S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership.
S2: Hello and welcome to working the show about what people do all day. I’m your host, Shannon Palis. I’m a writer at Slate, where I cover health and wellness. This season, we’re talking about the world of running from professional athletes to coaches to people who do all manner of things to help others go for a run.
S3: This week, we’re talking to Myrna Valerio. If you follow her on Instagram or cut her in her raii documentary, you might know her as the Myrna Vader. She’s known for running ultra marathons and showing off how the sport can be joyful and inclusive for folks of all body types and speeds. She recently quit her job to run right and work with brands full time. She also hosts running retreats, which she refers to as quote unquote slow as fuck. Enjoy.
S4: What’s your name and what do you do?
S5: My name is Myrna Valerio and I am an ultra marathoner, an adventurer, the author of the bestselling book, A Beautiful Work in Progress and a Mom. You do all of this for a living? I do all of this for a living, except for being a mom. I should get paid for that, but I don’t. And how did you get started being an altar runner? Well, I you know, I’ve been running for a very long time since 1989, in fact. And I took a three and a half year break right after about when my son was about a year and a half old.
S6: And it turned out to be not a great decision to do that. And I end up getting a lot of weight and having a health scare in 2008, which eventually sort of forced me to reckon with my own lack of health and wellness. And so I started running again in 2008, right, when a cardiologist told me that I was going to die if I didn’t change my lifestyle. And that was pretty cathartic. And so I’ve been running again. My my second sort of life with running began in 2008. And then I went from doing one very painful mile on my treadmill to doing 5ks 10ks, half marathons, marathons. And eventually, after I did my first ever trail marathon, the race director said to me, you know, when he put the medal over my head, he didn’t congratulate me. He didn’t say, well done. He didn’t say anything like that. He says next year, 50k.
S5: And so. So I don’t really have time to even celebrate my triple marathon. So I did my first ever ultramarathon in 2013 and that was that was the end or the start of my crazy life now.
S7: And what were your thoughts at that moment when he said next year 50k, what were you thinking week as you went home that night that made you say, okay, yeah. Instead of like not that’s it for me.
S8: No, actually I was like, well damn, can I just celebrate this one? I. I didn’t want to have to think of anything else because it was so difficult.
S5: That particular race was a trail race. And you know, it was its trail racing as is or chill running and in general is a sport that is really full body. And I was so sore but happy. I saw it happy. And then I thought that this guy, he knows me. He’s seen me come up through doing five milers and 5ks all the way through marathons. So he must know he’s talking about.
S8: So I said, well, fine, fine.
S5: And then a couple of weeks later, a couple of weeks later, the registration opened up for the the Ultra. And I immediately signed on. And then I said, what have I done?
S1: What did the experience of actually doing that race feel like?
S5: Well, you know, I really loved training for it because it forced me to really smash any preconceived notion of what I could do. And on the daily basis, you know, I had amp up my mileage. I had to do really, really long training runs on the weekends, had to double up on my training runs, do one along one on Saturday and another long run on on Sunday. And I was always tired, but I was always but I was also invigorated at the same time. And so when it came time to actually run the race, I was ready. I was mentally ready. I was physically ready at my family there. I had a really good friend there and it was incredible. After I reached the marathon distance, I said, Wow, I forgot I only have five more miles to run. And it was really tough.
S9: It was really tough.
S5: And I knew that my body could do it. But mentally, I was I was really tired. But when I got to the end, it was so I felt so triumphant and wonderful. And like, I could do this all the time, which is what I did.
S4: And at that point in time, running, I’m guessing, wasn’t your career. So were you fitting in all of those training miles around another job?
S5: Yes, I was a teacher and I taught at various boarding schools. And at that point, I was in New Jersey teaching at a wonderful girls school, a very, very small school.
S6: So that meant that all the teachers did everything, including being dorm parents teaching our classes. I taught Spanish back then and I also ran the diversity curriculum. I coached and I was in the dorm around the dorm and we had activities on the weekends. And so I had to fit that ahead of my training and with all of those activities in addition to being.
S5: A mom and a wife. And it was tough, but what made it easy or easier was that I lived where I worked.
S6: So there were kids available to to babysit or I’d get up super, super early, like 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock in the morning to get my training in. I had a treadmill in my office, so I did that very often. And then when I coached, I use those miles as my training miles.
S1: So I made it work three or four in the morning to run in your office on your treadmill.
S7: Yes. Wow.
S10: What is the experience like of going from my treadmill or running to trail running like I hate treadmill running. How do you get through it when you’re not?
S5: It’s you know, it’s it’s it’s funny because I really love the treadmill. I always prefer to be outside, preferrably on a trail and then on a road if I have to. But, you know, the treadmill gave me access to running when I can get outside or when I was on duty in the dorm and, you know, I was on call. So, you know, I put on a movie.
S6: I’d put actually what I did was to binge watch Drop Dead Diva, Netflix and or, you know, movies from like the 80s and 90s or play really loud music. And and I would just get through it and I would play little games with myself. OK. Well, let’s just get to the next quarter of a mile. Let’s just get to the next mile. OK, let’s do this. Smile a little faster. Let’s walk this smile. Let’s you know, I did all of these different things to just keep my mind engaged. And, you know, it was it was difficult. Sometimes sometimes I would have to do a 20 miler on the treadmill. And that that’s hard. That’s not necessarily very fun. But, you know, I just made it work.
S4: I would imagine that playing all those games, like, really helps you train your mind to be ready for like a 50 K race where you’re doing the same thing for a long time to for a really long time.
S5: Yeah, I I like to go into the long distance races with a plan or a strategy.
S6: I know after eight or nine miles when I have to start employing mantras or listening to music or listening to a podcast or planning my next meeting or doing something to sort of keep my mind off of pain and boredom because I know that they’re going to come. So I might as well be ready for that. So so yeah, I sometimes I start have I have to start using the mantra as soon as I start and that’s a good thing. But but most of the time, you know, when you know when I get in the middle of a race and I’m like I’ve never got 50 more miles left where I have 20 more miles left, or in the case of when I did my first hundred K, you know, I have 50 miles left.
S5: I have to have to, you know, keep my mind busy. And there’s certainly times when when I’m in flow and I you know, I don’t really feel like I’m running and I’m just kind of moving through space. And it’s amazing. But then, you know, and as soon as I lose my concentration, I trip or something. And then I’m back in a moment. But but yeah, like I think for me, it’s really important to have all of those strategies mapped out before before I get out there or or else it’s not going to be a good look.
S4: What’s the process of mapping out those strategies like?
S5: Well, you know, I have to think about how long I’m going to be out there, how I’m feeling at the start. You know, what’s been going on. The week before the week leading up to the race or you know, how my training was. I’m thinking about all those things and and trying to anticipate where the problem moments were going to be. And sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I’m wrong. But yeah, it’s always it’s always a sort of crapshoot because you never really know what’s going to happen. You never know when you’re going to fall. You never know when you’re going to meet up with a friend or a fan or, you know, or get injured or just have the time of your life and not even feel like you’re running. And. But I do have I always have a plan. If it’s a 10 miler that I’m doing. Okay, well, you know what? I’m going to check in with myself every two miles. If it’s a half marathon. I just had a half marathon this weekend in Bermuda. And my training leading up to it was was a little painful because I’ve been injured. But my thought process was each mile.
S6: Oh, well, I’d love to feel like this. At mile nine, I’d love to feel like this. At mile twelve. And it keeps me in the moment and it keeps me very appreciative and grateful for the fact that my body is still moving, even though I have coming off of injury and that it’s somewhat painful. But I’m really, really grateful to be moving. So like all of those things are going through my head, particularly now that you have I’ve spent a year being on the injured list. So I like to express a lot of gratitude when I’m when I’m running these races.
S4: So you’ve been injured for the past year. How has that affected? Your livelihood?
S6: Well, the cool thing about my particular, particular livelihood is that no one expects me to win anything.
S5: I can essentially be as slow as I need to be because the point of me having this as my job and as my career is that I get to show people and I get a role model to people that anyone can be an athlete and regardless of what kind of body you’re in. And so. So it hasn’t you know, aside from the. Why did DNF a huge race, DNF being did not finish in August. And that was sort of my breaking point when I was at my most injured and my most sort of not living my best life at that point. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t really, really taking care of my body as I should have been doing. And so and it just I blew up the first day of a six day race in Colorado. It’s called the Trans Rockies, six day stage race. And the first day, eight miles in, I quit. Well, I had to because I was in pain and I was. And I happen to be very sick that day.
S11: So but other than that, you know, I’ve been able to continue to do races. You know, as slowly as I have always done them or maybe a little bit slower. But the lesson in that was that I really, really had to put a premium on sleeping, which is my biggest challenge with the amount of travel that I do. So so, yes, I was injured. I am coming off of injury. It’s an Achilles injury. So you can still run and be active with an Achilles injury, you know? But I’ve been doing a lot of P.T. and I love spring training and yoga. I just came back from a yoga class just just a couple of minutes ago, actually. And yeah. So I’m much better now than I was before.
S4: So one of the really cool things about your running career is that you’re not, you know, making money by winning races or being the very fastest person out there for listeners who might not be familiar with your work. Can you describe what your personal brand is? A little bit?
S5: Sure. Well, I am a fat ultra marathoner. So, you know, a lot of people would say that, oh, she’s not your typical runner or she’s not your stereotypical athlete. And I would say that I am a typical runner, because if you look at any field in a marathon or any sort of big road race, there are all types of bodies present. You may not have noticed those bodies or acknowledge those bodies in the past, but they are there. But for a lot of people, I am not. You know what they envision when they think of runner or ultra marathoner or athlete. So because of my because of my fatness. And so that’s that is, you know, my brand. And and I just want to get people out there. I want people to know that they can they can go out there and chase their running dreams or chase their athletic dreams while being in the bodies that they are. And so, yeah, I mean, I would say that that the other part of my my personal brand is also joy and adventure building community and inclusion, because all of those things sort of feed in to the work that I do every day when I you know, whether I’m speaking, whether I’m out doing a race, whether a race organization invites me to come and just simply be a presence at their event because they want to show the world that they are inclusive of pace and of different types of bodies. And, you know, if you look at my Instagram, I really try to exude a lot of joy and love for life, love for the sport, love for people. And so that’s that’s what I would say is my my personal brand.
S1: So what was the first thing that you did in your running career where it was evident that, like, OK, this is something that I don’t just do for myself or I don’t just do as part of a community, but I can actually, like put something out in the world that’s greater than just me running this race and make money doing it.
S5: Well, actually, it all started in 2011 when I was training for my first marathon, which was the Marine Corps marathon. And I decided at the suggestion of a colleague to start writing a blog because I’m a writer, I’ve always been a writer. And I really was very keen on sharing all of my workout experiences on Facebook. AD nauseum.
S8: You know, today I ran a 5K. Today I walked a mile. Today that this day I did that.
S5: But it turned out that even though for some people it was annoying, for many, many others it wasn’t. And it and it got them to a point where they were inspired or motivated to. You engage in their own fitness journey and be open about it and share and post about it. And so she suggests that I do a blog. And I didn’t really know what a blog consisted of, but I just started writing my story and stories of when I would do a race or when I was training and the things that people would say to me, both negative and positive when I was angry. You know what I was feeling and why I was doing what I was doing. And so, you know, I didn’t write in it very often. If I had a story, I would tell it. But if not, I would just, you know, live my life and do other things. But in 2015, Wall Street Journal contacted me and I was Rachel Bachman, who’s a sports reporter for them. And she said, well, you know, I love your blog. I’d love to talk to you about the benefits of working out, even if you’re not losing weight. I had already lost 70 pounds when my body was not budging. Beyond that. And I was like, you’re you’re reading my blog.
S8: OK. Wow.
S5: So, you know, long story short, that conversation turned into an interview, then to a an article that profiled three people and I was one of them. And then Runner’s World came on board and said, Kate, can we profile you? And I was again, I was stunned. That happened a few months later. And that kind of this set my life and this very, very different trajectory of sort of being a figurehead for everyone who wasn’t skinny or fast. And in the world of running. And I got a book, a lot of it. And basically at the same time, I’m still working at a changed jobs and I was still teaching Spanish and music and, you know, being a diversity director at my school and. But eventually it just became it became too much to do. All of the things that I was doing. I was I was always invited to speak at different places and and to race and to be on TV and to do this shoot this documentary and to do that. And and it became too much to handle. So I eventually left my teaching job and 2018 and and went rogue.
S4: How are you enjoying being rogue?
S5: It is a whole entirely new and different world. And I’m still transitioning from from that. From being, you know, having a regular income and very specific vacations and having to answer to different people, to having really only to answer to myself hustling and and really like dealing with the anxiety that comes with it, just kind of doing it on my own. I got to have my son, who is 16, with me in Vermont. And but we’re doing it. It’s so far so good.
S6: And I really I really love the fact that even though I’m not a classroom teacher anymore, I still get to teach. I still get to educate people. I still get to role model just on a much bigger platform.
S1: What are some of the anxieties that have come up?
S8: Oh, definitely financial. That’s the number one anxiety that comes up.
S5: But it’s been working out as soon as I detach myself from worrying about it and simply get to work because there’s lots of work out there. And, you know, I have the fortune of people still seeking me out to speak and to do lots of other things. And I also have sponsorships. I have three pretty major sponsorships and partnerships with outdoor companies and health companies. So that that takes away some of the the need to worry so much about finances. But, you know, I’m still learning I’m still learning how to just do all of that stuff on my own. I have an assistant now. I have a I have an agent. And. And so that’s really cool to have a team that is who’s whose only purpose is to support me and what I do. So so it’s really cool. I’m not gonna lie. I love it. I absolutely love it. And I get to travel all over the world, too. So that’s another good thing. What brands are you working with right now? Let’s see. I am working with Meryl. I am working with Highland’s and L.L.Bean. And I do lots of other. Those are my three biggest relationships. And then I also done some work with Skirt Sports, a wonderful company, woman led woman run company and women owned. And then I do lots of other little social social media projects for companies like Back Country and and and companies like that. So it’s been really cool.
S4: And what does it mean to be sponsored by Skirt Sports for? Simple or have a relationship with skirt’s sports and visitors who may not be familiar with what skirt’s sports are running, skirt’s are. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
S8: Sure. They’re exactly that.
S5: Running skirts, skirts sports was founded about fifteen years ago by Nicole de Boom, who was a professional triathlete. And she happens to be married to. Happens to be married to Tim de Boum, who was a world champion and Iron Man on one cona two years in a row. And she set off creating this company because she was no pretty and functional clothing for women that really like highlighted femininity. And so so she created her own skirt and she was the first person to create a running skirt. So 15 years later, they are doing really well. They create running skirts both with and without compression shorts underneath. They have pants. They have tights. They have all sorts of other things. And and it was really I thought was really important for me to be part of that and to represent women in sport. I would need to look in the men’s clothes for a functional and technical gear. And another thing, she also has a whole plus-size line, which is really cool. And she’s integrated the plus sizes into her regular lines. And it’s really, really cool that there is a company with highly technical performance, great and pretty clothing that I can wear. So that’s why that relationship is important. And, you know, with Merrill, Merill was my first sort of real big relationship. They sought me out in 2015 right after the Runner’s World article came out. And I’ve been working with them since. And they are a truly big and huge supporter of mine. And, you know, with their relationship, I have been able to go again, travel the world where we are really great shoes and gear and do some really awesome things with TV and and in other media. So, yeah, love it.
S10: And what is your involvement with the brands beyond, I assume, getting like lots of cool free gear that you get to wear and use?
S1: What are you what’s the product that you’re giving them or what’s the thing that they’re paying you to do?
S5: That’s a great question because it changes with each with each company. You know, I do. And I’m grateful for the fact that I have a lot of visibility, Ashley, in social media.
S8: And I you know, I was just recently on the Kelly Clarkson show and things like that keep coming up.
S6: So I do offer visibility and I think and brand awareness, which I think is is really important. The other important thing is that I am what I’m offering them is my body. And my body is as a fat body, as a black body. It is a female body. And the combination of those things with checks, a lot of diversity boxes, you know, socio cultural identifiers.
S5: And it also brings in a different demographic than they are probably used to. So, you know, the demographic of different bodies of of, you know, people of color in the outdoors hour in in what is considered the outdoors, because, you know, the outdoors can mean many different things. But I’m talking about green spaces that are not urban. And yeah, that’s what I offer them. And I you know, I do lots of social media work for all of them. I put on retreats where I give their products out. I do speaking engagements for them. I do a lot of photo shoots and video shoots for them. So it’s you know, it’s it’s a lot of work, but it’s it’s very, very mostly enjoyable work. You get a lot of questions while, you know, how can I be a sponsored athlete or an ambassador or whatever? And I look, they sought me out. I didn’t apply for anything. So I don’t know I did that. But it’s it’s you know, it’s a very sort of there are many, many. It’s a multifaceted thing that I do. I’m not just an influencer, but I also have to go out and do races and events and, you know, to be present and to, you know, where the product, obviously, and use it. And but really get people into more and more people into the sports that I do is seeking out those brand relationships yourself.
S4: Something that you have had to do since going full time in this career, or do you still just kind of let the opportunities come to you?
S5: Luckily, I have not had to seek out any brand relationships. And, you know, the ones that have been with me the longest are the ones that I still have. And I just I have I still have brands coming and asking if I would like to collaborate with them or. Which is really cool. Eventually, I know that that is not going to necessarily be the case. I hope it well, but this is the reason that I am you know, that I do create retreat experiences for people that are very. Specifically targeted at slower runners. You know, I continue to write, I continue to coach, I and I do a host of all of other things so that, you know, when the day comes that I do not have any sponsorships. I can continue to be a force for good in the athletic world.
S7: I want to hear more about their treats. But first, our song and topic of friends. I want to ask about a Calvin Klein photo shoot you did for women’s health recently. And I’m watching a little clip of it now on my computer. And it looks like so much for him. And I’m wondering if you could just like walk me through the process of getting ready for, like, a high profile photo shoot. Okay.
S9: Well, first of all, the whole entire experience blew my mind because who’d have thunk it?
S5: Like, I never in a million years would think that that I’m kind of Ilario, the fat girl from Brooklyn would be invited on a Calvin Klein photo shoot. But, you know, as as much wonder and enjoy that I have and that. But I also went into it, you know, like it was a job because it was a job. You know, and thank goodness I had done many, many, many photo shoots before then. So I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited because, you know, it’s Calvin Klein and I got to be home for a couple of days. And, you know, I got to be in their studios in the village. And again, I have I would have netted, you know, 10 year old Myrna would never have thought that I would be doing something like that. And it was really cool to, number one, have the level of comfort that I did in that photo shoot. And number two, just to like be there with, you know, here are these like Calvin Klein professionals and these professional makeup artists and and hair people and stylists, you know, who move your lapel just like a centimeter so that they can have the right angle. It was really cool. And then at some point, a few days after the article came out in women’s health, the three pictures of us, of the three women that were involved in a particular shoe were on the side of the Hearst Building in New York City.
S8: I didn’t see it, but a lot of my friends did. And so that that also blew my mind, too.
S5: So it’s you know, it’s really cool and kind of surreal, but also very real in that. Okay. Well, this is my job now. So this is what I do. I’m going to do my job.
S10: Okay. So in one of the photos you’re standing and you’re just sort of look like they’ve caught you mid stretch. You have your hands above your head. Her legs are you know, you could have just finished a workout and you’re winding down or whatever.
S1: It looks very relaxed.
S7: And I’m wondering if you were relaxed in that moment or if they’re like giving you very explicit instructions about how to hold your body?
S5: Well, you know, I was very relaxed and they kept asking if I was okay showing my belly. And I was like, oh, yeah, I’m showing I will show it all. And and, you know, they said, it’s really funny doing these photo shoots because we need an editorial. Relaxed pose. Editorially relaxed pose.
S9: Or we need an editorial stretch.
S12: Those are real stretch editorials stretch like not a stretch that I read really do or suggest that I would do, but lag looking directly into the camera. And so. So that was one of those moments. It was like, you know, just kind of put your your hand over your head as if you are you’ve just worked out and looked directly into the camera, you know, surmise and do those things.
S8: And, you know, I love cameras. I’m a performing artist. I go, you know, that’s my background. And so so that stuff doesn’t scare me.
S5: But it is really it’s really funny how all of those things are formulated. You know, like end the very explicit directions that they give you.
S1: You’re trained as a classical singer, right? I am. So that’s how that. But it’s interesting. But I kind of like comes into your career now. But in this kind of sideway.
S8: Yeah. I never thought that it would.
S6: But, you know, it it being constantly being onstage. You know, both in when I was in high school and having done the Juilliard pre-college and then when I went to Oberlin Conservatory afterwards for college, you know, it just becomes a part of what you do. And and there is a certain level of comfort that comes with, you know, being the center of attention. And. And so I’m so happy that I have had that training and that now every time I get in front of a camera, it’s like like I know it’s essentially a performance. It’s Mirna times 10 or whatever. I’m still my authentic self. But it is an accentuated, more polished version of myself.
S7: You mentioned earlier that you will stop sometimes during races to talk to her fan or you’ll see a fan. Do you find that when you go to races, it’s hard to be the center of attention about why?
S8: Yes, it is.
S5: I will say, because there is a performative act to that, that I that I am not comfortable with, because when I race, I just want to race. I don’t want to have to do anything else. I want to be in them, to be in the moment and want to run. I want to try my best. And anything that detracts from that is. Detrimental to my own sense of a good performance. And so so that that is definitely something that I grapple with. You know, when I am invited to races and I don’t finish them. That is really hard on me emotionally and mentally. And then I feel like, you know, I. I feel like a failure. And I know that failure is a part of being an athlete, but it’s an even bigger failure. I get over it pretty quickly.
S11: But in the moment and it does not feel good, especially when there are a lot of eyes on me or then or people expect me to finish and they’re there. And you can kind of see a little bit of disappointment in their faces. Mm hmm. When that happens and it hits me really hard. But then, you know, I always have a conversation with my my coach, who is amazing.
S5: And, you know, he’ll see right through me saying, oh, it was great.
S9: I’m not that disappointed. And I’ll say, so you’re disappointed? I will say, yes, coach.
S11: I am pretty disappointed. And then he’ll ask me a question like, well, so how many miles did you finish? And I’ll say something like twenty. And he says, well, you got a really good long run in. And this is not your a race. So move on.
S9: And then it’s done.
S5: And then, you know, there’s some perspective that I need. And and then I move on.
S1: It’s interesting because that seems at once like such a unique experience to have at your job, to go to a race and then not finish the race and have that be related to like your career. But on the other hand, as you’re talking about that, it feels relatable.
S10: In the way that, you know, if you sign up for a marathon, you tell all your friends are going to do the marathon, you put a stop to social media and then if you get injured before the marathon or if you drop out, you have that disappointment.
S13: Yes. And you know, that’s if you know, it comes with the territory, it does not feel good.
S5: It never feels good to not live up to the thing that you have put out into the universe that you’re going to do, whether it’s a marathon, whether it’s a 10K, you know, whether it’s a an obstacle course event, it does not feel good because you’ve hyped yourself up, you’ve hyped other people up. And that sense of disappointment when you don’t finish or when you get injured can be really crushing. But I think what’s important is to to really surround yourself with people that know you, people that know what your ability abilities are, people who understand your life and your lifestyle and who can help pick you back up if you fall into too deep of a hole.
S4: So I want to return to the retreats that you’re hosting. Can you tell us about an upcoming retreat and what that will look like for participants? Sure.
S5: So I have a series of retreats called slow as fuck trail running adventure retreats and as the title says, very specifically geared towards people who are slower runners. And by slower, I mean slower than even an eleven minute mile. And I did not realize that there was such a need for experiences for people like me. So I created this retreat in which I would, number one, teach people how to trail run, because that is my that’s my wheelhouse. And also offer them opportunities to be around other people who are veteran runners or newer runners and have a really awesome experience where they don’t feel pressured to run fast, where they can walk. And no one, you know, gives them a second look or, you know, gives them the up and down where they can talk about their experiences as runners and races and commiserate and also celebrate. I actually in my last retreat brought in Roz Mays, who is an incredible pulled answer. She’s a plus size pulled answer. And I brought her in to do a session on sensual movement and being free in your body. And we had a really great time in her session. And my session was full of mostly older ladies. You know, ladies in their late 50s and 60s.
S8: And these ladies were movin it and and, you know, doing sexy lunges and sexy squats.
S5: And and then this confidence that they learned in this session carried out onto the trail because trails are really scary for some people. You know, people are always concerned about rolling their ankle or falling. I said, you know, look, you know, you’re gonna fall. Just it’s a fact of life when you are on a trail. And so, you know, after this sensual movement session and then going out on a trail, there’s so much confidence to be gained from trusting in your body and trusting in the fact that you can fall down, but you can also get up. If you get injured, you get injured. It’s a part of life. It’s a part of of doing the sport. But mostly we hope that you don’t get injured and most people don’t. But anyway, like so I I’d like I give these experiences and I include vision boarding and includes really good food and includes always getting up doing in an alpine start on a mountain so that we can catch a sunrise and then we do some mental health work. I bring in mental health experts, I bring in movement coaches, I bring in writing coaches. I bring in a bunch of people, yoga and meditation people to have a really, really full, holistic, positive experience in our own bodies. And so my next one, the next one that is coming up that is not sold out is in Tahoe this summer and it comes before the Broken Arrow Skyring so that the end of the retreat will be running this race, 25 K or an eleven K at altitude at an incredible race. And there was actually a video that I was in where I was the focus that was made by the people that are there, the race directors of Broken Arrow, Sky Race, because they also wanted to show people that if you have a body, you can participate in this really difficult event being you participated in it. And we want you that you we want you here. And so that’s the kind of energy that I’d like to put forth in my own retreats. You have a body. I want you here. I want you to enjoy the same things that other bodies get to enjoy without judgment and without pressure.
S1: It sounds so nice to have that community just bringing people who are in the same pace group together for a week or however many.
S5: Yeah. Well, you know, a lot of us, myself included, you know, will join running clubs or our neighborhood running group or running group out of a running store.
S11: And they will advertise it as place inclusive, but they’re not. And a lot of people have had these experiences and I do have to leave no runner behind. Policy always have somebody one of one of my contractors whose job it is to be at the end and to support people at the end. And I have people in the middle so people don’t feel alone and like there they’re being left because that’s a thing.
S5: You know, when you’re slow or slower, very often you are alone. You’re at the back of the pack and there’s nobody else there to talk to you or acknowledge that you are doing this incredible thing. And so I think it’s really important to have experiences like this for for all sorts of runners. Tell me more about your book. Why did you write your book? So after the sort of media blitz of 2015 and 2016, I I was contacted by a couple of of literary agents and and actually went with the one that that had had Barack Obama as one of their clients.
S9: So that was how I made my decision anyway.
S5: So so I wrote a book and I wrote a book with this in mind. I wanted to fill in the holes that the media had left because, you know, if you read any of the articles about me or like listen to any of the podcasts or any of the the videos that I’m in, there are really important parts of my story that can’t be told in a three minute clip or even in an eleven minute clip. So I’ve really wanted to to fill in all of those holes and to really give people a very clear idea of who I am, where I come from, what I come from, and how I get to do what I do today. And it was really fun. It was mostly fun to write it.
S9: I didn’t have a lot of anxiety and had a visit a cardiologist, because I felt like there is something wrong with my heart.
S5: I was having heart palpitations, but it turned out to be anxiety. But as soon as I handed in my manuscript, all those issues went away. Like literally the day that I handed in my manuscript or had sent it and it went away. And and so it’s really been a very, very cool process to, you know, to still get royalties. It was published in 2017 and still have people ask me if I could speak at their book club or, you know, if I could do a book signing and I got to go and book tour, which, you know, a lot of authors don’t get to do, or if they do, they do it at their own expense. And I have to do that. And it’s just been a really, really incredible journey to have a book. So I’ve been able to write one. I’ve always wanted to write a book. I a was a was all always a writer. So I never thought it would be about running. But here we are and I’m planning my next book. My next book is probably going to center on this year that I’ve been having with my son where I pulled him out of school. We’re having an adventure year, so he’s been travelling with me and I’ve been like homeschooling him. And so probably be about that. And I’m really excited. But yeah, yeah, my book is a beautiful work in progress and it was on the Amazon bestseller list a couple of different times. So I’m really proud of that.
S1: Is there one thing in particular that you were like, yeah, this needs to go in the book because no one ever asks about this or people get this thing wrong about me and I need to clarify it.
S6: Well, you know, I think that the one huge thing was that I am not an adult onset athlete. And so a lot of people and a lot of media outlets made that assumption.
S5: And I you know, I wanted to correct the record because I started running in 1989 to get better at field hockey and lacrosse. And because being people look at me, I don’t look like a field hockey player, like a lacrosse player. But those are actually and still are my preferred sports. I love obviously I love running, but it’s, you know, difficult to find in an adult field hockey or lacrosse league anywhere. So Rettig is a replacement for that. And running has given me so much. So I will keep running.
S13: Yeah, that was that was like one of the main things that I wanted to also to show the trajectory of my life and and also to discover for myself that none of this was a fluke.
S1: I was watching your raii documentary last night to prepare for this interview. And there is this line where you say, I love my body most or I’m outrunning even if it’s hard and even if I’m having a bad day, I know I have my body. And that resonated so much with me because I was running to and having hard work. I just went in that in one of these like little private phone booths that we have and sat with that. And one of the reasons running is such a reprieve for me is because it’s so different from my job. You know, I’m sitting at a computer all day and then I got to go run and just be this like different separate person. And I’m wondering if it’s been hard making running your career in that way.
S5: Sometimes when I am in the midst of a long week of travel, for example, which is happening more and more, it’s mentally difficult to get my runs in. I mean, I have to get them in because it is my job to train. And sometimes my coach has to remind me, you know, and say, hey, Myrna, this is this is your job.
S13: And sometimes in that moment, I’m like, well, am I still enjoying this?
S5: Am I still do I still get the same satisfaction and sort of life-giving energy from running that I got before all this started? And I had to say, yes, it does. Every day is not going to be, you know, amazing. And there are many days when there when it’s not amazing. But I never, ever, ever regret having gone for a run. You know, it might be hard to get out the door, but if there’s five miles on my schedule that I have to do, I have to do it. And I know that I’m always, always going to feel I’m going to be in a different place mentally as soon as the first mile is over zero. So, yes, still brings me joy. It and it it really just it brings me joy in such a way that I feel like. And I was meant for this. My body was meant for running that I do know. Because if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to do it. And and I and I’m so grateful for that. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to get paid for it. And I’ve hesitated to say professional runner, because that sounds weird, I think, because I don’t win it ever. But I do. And now I do say that I’m a professional athlete and it feels good.
S7: It was so, so nice talking to you. Thank you so much. Thank you is great talking to you, too.
S2: That’s it for this episode of Working Again. I’m Shannon Polys. If you liked this episode, please remember to rate review and subscribe on Apple podcasts. And if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email us at working at Slate. Dot com working is produced by Justin and Molly. Special thanks to Justin. Do you write for our add music? Thanks for listening. Catch us next week for another episode on running.