Monday, November 20, 2017

A Beautiful Work In Progress

I love self-proclaimed Plus Size Ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio. She is an incredibly intelligent, well-educated, grown-ass woman, who is kicking stereotypes to the curb left and right. I've enjoyed periodically reading her blog Fat Girl Running, although she doesn't update it as much as she used to, now that she's writing for things like Women's Running Magazine. I also recently watched a show on t.v. documenting a run of hers, which was incredibly inspiring for someone like me.

When I saw that she had a memoir coming out, I honestly couldn't wait to pick it up and give it a read. Other than her being a plus sized runner, I didn't really know a whole lot about her or her journey. I follow her on Instagram and Twitter, so I know that she's tireless in sharing her story in the hopes of helping others who might feel that they can't do something like run, because they don't look like what they think a runner should look like. But other than that, I didn't know much.

A Beautiful Work In Progress is a very inspiring read of a woman from a fairly poor but hardworking family in New York City, who as a gifted child ended up attending boarding schools and now works as a choral director and Spanish teacher at a boarding school herself. She was a runner and athlete as a teen and young adult, but gained weight as an adult. When she had a health scare, she started running again. She gradually went from run/walking 5Ks to regularly running ultramarathons and coaching cross-country. She also teaches diversity and speaks out on body positivity around the country.

If I were writing this review as a book critic, I would say the memoir probably needed a little more editing before it went to press. It hops all over the place, and is occasionally hard to follow. The timeline bounces around so much, and in a manner that doesn't follow any discernible pattern, that you spend a lot of your reading time trying to figure out when the story takes place and if the race she's in is the same one she was talking about earlier or if she's in a different one now?? It would've been a better book if the flow made more sense.

BUT, I don't think many of the people reading this book are going to be reading it as a critic. Because I write a book blog, and I certainly didn't read it as such. One part of my brain made a tiny mental note, but it wasn't the impression that stuck with me...and I didn't think much about it until I went on Goodreads before writing this review. I got a lot out of this memoir...and I enjoyed it, which I think is what Mirna was going after. I don't think she was expecting to win any awards for her writing style. I believe she was probably trying to get her story into more people's hands.

I had no idea that racing involved so much work and preparation. I also can not BELIEVE there are people out there who enjoy running as many miles as some of these folks do. It blows my mind. I also love that this woman, who has watched so many people in her family give and give and give of themselves to the detriment of their own health, has decided to focus her life on a healthy pursuit in spite of not having a body type that society deems "ideal" for the task, is also incredible. If, in sharing her story, she makes even one of us decide to go for a walk...or join a gym...or sign up for a 5K...or any other healthy activity, that we wouldn't have done for fear of what we look like, then she deserves all the praise and kudos that she has received and then some.

My big take away was to never keep myself from doing something fitness related for fear of what someone else might think of me for doing it. That may sound like common sense, but I have been afraid to go to the gym for fear of what I would look like. This is a thing for some people, but it's not going to be a hang-up of mine anymore. (If you know me in real life, hold me to this one!!!)

So, the best written memoir I've ever read? Probably not. Inspiring? It is to me, a plus-sized woman who is working to get healthy and take better care of herself.

You would probably like this book if you've ever struggled with weight, or you are part of the fitness and running community.

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