#069 – Ciji Serdula, a self-professed ‘not-so-athletic’ country girl, shares her inspiring journey of overcoming her own doubts to achieve her goal of running a sub-two hour half marathon and motivating others to do the same. With consistency, training plans, and supportive friends and family, Ciji was able to push herself further and run her best race yet.
How Ciji went from not being athletic to running half marathons
How she overcame self-doubt to reach her goal of running a half marathon in under two hours
Her experience running with and without training plans
How she uses running as an outlet for stress relief and to stay motivated
Busy mom of four, wife, and full time nurse working in healthcare marketing who enjoys spreading her love for running and motivating others through her instagram account, @CijiRuns.
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Hey everyone. Have you wondered if following a training plan is right for you, or how to avoid injury especially when you’re increasing your training for longer race distances? Well, our guest today will share her inspiring story and cover these topics as she talks about how she went from not running to running her first 5k now running half marathons, and she’ll also share her journey around how she had to push through the fear of running farther and faster. Hope you enjoy.
Welcome to Inspire to run podcast. Here you will find inspiration. Whether you’re looking to take control of your health and fitness or you’re a seasoned runner, looking for community and some extra motivation. You will hear inspiring stories from amazing runners, along with helpful tips from fitness experts. Now here’s your host Richard Conner.
Richard Conner 0:54
Hi, everyone, welcome to inspire to run Podcast. I’m so excited to share with you this inspirational running journey by CG sir doula. She’s a busy mom of four wife and full time nurse working in healthcare marketing, who enjoys spreading her love for running and motivating others to her Instagram account. CG runs. Welcome to the show, CJ.
Ciji Serdula 1:17
Thank you, Richard, I’m happy to be here.
Richard Conner 1:19
Well, I’m excited to have you here as well, you have such an amazing Instagram account. And your posts are truly inspirational. So I couldn’t wait to get you on the show to share some of that inspiration with our community. So let’s kick things off and just learn a little bit about you. Okay, thanks. Tell us a little bit about how you got into running like what was, you know, when did that start? What was that like for you just kind of wind the clock back and tell us before the Instagram page, if you will?
Ciji Serdula 1:48
Okay, I gotcha. Well, um, you know, I was not an especially athletic, child, kid. So, I mean, I grew up in a very small town, very small school. So there really wasn’t that many opportunities, I guess I would say to like, like, if you didn’t play softball, or you know, want to do basketball, that really is the only options for for girl where I grew up. So I just played outside, you know, just just a little country girls grew up on a dirt road, playing hide and seek with my cousin. So I didn’t play sports, but I was a very active child. And so after I graduated, and took my first big girl job, I met a kind of worker who was into running. And so I thought it was like, I mean, I knew of runners, you know, not anybody personally, but I knew people did it for fun. And so she was the first person that actually, you know, met one on one that did it for fun. So she was talking to me about a little bit and then she’s, she had actually set up with another co worker to run a 5k. And the other coworker, so she canceled on her and she asked me, she’s like, Hey, do you want to come run this with me this weekend? I was like, Okay, fine. I had no idea like, the distance I had, you know, sign myself up for anything. But um, she was a real, real sport about it. So she ran walked with me, and I think our finishing time was like, 45 minutes. But, um, it was a good time. And actually, more than anything, when I got finished with it, like, I had such a sense of accomplishment. And I was like, wow, you know, really did that. And it just felt so good throughout the day. So I really think that that’s when the running bug bit me, but like, it was yours until actually got into running, if you want to call it that. I mean, it was really, I’d say, three or four years past from that time, had my masculine. So that was, you know, after that, you know, moms are, we’re thinking about, you know, getting back to normal, you know, just fresh air, getting out of the house, everything. And so I was doing walks in the afternoon. And so on maternity leave at this time, and you know, I had gotten up to maybe five miles and I thought, well, if I’m walking five miles, you know, I should be able to run a little bit. So I started jogging a little bit with the walks. And before you knew it, you know, four or five minutes had passed, and I actually ran my first mile. So and the rest is history. That was maybe 2016 No, no, I think it was 20 2014 Actually, so I just kind of run walked up until maybe 2017. I got a little bit more serious with it. So
Richard Conner 4:47
Oh, I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that. And you know, when you’re telling your story about running that first 5k with your friend and how you felt at the end of that feeling. I’d love to be able to share with everyone because if you’re If you don’t think that you’re a runner, if you’ve never run before, running a 5k, may seem really daunting. So hats off to you to for doing it. But at the end, you were proud you had that sense of accomplishment. And like you said, it was fun. So I’d love to be able to share that and impart that on others to know that that’s what’s waiting for them on the other side of that 5k. Right, exactly. I’m inspired to do that.
Ciji Serdula 5:21
I wish I could just bottle it up. You know, I never would have done that on my own. I never would have. So it just took that extra, you know, pushed, like, Hey, can do this with me.
Richard Conner 5:31
Right. And kudos to your friend for getting you involved.
Ciji Serdula 5:34
Yeah. So I’d love to be able to do that with you know, somebody, I’m constantly trying to recruit new runners. In my everyday life, I’m like, Hey, do you want to come run with me? So I’ve got a neighbor that actually moved in, we run together occasionally. It’s nice.
Richard Conner 5:50
Yeah, that’s really wonderful. I’m, I personally run alone. Yeah, I don’t know. I just, it’s just my thing. But running in a groove or running with others is, is really motivational. And a really kind of helps you stay accountable. I’m sure. Running with your neighbor is going to help them but also help you right and keeping accountable with your training plan or just kind of getting out there.
Ciji Serdula 6:13
Yeah, absolutely. Especially if, you know, our paces are similar. So you know, that helps to kind of get self conscious a little bit when somebody you know, I’m in a running group, Facebook running group locally, and there’s constantly people posting like, Hey, do you want to join me, but I don’t feel like I’m quite fast enough, I guess to like, run with a lot of the people that normally post, it just worked out, like me and my neighbor were about the same pace. And then another co worker, actually, we started renting together about three years ago and our paces are similar, we, we actually try to plan our pay raise for the year together. And so um, we’ll train together throughout the year. So I really enjoy that, you know, that building friendship around running.
Richard Conner 6:57
I love that. I love that. And even though I run alone, I’ve met so many wonderful people like yourself through kind of the running community through the podcast, or through races. And I truly, truly enjoy meeting new people hearing these stories. It’s just, it’s really a joy. So so thank you for sharing that. And, you know, I appreciate you sharing kind of what it was like for you to get into running. And I’d love to talk a little bit about what was that like for you physically? So you mentioned you are walking and then you walked up to five miles, you’re like, Hey, maybe I can run. So you started to run a little bit more. So tell me about, you know, that takes us kind of to the movement pillar. What was that? Like for you? Did you follow a specific plan? Or how did how did you kind of go through that process?
Ciji Serdula 7:40
Okay, yeah, so I really did not follow a plan, I was really, really a novice at that point, just having the friends that did it for fun. And, you know, that’s essentially what I was doing it for. But I remember thinking, you know, that you had to run in my mind, you had to go fast. And it was it hurt. And it was, it was hard and building that to that mile. I remember, you know, I think I had read somewhere where it’s just slow down, just slow down to where it feels almost awkward. And that was the key for me in completing that first mile is not paying attention to what at that time I hadn’t, I did not have a running watch. So I had an app Map My Run and so not paying attention to what your pace was, or anything, it’s just about completing it in that jog, you know, and I think my pace ended up being somewhere like around 1413 minutes a mile, I don’t know that I did it. And that’s what mattered. And from that point on, and just the consistency, you know, the pace it come down and my speed build. So it’s just, it was hard at first, I’m not a natural runner. And so just to continue to see my, my paces, come down and like to get faster, it’s really motivating.
Richard Conner 9:03
All right, and, you know, as you’re kind of walking through, you didn’t follow a plan. So that’s, that’s great that on your own, you’re looking to, you know, improve and you’re looking to kind of stay with it. And so that’s really wonderful. So, you know, tell us a little bit more about that.
Ciji Serdula 9:20
Yes, it is. Firstly, for those first few years that I you know, did it I’d say the first year, maybe two years, year and a half, something like that. It was really just about getting comfortable with it getting comfortable with running and think, you know, I guess even mentally like, you know, I can do this, you know, it’s just I don’t, I tried, I had to overcome that block of, you know, I’m not athletic, what am I doing out here? But once I got there, my dad was actually very motivating as well. So he was running for for fitness, you know, and so he would talk to me and he tried to convince me to sign up for a 5k in town by myself at this point. I knew what if I can It was, it was like, Okay, I don’t know if I can run it can sit, you know, consecutively mile after mile complete through that I signed up for it and work towards it for a few months I don’t remember like exactly, but I did that he actually came out to watch me do it and finished it I think my time was, you know, around 35 minutes or something if I’m remembering correctly, but it was, it was fun. And it was a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to complete that.
Richard Conner 10:30
So that’s really great. And, you know, so So now let’s fast forward a little bit. Now you’re, you’re inspiring others, and now you’re sharing a lot about your runs. And I know you have big goals in terms of what you want to do in your running journey. So tell us a little bit about what is it like for you now? Like, what kind of races are you doing? And, you know, are you following a specific plan or training plan? Now? How does that go? How’s that going for you?
Ciji Serdula 10:55
Yeah, so now I’m just trying to increase my weekly mileage, you know, and before, you know, I kind of settled into the comfort of about, you know, 15 1718 miles a week under 20. Okay, under 20, for the most part, but last year, I really wanted to focus on increase in that closer to 25 miles a week. And so yes, I had to follow a plan, you know, to be able to do that. And I signed up for a half marathon last year. And I just, you know, kind of took a generic internet plan for a half marathon. And so and I added to it, so I created it. But the neighbor that I was telling you about that I ran with, she followed Hanson’s half marathon method. And so at that point, I was really afraid of the mileage that that plan called for because I had dealt with some shin splints earlier last year, and I was terrified that those were going to come back, you know, following some, you know, a plan that was such homology, even in their beginner plan. So I didn’t follow that however she did. And our goal, though, was to our under to our half marathon, and she was able to complete that, and my time was two hours and seven minutes. So I was happy to like, actually run an official half marathon, so I wasn’t too upset about the time. But seeing that that worked for her chose to follow their plan this year for my recent half marathon, back in December. And again, I’m a little bit afraid of higher mileage. So what I did was combined, their just finish plan and their beginner plan. And so I peaked at maybe 35 miles a couple of weeks. And I was able to do it without getting shin splints. And so that was a huge success. And more importantly, I actually finished and you know, an hour and 57 minutes. And so I hit that to, you know, under to our goal that I was, you know, striving for us, that’s huge. So I’m definitely a huge Hanson fan now. So I’m going to use that for the one that I plan to run at the end of this year, too. And hopefully, as I’m able to build up my knowledge, I’ll actually be able to follow their beginner or their advanced plan without worrying too much worry anyway.
Richard Conner 13:21
Well, congratulations. That’s really wonderful. And, you know, congratulations on your time, like you said, two hours and seven minutes for your first one. That’s, that’s really a great time. And it sounds like you’re putting in the work and you’re really dedicated to performing well when you get out there. So hats off to you. And I’d love to, you know, just kind of hear the story about how that first marathon went, like, maybe not mile by mile. But tell us a little bit you know about how you’re feeling? How are you running? What kind of, you know, just a little bit about that race?
Ciji Serdula 13:49
Yeah, so the first one, I really I think I set a conservative goal, you know, I kind of fell off. I originally wanted the to out, you know, under two hours, I think maybe a month into training for it. I just I was like, There’s no way I can run on minute miles. I tried it a couple times, like oh my gosh, I need to adjust my goal. So I did adjust it. And I think it was like maybe around 930 is where I wanted to be. And so I got pretty comfortable with that. And I remember thinking the first couple of miles into it, just I guess when you’re actually in the environment, you know, you’ve got the crowd at the beginning and you’ve got the people running around you. Like that helps. It helps a lot. So I felt really good, better than what I expected. And so I did, um, I did a little bit better than what I thought I think my goal I just did MCO even though I wanted two hours, that was like two hours in 10 minutes. So I did better. I did two hours and seven. And I think I just attribute that to you know, everybody being around me, you know, the feeling of, you know, whatever you want to call that just feeding off of that that positive energy you know, and I remember my my boss who’s a runner Also he, he biked to a couple, he, he was at the beginning of it. And then he came about halfway in. And he’s like, how are you feeling? I was like, I feel great. So I really felt good. I was, you know, motivated after that, you know, and I’m thinking, well, it really brought it into perspective that I could hit, you know, under two hours in the next one, if I wanted to, if I trained right now. And this past year, this past December, I was, you know, able to do that. And it was, you know, very similar is a different race. So, it was down in Panama City, it was very flat, the one previous to it was a little bit more hilly. So that factored in a little bit, I know that there was more people, the one that I just finished, and so I had even more of that crowd, you know, support on the course. Whereas we didn’t have that here in town at the small one that I did a couple years ago. So that was, that was fun. It was a good race.
Richard Conner 15:59
That’s really great. And, you know, I’ll share a little bit about my own journey I did my first half marathon, a couple of years ago, it was the beginning of the pandemic. And I had no desire of doing anything more than a 5k. I was a cross country runner, that’s what we did. Were five K’s. We’ve run farther than not obviously, for training, but never any interest. So the reason why I did it was to prepare for Spartan Race, which I had intended to do, which is an obstacle course race, and tended to do a trifecta that year, which included a race that was a half marathon distance. So I was like, Okay, well, if I’m gonna run that type of race, I want to be able to run a half marathon distance. Then the pandemic happened, everything got canceled, everything went virtual. And I still did it, I still did the race, virtually my running coach actually came with me. So it was kind of funny how you talked about kind of the people around you, because he really pushed me first, it was so nice for him to do that. But he really kind of pushed me to do something I’d never done before, which was to run the half marathon. So I did it successfully that year. And then the next year, I said, You know what I want to do the in person racist thing started to open back up, again, similar to your situation, very hilly race. You know, I probably didn’t enjoy it as much towards the end, I probably felt like, you know, a mile 10 I was like, I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to make it. But good news is I did make it, I did have a decent time for that race. And it felt great afterwards. So it’s, you know, it’s a bit of a journey for someone who is running five K’s today, but not sure if they can run a half marathon or running half marathons today. Not sure if they could run the marathon. It is a bit of a journey to get there. But if you had the right training plan, like you were talking about the right support system, the right, you know, experience, if you pick a race that you’re excited about, it sounds like you know, all those factors can make a really good race for you.
Ciji Serdula 17:50
Exactly. 100% with you there.
Richard Conner 17:53
Very cool. Very cool. So you know, you talked a little a little bit about kind of the motivation piece, like how you keep going and you mentioned about, you know, your dad, you mentioned a little bit about the the Facebook group, and now you know, your neighbors that you’re running with, what keeps you going, what keeps you going to get a better time or run a longer distance, or, like what motivated I don’t know,
Ciji Serdula 18:16
besides being crazy, I don’t, honestly, I’m I’m, I guess, competitive person by nature, you know, run and just provides a lot of stress release for me, you know, it kind of separates, you know, real life, I guess, like the day in and day out job to take care of kids and everything, it just kind of separates it, you know, for a minute, you can just like focus on what you’re doing. And everything else just kind of drowns out. So it’s just, it’s cleansing, I guess, in a way for me. And in addition, when you throw in that competitiveness, you know, that I have just naturally, I mean, not necessarily against others, but it’s just like a competitiveness against myself, like, this is the time that I did, and I know I can do better. I feel like I can do better. And so just constantly taking those boxes, you know, that’s kind of what it’s about. For me. It’s, it’s, it’s a great outlet, you know, it’s definitely a great outlet. Yeah, that’s
Richard Conner 19:21
super important. And it’s super important to want to improve yourself. And it’s not necessarily there’s some folks who are competitive in a way they want to be on the podium, which is great, right? There’s nothing against that. And there’s many others who just want to improve themselves. And that’s wonderful as well, and that keeps you going so appreciate you sharing that and one of the questions that I like to ask all of our guests that come on the show is what would you say is the biggest obstacle that you faced in your running journey and how did you overcome it?
Ciji Serdula 19:50
Injury maybe just because I’m new and I’m competitive, and so I tend to push myself probably a little bit too much. You know, initially I got like a little ankle niggle when I first started, so I was able to fix that with shoes, you know, I read a little bit and realized I was probably wearing the wrong shoes, then I kind of developed like an IT band issue I self diagnosed but you know, with, you know, doing some of the things I found online, it was able to resolve that. What really scares me was, you know, when I got shin splints, because they I was able to get, get rid of them. And then I came back once I increased my mileage. And so that happened, it was it was like a cycle, like they came back now like three times. And so it’s constantly in the back of my mind. But I was able to complete this last training cycle, the hardest training cycle I’ve ever done, without even the hint that they were there. And so I think it’s just, you know, educating myself and reading making sure I’m doing all the things that I should stretching, you know, before stretching the right you know, my calves and things like that, paying attention to my nutrition, I don’t think I was eating or hitting those caloric needs on a day in day out basis before. So that really is my biggest struggle is just, you know, making sure that I you know, take care of myself outside of running so that those injuries don’t pop up.
Richard Conner 21:16
Yeah, that’s really important. A lot of what you said first having the right shoes. And I’ll tell a quick story here. What again, when I was running in high school, I knew nothing about running and I had, I guess whatever they’re called cost cross trainers, and I had really big shoes. And that just did not go well my first couple of weeks, I learned really quickly that I needed a proper running shoe. So that is a super important point that even if you do have running shoes, make sure you get the ones that are fitted for you and that are right for you based on based on your body. And you could do that and any running store. And there’s a lot of you know, online help that can help you get there. So that’s a really important point. And then, you know, warm ups and stretching another great point that honestly I don’t personally don’t even do enough of I’m terrible at it. Right? So I think a lot of people are, you know, fall victim to just wanting to get out there and run and then we get back and you just kind of get on with your day. And it’s something I need to do a lot better. And you’re right. I mean, the more miles you’re running, the more prone to injury, I assume. So if you’re not warming up properly and getting your body ready, it’s, it could it could be problematic. I mean, some people say, Oh, I never stretch, and I’m just fine. I’m like, I guess it depends.
Ciji Serdula 22:25
I’m not that kind of runner because it will catch up to me.
Richard Conner 22:30
Yeah, it definitely depends on on you. And that’s really the advice is do what works for you. But if you’re running into these situations like injury, you know, you’re giving really good advice. And then, you know, you touched on nutrition. I mean, that’s a really great one. Because someone may think, well, if they’re running in maybe in the beginning to lose weight, they’re probably going to eat less, but not realizing they’re eating less than what they should be eating because now they’re running more, right. Right, and your body actually needs that. So you still can be eating less, but you need to be eating enough to fuel your run. So that’s a really, really important point that to mention there. So, so thank you for sharing that. Yeah. All right. So you know, kind of this has been a wonderful conversation. By the way, I love your stories. I love the journey that you’re on. And all the great tips as a runner, as you know, as a relatively new runners you say but it sounds like you’ve been running for a while it sounds like you, I still feel new. Do you know you got really great experience. And for someone who may be just starting out, I think this is going to be really helpful for them to hear your stories and your journey and what you’re going through. You know, so kinda as we wind down here, what would you say would be like the one thing you would say to our community to help inspire them to run,
Ciji Serdula 23:47
I would just say to just even even when you’re not feeling like it, just, you know, put one foot in front of the other, just you know, sometimes those days where you just feel like you know, I just can’t do it. I don’t feel like I’ve had a busy day. Just Just go anyway, just do it. And then I think just that mindset and then once you get out there and you get into the run and you get finished, you just realize how much you needed it. So just do it. Just get it out the door and and do it.
Richard Conner 24:18
All right, well sage advice for our listeners. So I really appreciate that. And, again, you have such a great following and great inspirational social media presence. So how can our community find you and follow you online?
Ciji Serdula 24:32
Yeah, so the best way is my Instagram account CG runs CR Jr. uns. I post a lot of my workouts there. Just kind of give a little synopsis of what not everyone um, you can also follow me on Strava that’s gonna be the I guess the if you want to see everything I do, that’s where you need to find me but um, I do post the highlights on Instagram.
Richard Conner 24:56
Wonderful, wonderful. All right. So I will include that in the show notes. It’s to make it easy for our listeners to find and follow you. CG this has been a wonderful conversation. Congratulations on your journey. And you know I wish you the best as you continue on to improving your time and looking at different races and just thanks again for coming on the show and sharing your story.
Ciji Serdula 25:16
Thanks again Richard.
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