Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review: A Beautiful Work in Progress

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In her book, A Beautiful Work in Progress, Mirna Valerio aka "Fat Girl Running" shares why she started running:
"I had a health wake-up call that brought attention to the fact that I was stymied physically and mentally, and I was on my way to an early death. I began to progress again, as I reacquainted myself with the forward movement that is running. In addition, my health returned, and my smile became genuine again."
Valerio, aka The Mirnavator, initially started blogging to share her experiences as a "fat girl who ran". She didn't think she was unique in her journey and she didn't want it to become a weight loss blog or a pity party. What she learned was that as an overweight, African-American runner, she was crushing all kinds of stereotypes and beliefs about overweight people. She also learned that she has a body that is amazing, strong, flexible, and agile. A body that can run all types of distances. Mirna's memoir, A Beautiful Work in Progress is a celebration of her journey towards body acceptance and self-love.

You don't have to struggle with weight to relate to Mirna's journey.



While Mirna isn't blogging much anymore, a lot of what she shares in the book will be familiar to her blog readers. The book meanders through time, with race reports from various races she has participated in, including the Javelina Jundred. But to get to that race, Mirna takes the reader through her life journey, including transferring from her magnet school in the Bronx to an upstate New York elite all-girls boarding school. It was at that school where she ran her first mile after signing up for the field hockey team. She struggled with the intense training and decided that the only way to get better was to start running on her own. This is when she learned about "an absolute commitment to constant improvement".

Fast forward to adulthood and Mirna rediscovered the power of running. In 2011, she began training for the Marine Corps Marathon, which would be her first marathon. She completed in some shorter distance races. During one race she twisted her ankle but decided that a DNF wasn't going to happen and hobbled to the finish. She says: "I had to do this for the fat people. I had to do this for me. And I had to do this because I didn't want anybody thinking that the fat girl couldn't do it." 

Oh. my. gosh.

Throughout the book, I kept thinking to myself that we are all struggling with something. Mirna's story is just so powerful and inspiring. Against all odds, she's out there and she's doing it. Like a boss. Even if she's DFL, she's finishing and she is ok with that. Talk about perspective. Like so many of us, she learned the power that running has to transform our view of ourselves. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she sees herself as strong. She calls herself an athlete. And she invites all of us to see ourselves for what we can do, not what we can't do.

I really enjoyed this book. I found the book easy to read, as the chapters are written in a conversational style--I felt like I really got to know Mirna through the book. Actually, I'd really like to get to know Mirna IRL after reading this book. Her positivity and can-do attitude are just the kind of influence I need in my life.

If you like books that follow a timeline, you might not enjoy the race excerpts interspersed with personal experiences. That didn't bother me at all because the book flowed just like a conversation might. There is a great deal of running stories and race recaps, with a lot of detail, and non-runners might not find that as interesting as say, I did. On the other hand, if you are training for a tough race and you need a little motivation, Mirna's story will provide you with plenty. After reading this, I will never DNF again, at least not if I can move forward.

Mirna has had plenty of opportunities open to her with the success of her blog and now her book. She is a perfect example of the old adage "nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it". Do like Mirna says: to stop moving is to stop living and evolving towards being who we are destined to be. "I honor her (my body) but continuing to move along the spectrum of health and wellness, and in turn she honors me by living vibrantly."

You can find more Mirna at Women's Running Magazine or on her blog, Fat Girl Running. You can also follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. PS: The kindle version of A Beautiful Work in Progress in only 4.99!

What obstacles have you overcome or are you working on as you run? Do you find inspiration in stories like Mirna's? Who are you destined to be? 


As you know, I am no longer hosting a link up for book reviews. However, if you've written a review of Mirna's book and you'd like me to post a link to your blog, please email me at wendy (at) takinglongwayhome.com and I'll include it in this post!


Next month, we will be reading a funny one! Susan Lacke is a well-published freelance writer as well as an "unlikely" triathlete. Life's Too Short To Go So F*cking Slow is the story of a friendship between Lacke and an Ironman triathlete--he inspires her to go the distance. I enjoy Lacke's writing and I am really looking forward to this. I hope you don't let the f-bombs deter you!

Book
I'm linking up with the Friday 5.0--Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy.


43 comments :

  1. This sounds like such an inspirational book! I'm reading another one by a blogger right now but when I'm finished I'll have to pick this one up.

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    1. It was so engaging and a quick read. Now I wish she was still blogging!

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  2. Sounds like a great books! I love those quotes you shared. Its always inspiring to read about runners who overcame something challenging.

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    1. She's truly an inspiration!! Nothing stops her from finishing.

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  3. Sounds like many people can relate to this because she is just your average runner who struggles(like many of us). I often find it hard to be interested in the stories of the Elite Runners.

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    1. I just love a good runner overcoming adversity story!!!

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  4. I love Mirna - she is so inspiring. And, yes, we are all dealing with something, even those who seem to have it all together - that's why we should try to be kind, because we just never know. My only hesitation about reading your next selection is that it will make me drop even more F bombs myself!

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    1. F bombs are everywhere these days. I didn't even notice them in the book--which is kind of curious to me.

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  5. Sounds like a inspiring, authentic read. Yes, even though it may appear otherwise, we all struggle with one thing or another. So much goes on beneath the "surface".

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    1. I find her openness refreshing. As someone who doesn't sugarcoat my struggles, it's was nice to read about another runner's struggles!

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  6. We're going to discuss (or supposed to, anyway) this book at a potluck I plan to host after a race in December. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it.

    Since I have struggled with my weight all my life, I do relate to that part, too. But I don't think the book is about running or losing weight -- it's about learning to love yourself, and we could all use some of that.

    Although personally all the expletives in it bothered me a bit, not that I haven't been known to drop a bomb or two myself -- but certainly not all the time. I couldn't make out if that's just the way she really talks. Somehow I wouldn't think she'd want her son to be talking that way. Or maybe I'm just a fuddy duddy!

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    1. It's funny because I didn't even notice the salty language! I hope most readers can see beyond that and get her message.

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  7. To echo everyone else.... yes, we all have struggles (some of us are just more accomplished at hiding them LOL). I think I read an article about Mirna awhile ago in RW (?), but had ZERO luck in finding her blog or FB page. Thanks for the great review ;-)

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    1. I just love how nothing seems to keep her down!

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  8. I have had the chance to get to know Mirna a bit through Skirt Sports-she is an ambassador as well. I would love to meet her in person sometime as well. She is so positive and has done so much for body acceptance and changed so much about the idea of what an athlete looks like. Her book is on my gift list!

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    1. I just love her never say die attitude!!!!

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  9. Sounds like a great book! thanks for the recommendation!

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  10. Sounds like one I need to read :) I need to be reminded to celebrate even if it doesn't turn out like I hope!

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    1. This book reinforced what I always say: finishing is winning!

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  11. I love Mirna and have read her blog for years - so happy for her with the book, and one of these days I'll stop knitting long enough to read it!

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  12. I'm reading this book soon! It's on my list!

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  13. What an interesting read. I'm glad she was able to overcome her struggles. Losing weight is really hard, but hard work pays off.

    Have a good weekend!
    The Fitness Bro

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    1. It definitely wasn't about losing weight.

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  14. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing. :)

    (I need to read more)

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    1. This would be a good one to start with!

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  15. Sounds like an interesting book! I'll have to add this to my list! Always enjoy your book reviews!

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    1. Thank you! I love to read--as I say, so many books, so little time.

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  16. I can't wait to read this book. I stumbled upon her blog when I was first considering starting my own and I just loved it.

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    1. I love her openness! She doesn't hold back.

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  17. Sounds like a very inspirational book! I admire her for not only her running accomplishments but the fact that she wrote a book. It's certainly easier said than done.

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    1. Her personality shines through everything she writes--I think she's probably someone who doesn't take no for an answer!

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  18. I starting following her blog after she was on the cover of Runner's World and really enjoyed it. There's this other running blogger who has RA and she's a huge inspiration to many!

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    1. Awwww--and I was just sitting here on the couch contemplating my cold, long run I need to do--now I'll go! Thanks for the motivation! :p

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  19. Great story and very inspirational woman! I love her honesty and tenacity.

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  20. I follow Mirna on Instagram and on her blog, and you are right--she is an inspiration! I knew she had finished her book, so now I need to get it!

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  21. I remember reading about her when she was on Runner's World. She is very inspirational and lover her attitude! I had to look up DFL. :-)

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    1. Oh, I linked to a definition...but now you know...

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  22. This sounds like a great read! I actually never heard of Fat Girl Running, I'll have to check her out!

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