Spring is a great time to start running, whether for the first time or as a return. The milder weather makes it easier to get outside, and the extra hours of sunshine means that there are more options for daylight running in the morning and evening. It’s also a popular time for training programs and running groups to get going.

One thing that holds some people back is the nagging thought that maybe they’re not “supposed to be running.” A number of runners have recently written books chronicling their journey from being someone who “doesn’t look like a runner” to someone who is not just a runner, but also a role model.

Mirna Valerio, author of “A Beautiful Work In Progress,” started running to avert a heart attack, but ended up spending more time battling racial and body-type stereotypes than heart disease. Frequent condescending comments that she was “not a real runner” led her to write what is essentially the Declaration of Independence for the less speedy among us.

“Whether I’m running a 12-minute mile or a 14-minute mile, I’m still running. There is still a fraction of a second when both feet are airborne, so this makes it running,” she writes. “If you run, you are a runner. Give yourself some credit.”

Valerio’s message of inclusiveness led not only to her book but also to being a brand ambassador for REI, Skirt Sports and Merrell trail shoes, which give her a wider platform for her message of running as a sport for everyone.

“There is little else that can give you the sense of self-empowerment, strength, self-trust and self-knowledge like having to reconcile yourself with your base physicality, interacting with the earth, moving forward, holding yourself upright with occasional help from unwitting trees at the side of the trail, and popping back up from a painful fall because you have no choice but to get up,” she writes. “It allows us to be connected to what the human body is built to do — to move forward.”

Bernice Torregrossa: bernice92@aol.com

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