Few know running like Mirna “the Mirnavator” Valerio. The Brooklyn native began running in 1989, and, over the past several decades, has covered every distance imaginable, from a 1-mile fun run to a 100K race. She’s also traversed every terrain imaginable, from asphalt to grass to gravel to mud.
Valerio gained national recognition with her blog, Fat Girl Running, a humorous blend of body-positive messaging and inclusivity. In 2017, she wrote a memoir called A Beautiful Work in Progress, which chronicles her journey from running around the high school field to completing an ultramarathon. Today, The Mirnavator is a sought-after speaker, who continues to challenge stereotypes one mile at a time.
Her philosophy is: If you are a person who does athletic things, then you’re an athlete. Ergo, if you run, you’re a runner, no matter your shape, gender, or age. And as a runner, Valerio has certain things she just cannot live without. Here are three of them:
1. Darn Tough Glide Micro Crew Ultra-Lightweight Running Socks
Valerio’s feet are top of mind during her runs. In addition to a pair of supportive running shoes, Valerio cannot go without .
“My feet, my style of running, and the places I run make for a perfect sock-destroying storm,” Valerio said. “But I have yet to destroy a pair of Darn Tough socks. There must be something in the water over there in Northfield, Vermont, where they’re made, because their construction, knitting, and thoughtfulness of design is unlike any other sock I’ve worn.”
Her go-to style—especially for long-distance trail running—is the . “They offer great cushioning, but are also lightweight and snug—perfect for running gnarly trails,” she said. “The performance fit of these socks means no slipping, bunching or blisters; my favorite design is the Peregrine Falcon.”
Darn Tough socks are made from a combination of nylon and Lycra (for elasticity and strength) and Merino wool. “Wool is nature’s thermoregulator,” Valerio said. “My feet never get hot or cold in Darn Toughs. They are always just right, even when the socks are wet.” This is because the natural wool fibers act as insulation, holding or releasing heat depending on what your body is doing and what the conditions are like outside. Wool is also odor-resistant and renewable, so it’s good for your feet and the planet, too.
2. LEKI Ultratrail FX.ONE Superlite Poles
“I once did a race in Georgia that had a lot of vertical gain that I hadn’t been expecting,” remembers Valerio. “One of the volunteers saw that I didn’t have [trekking] poles and lent me his, so I could be a little faster. They worked so well, I’ve never looked back.”
Trekking poles helped increase her running efficiency while supporting her balance to ultimately allow her to cover more ground at a higher speed. “These days, I never leave home without my Leki Ultratrail FX.ONE Superlite poles,” Valerio said. “They slay!”
The Superlites feature Leki’s Trail Shark technology, a grip-strap system designed specifically for trail running that is 30 percent lighter than its predecessor. The handles offer two grip options and the Shark Frame Strap Mesh transfers the power from your hands directly to the center of the pole. Bonus: The poles fold up for easy transport in your hands or in a pack.
3. Nathan TrailMix 7 Liter Race Pack
Valerio swears by this pack for all her outdoor activities, including trail running, hiking, and cycling. “I’ve found the TrailMix is great for races as long as 50K, especially if you don’t need to carry a whole lot of supplies,” Valerio said. “It has the capacity to hold a thin jacket, and you can attach your trekking poles to the daisy-chain bungees on the back when you’re not using them.”
The adjustable side straps customize the fit to suit any physique, and a compression system helps snug the load against your back. For day trips, fill the two-liter hydration bladder with ice-cold water to sip as you hike, making hydration easy with a quick-release valve. And if you happen upon a vista that offers the ultimate photo op, the front storage pockets allow for quick access to your phone and other accessories.
With these essential items in her arsenal, Valerio will be able to log many more miles in the years to come. “I really dig long distances, like up to 60K,” she said. “Going forward I want to run trails in really beautiful places with cool people. I’ve started and finished—and started and not finished—a lot of awesome races. This year, I’d like to race less and do some hardcore exploring without the pressure of finishing under a cutoff—less pressure and more time to breathe, experience, and share.”
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