Redefining Strength

I’ve struggled with body image and body positivity for years. I feel like everyone has at some point in their lives. People think they’re too thin or too “fat” (in quotes because I hate that word), and can drive themselves crazy with perceptions based on a false sense of reality. We all try to not let mainstream media or social celebs influence our self-image or self-worth, but it’s really hard especially in today’s world.

It’s taken me years but I’ve finally come to the understanding that my body is a constant work in progress and although it’s frustrating at times, I know that’s how life goes. It’s a journey.

But if marathon training has taught me anything, it’s that I have the most image insecurities with my running career. On one hand, the sport can be so inclusive – almost anyone can do it if they put in the work. You have people constantly cheering you on and being supportive with a “you go girl” or a “you got this.” I’m so thankful to have those people in my life because I wouldn’t be where I am without such an amazing support system. And I’ll admit I say those things to other runners too because I know how challenging this sport can be. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs and I know everyone goes through that.

But running can also be so exclusive and “elite” – it makes you feel like you don’t belong or aren’t good enough at times. Everyone thinks of fast track stars and runners as these incredibly thin and toned athletes. And they are, but they aren’t representative of the community as a whole.

“The truth is, the idea that you have to look a certain way and be thin to be a fast runner is bulls***. It’s a lie that a lot of people in the running community buy into.”

Rachele Schulist, former NCAA star said this a few years back when she opened up about her weight gain online. She had this mentality that you have to be as thin as possible to run fast and the pressure of the slim, “runner’s body” was sometimes overwhelming in peer situations. But being thin doesn’t always mean that you’re healthy and that’s something Rachele learned after training the correct way.

The truth is, runners can come in all shapes and sizes…and they all still kick ass just the same. Never judge someone based on their appearance because you have no idea what they are capable of or how far they’ve come in their own journey to get to a certain point in their lives. It’s a hard stereotype to overcome, especially for women, but I’ve found a couple amazing role models that are forging a path for the rest of us.

Kelly Roberts (IG: @kellykkroberts)

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Kelly has been such an inspiration for me and I’m kicking myself for not knowing about her and the #BadAssLadyGang sooner! What originally started as a viral stunt of taking pictures of “hot guys” behind her while running a half marathon turned into a blog called Run, Selfie, Repeat. Kelly’s main goal was to inspire people, like herself, who struggled with physical activity and to find ways to make them feel proud of themselves. For the past four years she’s put in some serious work – she hit a marathon PR of 3:41 (DAMN!), landed the cover of Women’s Running Magazine, started the #SportsBraSquad, launched a podcast, and created a movement called She Can & She Did.

Kelly is on a mission to redefine what strength looks like and to change the perceptions of what a healthy body should be. “I’m tired of seeing publications portray a body type that isn’t ‘conventionally thin’ as unhealthy. Weight isn’t the issue, health is. And health looks different on everybody.”

Her posts are uplifting and motivational for anyone looking to crush their goals and get stronger. Plus, my girl rocks a sports bra when she runs and happily shuts down any “fat-shamers” that try to tear her down. Check out one her famous responses here!

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Mirna Valerio (IG: @themirnavator)

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Meet Mirna, aka mirnavator 🙂 I stumbled across her page early on in my marathon training and was so glad I did! I remember being in awe of her career and how she managed to juggle so many things in her life – she’s a musician, a Spanish teacher, a blogger who created “Fat Girl Running” and of course a kick-ass athlete earning the title of marathoner, ultramarathoner and trail runner (again, DAMN!).

Mirna is also a published author. Her book “A Beautiful Work in Progress” documents her incredible running journey and the struggles she’s had with breaking through fitness stereotypes. She’s emerged as a role model for the running community and the body positivity movement.

“I’m pretty much in love with my body. Sometimes I get disappointed or angry with it, but like any long-term, committed relationship, it usually comes right back to love and respect.” 

Mirna’s posts are inspiring, but they’re also quirky and just plain fun! I look forward to scrolling through my feed to see what crazy things she’s up to on that day. Sometimes she’s running through snowy mountains or forest trails (IN THE DARK), and sometimes she’s inside at the gym pumping weights and hitting the treadmill – all while rocking a sport skirt 😉 But no matter what she’s up to that day, you can always count on her classic selfie pose. Every run, every race, every mountain trail, every gym workout, Mirna begins by taking a photo as a token to remember what she accomplished that day. (Read more about the Selfie Queen from her full story on Runner’s World!)

After reading Kelly & Mirna’s stories, I had a mix of emotions. I was so happy to have these strong and powerful women creating change in the running community, but at the same time I was angry that average or plus size runners were even facing this problem in the first place.

Over the years I’ve definitely noticed the surprised looks and tones of judgement from people when I tell them I’m a runner. I feel like they think I’m lying or something! Just a few weeks ago I was at a local running store looking at sneakers and when I said I was running Boston they immediately asked what charity team I was with. I didn’t think anything of it in the moment, but when I got home that night I realized that they automatically assumed I was running through the charity program because I looked like I couldn’t qualify.

I’m definitely not as fast as I once was but like I said before, I’ve acknowledged that I’m a work in progress (or as Mirna would say, a beautiful work in progress). Before the bulk of my injuries, there was a time when I could run an 8:30/9-minute mile. But hitting that goal didn’t happen overnight, it took months of hard work and training. Now, I’m cruising at a 10:30/11-minute pace and I’m okay with that. I’m definitely not where I want to be speed-wise, but I know there’s room for improvement down the road.

And I feel the same way about my body. I’m not where I want to be physically, but I’m learning the love the skin I’m in now. No matter what I look like on the outside, I know I’m strong on the inside and determined to reach my goals.

My body might not look like a typical runner’s, but it’s a body that’s going to RUN A MARATHON in 10 days. And it’s a body that’s going to continue to get stronger each and every day, both mentally and physically.

I’m so thankful for women like Kelly & Mirna who are telling their stories and encouraging more females to do the same. They are redefining strength and have truly given me a new sense of confidence on this journey. I can’t wait to see what these badass ladies accomplish in the future!

Image Sources
Cover photo:,
Kelly Roberts:
Mirna Valerio:

Check out my page to donate to my charity campaign:

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