Many people who meet 39-year-old Mirna Valerio have the same question.
“People always say to me, ‘Anyone who runs as much as you do deserves to be skinny’,” she told Runner’s World in a recent profile. “Of course, what they’re really saying: ‘If you do all this running, why are you still so fat?’” The reason: As a 250-pound runner, Valerio doesn’t meet what many consider to be the standards for being an athlete.
“But you know what bothers me the most?” she continued, “People look at me and think, ‘Big as this girl is, how can she possibly enjoy her sport? She says she loves to run, but she’s really just punishing herself.'”
The truth is that she doesn’t just love her sport, she excels at it. Valerio is an ultramarathon trail runner, meaning she regularly competes in events that require her to run more than 26.2 miles at a time, often on unpredictable terrain.
Most of all, she’s inspiring people. “A lot of people have said to me ‘you being out there gives me permission to get out there myself’,” she told BuzzFeed. “That’s been astounding to me — that people have such a high level of discomfort with their own bodies, that they won’t show them in public… I am really happy to be a role model for people who normally would be ashamed.”
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Valerio’s most recent event was the Georgia Jewel 35 Mile Run which, as you might suspect by the name, involved her running 35 miles through gorgeous scenery. Like any runner, she had her challenges throughout the race, but summed it all up on her blog in a way that we’re confident all runners would agree with.
“I am living the dream. I AM LIVING THE DREAM!” she wrote.