Setting an Example

In 2008 Mirna Valerio was over three-hundred pounds. She was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. So when her doctor asked her if she wanted to see her son grow up, she didn’t need him to elaborate.

Her first mile, a mix of walking and running, took her almost eighteen minutes.

Now, the Georgia resident defines herself this way – “I’m a Spanish teacher, choral director, diversity practitioner, cross-country running coach, blogger, and avid trail runner who believes that many of life’s lessons can be learned by simply engaging oneself in the pursuit of wisdom gained through moving your body in nature.”

The journey has been interesting and unique.

Mirna was an athlete in high school. She played field hockey and lacrosse, and loved the running she did to condition herself. She continued to run after she was finished with school, but eventually let go of the habit, the first event the led to the gradual deterioration of her health.

Since she’s been running again, Mirna’s body hasn’t been molded into what you might expect. She continues to be overweight, something she easily admits. In fact, she embraces herself fully, without any conditions attached.

As an outsider who has read Mirna’s story, it seems like running has been a tool she used to take her life back. And, in the process, she’s become an example about more than just running, she’s a role model for living.

Her blog, Fat Girl Running, has become a national sensation, and the attention is well deserved.

“I’m not trying to run away from the fact that I’m a bigger girl,” she tells us. “I’m trying to take the negative connotation away from the word fat.”

Mirna has finished many races, including marathons and ultra-marathons. Despite all the dedication of an elite athlete, her body mass index remains above what’s consider obese by the National Institute of Health.

She’s not alone. If you watch the start of any large race, you’ll see a diverse group running through the streets. And, in one of the most refreshing parts of the sport, runners embrace the diversity.

One runner with many years of experience can feel a sense of pride in the accomplishment while still appreciating the challenges of someone new to running. A runner can want to run faster while admiring someone else’s speed.

And lining the course are people who don’t run, who don’t even understand runners, celebrating our journey.

Mirna and her Fat Girl Running blog resonates because her lessons are so inherently true. A new, softer word can’t change a characteristic, and a single adjective can’t define a person.

Mirna is a woman, a teacher, a coach and a runner who happens to be fat. She wants to improve herself, not just for the person she wants to become, but out of respect for the person she is now.

Have you ever been your worst critic? I have.

For me, it usually happens when one part of me is in conflict with another part. My thirst for achievement competes with my desire to be content. My need to be patient battles with my sense of urgency.

Mirna shows us how to balance it all.

If we could only follow her example, perhaps we could expand the lesson beyond ourselves, and give the same gracious respect to others.

You can’t change someone else with criticism. You won’t change the world by standing in judgement. Only by setting an example can you influence someone else.

And that is exactly what Mirna is doing, as she gets past the apprehension, overcomes the obstacles, and runs farther than she ever dreamed.