The Bookends with Pan and Becky: A Beautiful Work In Progress by: Mirna Valerio

This is a non-fiction book about Mirna Valerio. What you would picture if I told you the author is an avid long-distance runner? I bet that the picture in your mind does not match what the author looks like. Mirna is a plus size woman and does not have the typical svelte runner’s body. She is often incorrectly labeled and judged by society. However, she has logged some serious miles in her running shoes. This memoir takes us on her journey from an out of shape teen that a doctor labeled obese, to her first attempts at running, and then her journey to become an ultramarathoner.

Becky: I don’t read non-fiction very often but this book was highly recommended and I have seen Mirna’s picture in ads so I had to check this out. I must post a warning that she uses some colorful language. It is somewhat often and might offend some readers. You don’t have to be an avid runner to enjoy this story. It was inspiring to hear her journey and how she embraces her large stature. She didn’t let anything get in her way once she committed to a running challenge. Pam, I didn’t realize until I started reading but Mirna is a model and ambassador for Skirt Sports, a company you recently became an ambassador for. Were you already familiar with her and her journey?

Pam: I have been following Mirna’s story and journey recently. She is very inspirational as a runner and as a Skirt Sports ambassador. As I have been struggling with injuries and health issues, which have derailed some recent goals, I felt very connected to her story. She speaks very honestly about challenges, inspiration, and successes. This helped me put my struggles into perspective! Did you find her story interesting?

Becky: Nonfiction can be frustrating because the story often jumps around instead of following a timeline. That was challenging in this story and I felt lost a few times but my book has about a dozen post-it-notes sticking out because she has some really inspirational thoughts and quotes. What inspires me the most is that she is plus size and feels 100% confident! I wish that more women, including myself, felt that beautiful with our imperfections. Have you looked at her blog or facebook page?

Pam: I have checked out her facebook page followed her as she prepared for a race recently. I was fortunate to hear her speak recently at a retreat in Boulder. She was very inspirational and delivered a great message to a room of women that were all shapes, sizes, and abilities. I completely agree with you about women following her lead and loving ourselves where we are. I love that she is always focused on becoming healthier, not for appearance, but for quality and longevity of life. I struggle with self confidence and body image issues, so this book was a welcome message. What did you think about her stories of the world of ultra running? Isn’t it amazing?

Becky: We should define ultra running for those that are not familiar with this growing sport. It is any distance beyond 26.2 miles, which is a marathon. I am a reluctant runner and can’t imagine running a full marathon let alone a 50K. Yet, her stories inspire me to try something that is beyond what I would normally accomplish. As she wrote, I felt that if she could do it, then why couldn’t I? She commits to a race and then trains like a madwoman. I am amazed and astonished by those that participate in these races! Do you think that you have to enjoy running to like this memoir?

Pam: I think anyone could relate to this memoir because of the inspirational message. We could apply her persistence to any goal in our lives. Mirna is also a teacher and was working at a boarding school while writing her memoirs. It can be extremely challenging to fit in training with work, family, and day to day commitments. As she trained on and around the grounds of the school, do you think she was an inspiration to her students?
Bekcy: I’m sure that she was an inspiration to both the students, and staff of the school. About halfway through the book she includes a few letters from previous students that mention the impact she had on their lives. That’s amazing! Pam, I’ve never mentioned it but you inspire me with your desire to compete in a 50K. While I’m plugging along on the treadmill, completing less than a 5k, I often think about your commitment to training and it keeps me going. Mirna mentions that training can take over your life. She would wake up at 5:00am to start training and often do a second workout in the evening. Do you agree that fitting in the necessary training to be successful consumes your schedule?

Pam: That is so nice, Becky! Your support means a lot to me! I do agree that training can take over your life. Before suffering an injury during training earlier this year, I was also running twice a day to try to get enough miles in around my schedule. I typically get up at 4:15 am to get my workout done before heading into work. Although this sounds extreme to some, it allows me to stick to a schedule and not have training derailed on a busy day. This schedule also allows me to be available for after school sports/activities. I look forward to continuing to follow Mirna’s adventures and enjoy the inspiration she brings! Join us next month as we head in a completely different direction and discuss “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton.

Check out some other books we recommend in,
The Bookshelf
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. Is Grace’s marriage perfect, or a perfect lie?

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