Every once in a while, someone who truly deserves to be famous gets the attention they deserve. (We LOVE with that happens.) And today, that person is Mirna Valerio. Mirna, an avid runner, started a blog called Fat Girl Running way back in 2009. And recently, her words have struck a chord with women of all sizes everywhere.
Mirna's a 39-year-old mom who lives in rural Georgia and loves to run. Six days a week, she gets up in the early morning and hits her treadmill until it gets light outside, and she can see well enough to avoid the bobcats and bears near her house. Then, Mirna hits the trails outside and runs some more. Eighteen miles before she goes to her teaching job at 9 a.m. is NOT unusual.
But what is: Mirna does not have the sinewy body of a marathon runner. (Although, she's run her fair share of them.) In fact, some people would consider her overweight. Hence, the name of Mirna's blog and what people assume when they catch a glimpse of her hitting the pavement.
After pushing herself through a particularly hot, slow, HARD 5-mile run, Mirna wrote a post called, "Haters Gonna Hate."
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She expressed her exasperation that people looked at her and assumed she didn't exercise or care about her health, when in fact just the opposite was true. The post struck a chord with readers, her story went viral, and a role model was born. Here, Mirna exclusively shares some of her journey and insight with us.
On that famous post: "I was in a bad mood," Mirna says. "I was having back pain. I was hot and tired. I had just finished five miles and all the things people had ever said to me, all the comments, just came into my head. I was tired of people looking at me and saying, 'You really need to get some exercise."
Why she started running: "I've been running since high school," she explains. "I didn't know anything about field hockey, but I tried out anyway. We had to run 5-6 laps and I'd never run that much in my life except running up and down the block in Brooklyn! My friend and I decided we had to get up in the morning and run to keep up with practices."
Why she loves it: "Running is hard," Mirna acknowledges. "But I'm attracted to doing things and practicing things I'm not good at ... When you run, you have to engage your entire self and body. Even when I have a great run, it's not easy."
How running saved her: "I took a break from exercising after my son was born," she explains. "When Rashid was 5, I was driving in the car one day and thought I was having a heart attack. My chest tightened, my heart was racing, I started hyperventilating. I pulled over and calmed my self down enough to drive home. A friend drove me to the ER, where they told me I was having a panic attack. But I also had an enormous amount of inflammation in my body, so I went to see a cardiologist, who asked me point-blank, 'Do you want to see your son grow up?' I knew I had to change something -- not nutrition, because I've always eaten well, but getting more sleep and working out. I knew running made me feel good ... That first year of running again, I lost 41 pounds."
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On assumptions people -- even doctors -- make: "[The last time I changed doctors] I wrote on the forms, 'I exercise 6 times a week. I have done 5 marathons. I am on a lifetime journey of weight loss,'" she shares. "It worked. It totally changed the experience I had at the doctor. Now, they ask me about my times and races!"
On being a role model: "I've had so many commenters say, 'This is so inspiring!'" Mirna tells us. "It's been interesting to hear people say, 'You've given me permission to go outside.' I didn't realize people needed that. I didn't see myself as doing anything revolutionary."
Her family's take: "My son hates running," she says. "But he knows when I need to go for a run! My husband [Cito] doesn't know what to think. I'll get up early and run ... then come back when he's still in bed and he'll say, 'Did you go run?'"
What she advises newbie runners: "A lot of people don't realize how varied the running field is," Mirna notes. "If you run, you are a runner. In any marathon or 5K, you see people there for all different reasons. There's no special club."
Her takeaway: "You have to take care of yourself. You need to put yourself first, whether that means getting fit, taking a day off work, getting a sitter so you can go out for a walk ... It's imperative. We [women] take on the weight of the world, so we need to take the weight off ourselves so we can be there for others."
Image via Mirna Valerio/Facebook