Saturday, August 22, 2015

Run Often and Everywhere. Wear Your Big Girl Panties, too.

Guess what? Big girls ALREADY wear big girl panties--we are already stepping out of our comfort zone every single day we exist. So on behalf of all the big girls and big guys wearing their big boy tighty-whities, thank you.

I have many pairs of big girl panties, and I take them with me wherever I go.

As both a language teacher and musician, I've had many opportunities to travel around the country, to Europe, and to both Central and South America. I love to travel and I love to run. What better way to get to know a new place, to explore without hopping on an annoying double-decker tourist bus? There isn't a better way--(well, maybe except for doing a wine tour. That's the only better way to tour a country.)

The sunrise in Spoleto, Italy.
For me, running in a new place is time alone with a city or with a country before the streets start filling up with people, vendors, cars, noise, grit. In Nice, France you get to smell the pain au raisins, croissants and baguettes baking. In Italy you pass older women and men out for their pre-sunrise walk. In the south of Spain you bake in the sun at the Alhambra after your extreme hill repeats in the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada, while everyone else is eating lunch and preparing for the daily siesta...

In Cuenca Ecuador, I ran most mornings around the big, beautiful park in the center of town that would be full of all types of people running, walking, bootcamping, doing Tai Chi, yoga. All of these beautiful people out, and AT ALTITUDE, doing and being and living.

In Roatan Honduras, before Hurricane Mitch decimated the main road on the North Eastern coast of the island, I ran that road, despite my father's warnings that women shouldn't be walking or running alone. Well, go figure.

I take every opportunity I can to run. Everywhere. No matter who's watching or who tells me not to.

On the aqueduct bridge to the mountain trails in Spoleto, Italy
When I'm in a place that has different body image standards, and perhaps different roles for women in society, running and being outside in my own body allows me to cue into people's mindsets immediately. I know at once by how people look at me (or don't) how people view fat bodies in public. You become very aware of your body and how you're moving it in this new place and space. The feeling can be very disorienting and but also very cool. You also allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone. You're in a new place, possibly surrounded by a language that is not your own, with rules and standards of living that are foreign to you.

Running in a new place, even if it's scary and uncomfortable, allows you to put on and wear your big girl panties proudly. You literally RUN in your big girl panties. When we let go of our fears of being in front of people in our own bodies, life becomes that much easier.

Signs on the beautiful mountain trails in Spoleto, Italy

When I arrive at any particular location, I usually wake up at the crack of dawn the next day (any of my friends can vouch for this) regardless of the amount of jet-lag I'm suffering from, and run the cobbled and hilly streets, splintery boardwalks, dirt roads, and asphalt of many a city or town. Sometimes with a map, and other times with the fledgling hope that I'll eventually able to find my hotel/host-family's apartment/landmark etc before it's too late.

On a trail in St. Johnsbury, VT during teacher training .
Um, at least the tunnel lit up as you approached. 
Last summer, I traveled to Italy for a school-sponsored professional development experience. We were in the Appenine Mountain region, with gorgeous views of green hills and valleys. I got up every morning (except that one morning after that one night in which the local wine was free-flowing and well, endless. I may or may not have also sung a tipsy version of Gershwin's Summertime too...) and explore the trails of the surrounding hills in Spoleto, running towards the next town on the other side of the mountain. Or I would do a hill workout right from the main door of the Hotel Clitunno to the main square, or I would do sets of calisthenics in my room while watching the sun rise from behind the mountains in the east. I even ran into a family of wild boars in Poggibonsi! (Scary and cute and SCARY, in that order.)

Running the prairies in Colorado Springs, CO
a few weeks ago, during more teacher training
On every single run in Italy, everyone would yell a hearty BUON GIORNO or MOLTO BENE, greeting me or saying WELL DONE! There were other runners out too, and we would nod that runnerly nod to each other, simultaneously loving and hating what we were doing at 5am, but secretly really just loving and enjoying the effort.

This summer I traveled to Colorado, for more teacher-training. It was gorgeous. It was hilly. It was at altitude. But I think I was able to adjust more quickly to the energy demands of being at altitude because I dove in head first, running the prairies as soon as I was able. I even met some new people on the trails and we ran together, becoming fast friends.

If you are able to travel abroad, or even drive to a new town that you're not familiar with in your own state, it's an incredible opportunity to put on your biggest girl, grandma, flowery panties--put your hands in the air, and run like you just don't care.

Happy running everyone!


  1. Mirna, your posts make me happy. Your existing makes me happy. And boy, what I would have done to hear you sing a tipsy Summertime!

    Thank you for the motivation to keep going.

    1. Yes to all of this! I was thinking exactly the same thing(s).

      (Also, I'm wondering what kind of hydration pack you have, Mirna, and whether you'd recommend it.)

  2. Great post. You inspire me. Also would love you hear to sing Summertime :-)

  3. Beautiful post! I love the way you describe running in all those locations, the things you saw and the way it allowed you to cue into people's mindsets.

  4. Love the post!

    I know that "I love/hate this 5AM run...just kidding, I'm really proud of myself right now and this is awesome" feeling.

  5. You are so inspiring! I just started following you and look forward to further kick-ass advice as I start my own journey of becoming a steady runner and falling in love with the sport.

  6. Super blog! I'm just getting back to running after a few weeks off. You inspire me ;-).

  7. Mirna, I just read your Runners World article and I love it! What an inspiration you are. I am a new runner and blogger and both your running and blogging are motivating and reminding me that I can do it. Reading about you has also made me realize that I need to focus on the running and not the scale. I definitely want to lose weight but I realized today that it's not the be all and end all to this journey. Thank you!

  8. Thank you for your blog. I have it bookmarked on my favorites tool bar!

  9. I just heard you on a Run Like a Mother podcast and came to check out the blog. I got a kick out of this post filled with foreign, exotic places... and a picture of St. J in Vermont. I'm from Vermont and that made me smile. :) I'm trying to put on my big girl panties and go running regularly these days and that podcast was great inspiration. Thanks!

  10. Mirna - I read your article in runners world August issue. I spend weekends in the north Georgia mountains and would love an opportunity to run with you. You are an inspiration.

  11. Mirna, you have no idea what you have done to inspire literally EVERY WOMAN, not just women of size, but EVERY WOMAN to get out there and accomplish and achieve. Reading your blog and article in Runners World has made me realize that although I am a big girl, my running is just as important as anyone else's running. As I train for my first marathon (LA, Feb 2016), I will keep you in mind and will try to recreate how you would sing Summertime in your slightly tipsy state (I LOVE that song, by the way) and will continue to follow your blog. THANK YOU for existing, for sharing your story, for being totally awesome! I hope our paths cross some day!

  12. Hi Mirna, just saw the spot about you on NBC news. Felt as if I was in the right spot at the right time. I am 59 and a big girl. I can walk 6 miles at a time without problems, but felt that I could not run. After seeing you I am willing to try a modified run. Leaving in a few days for a vacation in Brazil and Argentina, won't forget to pack my running shoes.

  13. I saw the feature about you on the NBC nightly news and was so pleased! At 68 I am not a fat girl running. I am a fat girl biking. In 2013 I crossed the US by bicycle with 29 other women. Average age about 63. I was definitely the biggest woman of the group and I pretty much brought up the rear-- and not because of my size, but because I needed my knees replaced. I now have had both hips and both knees replaced so I doubt there is any running in my future. That's OK I am ready to get back out on a bike. I am so ready. Your blog is just what I needed to get me moving more.

  14. Love this post! My wife and I plan trips around where we want to run. It's the only way to see everything!

  15. I love all your posts and as a heavier runner it's inspiring! My knees are bumming me out and making me scared to run. I got them checked and dr said I'm good just need to take it easy for awhile (which is ambivalent). Lately I've only been running on the treadmill 1-2 miles and then opting for the elliptical because I don't want to screw up my knees. At the same time I am dying to get out there!! I have it on my list to go get fitted for shoes in hopes that actual diehard running shoes will help. Otherwise do you have any suggestions?