Squadspiration Feature: Melinda Ciffolillo 

📸: Allison V

“Are you running the Toronto Yonge Street 10k and do you like Nutella?”

I’m pretty sure this is the very first thing Melly ever said to me and I am pretty sure that if I said I didn’t like Nutella, this friendship may have never blossomed. To this day, I still fear saying anything bad about Nutella but I mean really, what’s not to love? Right? RIGHT?!

As a member of JP’s Team and with her infectious smile, it’s not surprising that Melly is an inspiration to more than just me, but I think the thing I admire about her the most is how much she truly cares about others. You can’t help but feel a genuine sense of happiness around her and she has the ability to make everyone feel important.

She is an amazing mother to two young girls yet still finds time to crush her own goals and give back to the community the best way she knows how – by cheering on others. If she’s not physically out on the course cheering for people, she’s racing alongside them and pushing them towards their personal best. If she’s not doing that, then you better believe you’re going to get a slew of texts from her telling you how awesome you are.

Melly, this is my way of telling YOU how awesome YOU ARE. You are such a ray of sunshine to me and so many others. Thank you for always seeing the good in everything and everyone, and for always lifting others up.

If you want to get to know Melly or get a daily dose of positivity in your life (her posts are literally LOL worthy) you can follow her on Instagram under her handle @mellyruns!

1. Who am I?

I wear many hats. Mother, runner, friend, business owner and professional are titles that make me most happy, fulfilled and proud.

2. Who or What Inspires Me?

It may sound cliché but my parents have inspired me for as long as I can remember. My father immigrated to Canada with very little. He taught me the value of hard work, loyalty, humility and respect. My mom taught me the value of empathy and compassion. These are qualities that I admire, strive to emulate and try to instill in my children.

3. What goal are you working on crushing?

I conquered my major goal of completing a marathon (I actually ran two marathons) last year. This was a goal that I never dreamed possible given my asthma and now that I have knocked it off my bucket list I am so happy. My focus shifted from race times to race experiences around the same time last year. I currently have no lofty goals such as completing an ultra or attempting to qualify for Boston. I am most happy running “just to run” and increase awareness for JPs Team while supporting other members of the running community.

4. How did you get into running?

I have always been active. I did my fair share of step aerobics and Billy Blanks Tae-Bo videos in my younger day. To be honest, I never understood running. I was the girl that hated running the kilometer in gym class and tried to get through a few minutes on the treadmill when I was at the gym when I got older. I never liked it and was always afraid of it triggering an asthma attack. About 5 years ago, my coworker was training for a race. In the dead of winter, she would lace up and head out to train in the frigid temperatures over lunch. I thought she was insane and could not understand the joy or motivation in doing this. Meanwhile, going to the gym was becoming more of a challenge for me due to significant time restraints from being single mom to my two daughters. Seeing my coworker run triggered something in me. I realized running could be a time efficient way of getting a work out done and could be done anywhere, anytime. And in March 2011, I put on a flannel hoodie, a down filled vest, woolen mittens, baggy jogging pants, a toque and running shoes and went out the door for what I consider to be my first run. I hated every minute of it, but that run lit a fire in me. I wanted to learn to like it and I was going to keep doing this until I did. And eventually, I did. When I worked up to a 5km distance I was ecstatic. No run groups, no training programs, no run family, just me and the road. In July 2011, I was entered to run the Scotiabank Half Marathon. My coworker registered me on behalf of a charity and when I learned about this my jaw dropped and I said that was impossible. She said she knew I could do it and something in me wanted to prove her right. I accepted the challenge and began training. I entered the zoo run several weeks before the dreaded October half marathon date just so that my first race experience was not a half marathon and I have never looked back. I will always be grateful to her for seeing my potential and opening up a door to a world that I never knew existed. Thank you Maxine, I’m forever grateful to you.

5. What is your favourite thing about the running community?

I love the running community. It is ironic that an activity that is very solitary can be so incredibly social. I remember going to races not knowing anyone, my dad waiting at the finish line, grabbing a banana and heading home. Today is a very different picture. Races are events that are celebrated among friends and we run together, supporting each other. If you are not running, you still get up at 5:30am and get ready to cheer. When we are not racing, we are running together and if we are not running we are going for coffee or dinners. We are strangers that find each other from the shared love of a common activity and we become instant friends. Many are truly like family to me now and have become my best friends in real life. We understand each other in a way that non-runners dont and have bonds that are truly created quickly and seamlessly. The community is very supportive and welcoming and there are groups in every community that love the addition of new members.

6. What is your favourite song to run to?

I used to love to run with music. I actually was unable to run without music initially. I loved to drown out the silence with noise and get lost in the beat. Then my iPod headphones broke and I was forced to run without music until I replaced them. By the time I had replaced them, I started to enjoy the silence. I learned to love the sounds of my footsteps and the sounds of the birds chirping on morning runs. When running with friends, we talk on our runs. I have not been able to run with music since, even during my marathons.  

7. What is the best part of cheering for others?

I love being the cheer squad. I love supporting people who are chasing their dreams and crushing their own goals. All runners know how much of a boost having even a stranger on the sideline cheering for you actually is. We always must give back to the community that gives us so much.

8. What is one of your biggest accomplishments?

In running, my biggest accomplishment would be completing my first marathon. That is the only time I actually cried crossing the finish line with dear friends that actually paced me for the entire race. I will never forget that race or that day and the people that were by my side to support me on something that I never thought possible.

9. What is your favourite inspirational quote?

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou

10. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?

The first step is always the hardest. It isn’t easy and it takes time but you will get there. Celebrate small accomplishments and set realistic goals. Don’t expect every run to be a good run. Even experienced runners have bad days and bad runs. Listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. Find a community of runners if possible, enter races, and most of all prepare to meet some of the most awesome people you will ever know.


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