She started running to lose weight — but when her weight loss stopped, she kept going

December 9, 2017 12:19 pm Last Updated: December 9, 2017 12:19 pm

Have you ever felt weighed down by life? That’s how Georgia resident, Mirna Valerio felt back in 2008. She was overworked, overweight, and stressed out all the time.

One day, she experienced chest pains on her drive back home from work. Her son was sitting in the backseat, and in that moment, she wasn’t sure she’d see her son again.

“In 2008, I had a health scare. I started having pains in my chest. They were sharp, short, but very, very intense. I didn’t know if I was having a heart attack,” she told CNN.

It turned out to only be a panic attack, which was somewhat of a relief, but her cardiologist gave some disheartening news.

“…[he] told me point blank that I needed to change my lifestyle or I wasn’t going to live to see my son grow up,” Valerio continued.

So cute and innocent. #mybabydonegrowedup

A post shared by Mirna Valerio (@themirnavator) on

So she began running a mile a couple times per week. It took her about 17 minutes, so she didn’t start off especially fast, but she felt motivated to improve.

Within a few months, she had lost 35 pounds and started competing in 5K runs. The next year, she started running 10Ks. The year after that, she did her first half-marathon. By 2011, she she was competing in full marathons.

Despite all of this, Valerio really hadn’t lost much weight since 2008. She was still 239 pounds. Yet by that point, it wasn’t about the weight loss.

“I run because it changed my life,” she told Shape. “I’m not sick all the time anymore, and as a result, my son is less sick. I’m able to get through my day without having these huge lows, and I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.”

Valerio has grown to legitimately love running. She has started running ultramarathons—which go on for 50 kilometers. On these long runs, she’d often get comments like “Wow, you’re a big girl. Are you sure you should be running?” and “Maybe you should be on a bike or go on a diet.”

So she created a blog called Fat Girl Running to dispel comments that people made to her like and chronicle her adventures. She soon developed a sizable fan base with hundreds of followers on Blogspot and thousands on Instagram.

“I just wanted to share what I was experiencing as a runner in a big body. People started sharing my stories and little rants about the indignities that fat people face sometimes,” Valerio said.

Valerio then wrote a memoir entitled “A Beautiful Work In Progress,” and it was released in October and appeared on the September 2017 cover of Women’s Running magazine. Last month, she completed a 60K run in New York City. This month, she appeared on an episode of The Rich Roll Podcast. There just doesn’t seem to be any stopping her!

Sometimes it takes a while to find our passion in life—but Valerio’s managed to find hers and run with it, leading to a happier and healthier life.

[via Simplemost, CNN, and Shape]