Runner Reads: “A Beautiful Work in Progress” by Mirna Valerio

I finished listening to “A Beautiful Work in Progress,” by Mirna Valerio several months ago, but I’ve been meaning to write about it for a long time because I had not yet written about it but really enjoyed it. It only took me a few days to listen to it.

I think I first learned of Valerio when she was featured in this article in “Runner’s World.” Since then, I have heard more about her from fellow runners and followed her on social media. The BibRave Book Club decided to read this book earlier this year.

Although I enjoy reading or listening to books by pro runners as well, it was refreshing to listen to a book written from the perspective of a “normal” and relatable person like me — someone who isn’t super fast. She also named her blog Fat Girl Running — she embraces her size and still runs marathons and ultras. She’s inspiring, and I think she sees things from a different perspective from people who are naturally fast or from people who run professionally.

Valerio narrates the audiobook, which is her memoir, and I really enjoyed her writing style and also the fact that she was the narrator. She writes about her experiences from childhood through adulthood, with a conversational tone. Topics include running and races as well as other parts of her life — such as her family and her work.

Chapter 14’s title is “Do the Work,” a saying that I’ve mentioned before, as it is the motto on the back of the 11:30 Club shirts.

“People always ask me how I get through those long, interminable miles during a race, and how the hell I survive weekend after weekend of putting training miles in on road and trail,” Valerio writes in her book. “I don’t have a magic pill or a quick fix. It’s as simple as putting the work in, day in and day out.”

She then continues to write about how much she enjoys running in nature.

One thing that stuck with me was when she wrote about her experience coaching girls in cross country.

On one day, the group of Purnell School students was on a nine-mile run when it got extra cold and dark, she wrote.

“Three girls who needed to be picked up were still out on the gravel of McCann Mill Road near Pottersville, New Jersey,” Valerio writes. “Luckily, (they) were only about a half a mile away from school, so they still earned the right to say they had finished the longest run of their short lives thus far. I had already finished with a few girls who had initially doubted they could even do half the distance I asked them to do for our last cross-country practice.”

I have had the privilege of being with more than one person for their longest run to that point, and I love being part of that experience. It’s so fun and inspiring. I’ve worked with kids through Girls on the Run, and I’ve also seen adults develop their love of running and feel more confident about their own running through the Eastern Shore Running Club.

If you’re looking for an inspiring and interesting read from a unique perspective, I’d recommend this one — and Valerio was a great narrator. Learn more about Valerio and her book at TheMirnavator.com.


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