Mirna Valerio (aka “The Mirnavator”) has been writing her “Fat Girl Running” blog, about being an “active larger girl in a thinner world,” since 2011, but it wasn’t until recently that the popularity of her blog, and her voice, has skyrocketed. Valerio has been interviewed for Runner’s World, People, The Huffington Post, NBC Nightly News and National Geographic (just to name a few), and now writes for Women’s Health magazine. An ultrarunner, high-school Spanish teacher and cross-country coach, Valerio recently authored a book, A Beautiful Work in Progress.
An overweight black woman, Valerio is a diversity advocate, who confronts multiple stereotypes with every step: that women are quieter, apologetic and less bullheaded and that overweight people are depressed, self-conscious and lethargic.
When have you been the most afraid?
I have a deep-seated fear of thunderstorms. Last year, during the Finger Lakes Fifties 50K, it stormed for a couple of hours and as someone who is typically alone and/or last during races, I found myself in a dark ravine at the height of a storm. The thunder was so loud and menacing, I thought I would get struck by lightning. But then, I thought, well, if I die out on the trails, I would have died in my happy place.
Imagine someone is writing a book on the history of trail running, and you only get one paragraph. How do you want to be remembered?
I would love to be remembered as the woman whose sheer love of being out on the trail allowed other folks to envision themselves there, too.
Do you prefer trail running to road running?
Yes, trail running allows me to connect with nature in the most basic of human ways. It enlivens all of my senses, and forces me to stay present and aware, not just of rocks, roots, branches and wildlife—it also requires that I am aware of my own body in space. I constantly have to make adjustments in order to remain upright and to keep moving forward.
What would you like to see change in the trail-running culture?
The only thing I would like to see change is the sport’s image to the uninitiated. From the outside, it looks like it’s this exclusive club for thin white dudes with long hair, but it really is way more inclusive and embracing than it seems.
I’d love for others to experience what I experience when busting my butt out there on the trail. The community is awesome and inviting, and the aid stations and views ... well, it’s a perfect sport.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I am a classically trained singer, and I can rock out on some Verdi and Puccini!