Good News

How One Woman Went From Running A Mile A Day To Completing Ultramarathons

"I run because it changed my life."

Most people who have lost a significant amount of weight can point to the “aha” moment when they made the decision to change their lifestyles. For Mirna Valerio, that moment was in 2008 when she experienced chest pains while driving back home from work with her young son in the backseat. At 300 pounds, stressed and overworked, the rural Georgia resident was worried she was having a heart attack. It ended up being only a panic attack, but doctors warned her that if she didn’t change her lifestyle, she probably would have one at some point.

“He reminded me that if I wanted to see my son grow up, I had to make a change. And with those words, I knew what I needed to do,” Valerio writes in a moving essay for Shape.

However, Valerio’s story isn’t one of a formerly overweight person becoming skinny, but rather an inspiring tale of a woman who became a professional runner, capable of running 50K ultramarathons, at 239 pounds.

After her wake-up call, Valerio, a Spanish teacher, began running a mile a couple times a week. At 17 minutes per mile, she wasn’t particularly fast, but she was motivated to improve. She soon started losing weight and, within months, was down 35 pounds and running several 5Ks week. From there, she kept making progress. The following year, she ran her first 10K, and in 2010, her first half-marathon. In 2011, she completed her first full marathon.