you have no control over your body because you’re jumping to this bar and you’re not tethered to anything — it’s the loss of control that I don’t like.

Once I’ve done it, I’m, like, damn. I did that. I got over that fear again but that fear hasn’t abated at all. I’m working on it.

So how much fear did you need to work through during the process of writing your book, A Beautiful Work in Progress?

The easy job was just writing the first draft. I had the summer off. What I would do is I would go to the gym – I was training for two Tough Mudders – and I’d work out and go sit in the café, because it was a really fancy gym in New York City. I would write. I’d get my 2000 words a day.

When I got it back for the developmental edit, that was when shit got real. I was so overwhelmed. My blood pressure went up. I was having anxiety. I went to the heart doctor. I was like what is wrong with my heart; I’m having palpitations. He’s like, what’s going on in your life right now? I told him everything. He’s like, oh, yeah. That’s anxiety. Your heart is fine. As soon as I turned in that edit, the palpitations went away immediately.

We went through two more rounds of developmental edits and each was successively easier. It was amazing to see that I could write that much. It’s 345 pages! I wrote all of it. Most of it is original. About ten percent of the book is refashioned from the blog.

I’m calling it a body-positive running memoir. You have your elite running memoirs, and then you have this whole subset of running memoirs from people who are bigger people like me or people who have had weight loss surgery or people who have lost a significant amount of weight on their own. I’m sick and tired of hearing the weight loss narrative.

The other sort of running memoirs by bigger people are very self-deprecatory and I wasn’t interested in doing that. I wasn’t interested in laughing at the fat. I wanted to tell the story of how this runner came to be in my body. For some of it, even though I am fat, if you don’t know who I am — I’m just talking about running. I’m talking about a race, how amazing it was, and what I learned from it.

I wanted to show you can be a runner. Just look at what I did. I did this marathon in my body and it took me a long time but I don’t care. I did a marathon.

14 responses to “Woman Crush Wednesday: Mirna Valerio

  1. Mirna’s story is amazing, but there’s one element that I just can’t figure out. Given her intense and long-maintained workout routine, why is she still overweight? Does she have some sort of condition that these articles are (for some reason) omitting to mention?

  2. Dang, this girl gives me hope! I’ve been told that at the age of 65 people my age should not begin running. If you’ve been an athlete before that’s one thing but not to start at this late stage of the game. But it’s something I see myself doing and so I’m trying to decide.

    This helps! If I want to do it just go do it!

  3. yeah!!! I love Mirna. I feel like we’d be fast friends if we lived nearby ^_^ And i absolutely second Heidi’s comment. I need a follow up podcast with her!!!

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