Runners Q&A: Cindy Mondello

Cindy Mondello is the founder and CEO of Restoration Place Counseling and race director for May the Course Be With You on May 4.

Runners Q&A: Cindy Mondello
Cindy Mondello, left, with Rebecca Carter at the Fun Fourth Freedom Run 10K in 2023 (photos courtesy of Cindy Mondello).

The May the Course Be With You races on May 4 in Greensboro prove to be an intersection of life for Cindy Mondello.

The event's director is also the founder and CEO of Restoration Place Counseling, which will be the charity beneficiary of the 5K, 10K and Mental Health Mile runs. And May the Course is supported by Lawndale Baptist Church, where she is a member.

Mondello has been in recovery from alcohol addiction and an eating disorder since 1996. Her own counseling journey, a strong faith and even running are key components that she says God used to bring healing and restoration in her life. Now, Mondello offers these tools to help other women find freedom.

"It's definitely been a journey," says Mondello, who also underwent a kidney transplant in 2018. "And that's one of the reasons I love having the fundraiser that we have, the race, is because I do feel like it's so intertwined.

"Our physical health and our mental health, our emotional health, and our spiritual health are all very intertwined."

Mondello is the subject of today's Runners Q&A.


The Warmup






Mary Mondello, mother; Susan Woods, sister; Cindy Seferian, sister (yes, two Cindys)

Day job

Founder/CEO, Restoration Place Counseling ("wearing ALL the hats")

Why I run

"There's that T shirt that says, 'I run around burn the crazy off.' That's probably the No. 1 reason. I am competitive, but I don't feel like I'm good enough to compete in running. I'm not really super-fast. Since I've gotten a little bit older, I won a third place one time or maybe twice. For the longest, I would even say I don't feel like a real runner because I just kind of slog along. Honestly, I do it just because of the way it makes me feel. It's just the stress relief. More for my mental health than for my physical health, but also for my physical health.

Cindy Mondello checking her time after 10 downhill miles at the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon.

"I always worked out. I did step aerobics classes and all that kind of stuff back in the day. I moved to Greensboro in 1997 and joined a gym and was working out. I just happened to live right by the Guilford Military Park. I was trying to run; I'd go a little ways and then I'd peter out. Susan Sutton and two other ladies would run in the afternoon; she was very friendly. She turned around one day and said, 'I see you out there all of the time.' And she just started jogging alongside me. I just kept jogging, and then I'm starting to meet them out there."

The Middle Miles

My running tribe

"This season, it is Rebecca Carter, who I met through May the Course Be with You in 2020.

Cindy Mondello, right, running with Rebecca Carter at the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon in September 2023.

"I enjoy heading out with Thad McLaurin's group. He and I worked together many moons ago before I was in the non-profit counseling world and before he was the RunnerDude.

"Over the years, there have been others – I've run a lot with Mark Teears; his wife is one of my best friends. He just had quadruple bypass in January, so we're not really running right now.

"Susan Sutton is probably the reason I began running consistently in 2001 or so."


"Maybe that I continue to put one foot in front of the other? I have a favorite saying that is not original: 'I run. Slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter. But, I run.' Year after year. I want to be like my sweet friend Patricia Smith, still running at (an undisclosed age)."

My weekly mileage

At this stage of life, I'd say on average around 20, unless I'm adding in extra miles for an upcoming half marathon. I remember the days when I ran two-a-days – back when I was young and dumb!"

Must-have running gear

"A very specific running cap. I've never loved the way I look in running caps, but I purchased one at the Big Sur Half Marathon in 2014. LOVED it. I tracked down the company a few years ago and now have a dozen or so that I hope will carry me through my days."

On my feet

Brooks Ghost

Favorite place to run

"The place with the least number of hills. I do prefer greenways over trails. Weekdays meetup is always the Old Battleground parking lot. Trying to find something different for Saturdays helps break up the monotony."

Pre-race fueling

"I've never had a specific type of pre-race fueling. I'm kind of your average, not-too-competitive kind of gal. But, my BEST pre-race fueling was when I ran Big Beach in Gulf Shores, Ala. (January 2023). Had a reunion with my sisters and Italian cousins and after eating their cooking for a few days, I ran the best half marathon ever. Pre-pre race was Grandma Rosie's meatballs and Suga. Pre-race was New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. Plus homemade focaccia and fried dough plus King Cakes."

Post-race celebration

"Good food: Doesn't really matter what."

How I'm entertained

Click to see the video of Nelly's 'Hot in Here.'

"My running playlist is quite eclectic, from Nelly's 'Hot in Here' to TobyMac's 'Funky Jesus Music,' plus a whole lot of country songs. Outside of running, I listen to my favorite football analysts, New Orleans football. Born and raised in Louisiana, so I'm a HUGE Saints and LSU football fan."

Click to see the video of TobyMac's 'Funky Jesus Music.'

Favorite follows

"I wonder if I'm even a real runner. I don't follow any athletes or other runners, besides my friends. Ha! @nofnetwork (Twitter) and a plethora of cats of Instagram profiles (mostly Ragdolls since I have one); @drennondavis is a favorite on IG."

Favorite mantra

"Hill is spelled w-a-l-k. Not sure if it's a mantra, but it is a favorite saying."

My biggest challenge ...

"Genetically, I had a grandparent who was an alcoholic.  I started drinking in high school. I can remember as a child having a lot of anxiety and feeling like I'm going to come out of my skin.

"And then I started drinking in high school. I liked it. And so I was what you would call a functioning, overachieving alcoholic.

"December 1996 is when I got sober. And it was really just a moment of realizing that something had to change. And that was the first thing. I grew up in church; I grew up a Christian. Didn't really know what that meant, but my faith is a big part of my story as well.

"That was in my fifth year of teaching, and I was just miserable. I was still succeeding at it. All of the things that you think that go along with irresponsible drinking: None of that happened to me yet. But I remember going to bed one night and feeling like this life is not – I didn't have any desire to hurt myself, but I was 29 and I couldn't even see myself five years from now. 'What is my life going to be? This sucks.' I went to bed and woke up about 2:30 in the morning. I didn't have any kind of vision or hear any voices, but I really felt like it was God speaking to me, saying, 'The first thing that has to go is the alcohol.'

"I got up in the middle of the night and I poured everything out. At that point, in my mind, I really surrendered my life back to God. It was one day at a time from there.

"Relapse is a big part of a lot of people's stories. It's part of the disease. I'm just really grateful that hasn't been part of my story, and I don't take that lightly. But I feel like physical activity, exercise, and ultimately running was one thing that has helped me through that journey, especially in the early years."

... and my story now

"I'd say that's why I do what I do. I didn't really set out to be a counselor or have a counseling center. But it was really through my own journey. I got sober. I started finding freedom from the eating disorder. Those dysfunctional behaviors were gone, but my brain still needed some healing. And so I started working with a counselor, and through that I realized, 'Wow, I love this. I love how I see my life changing.' I would love to help other women find the same freedom that I found.'

"I'll go back and get my master's in counseling. And then I quit my full-time job. When I was getting ready to graduate, a couple of things fell into place. Not only did I really want to help girls and women, but so many people can't afford counseling. Somebody gave me the idea, 'If you start a non-profit, then you can offer counseling for really low prices.'

"It's definitely been a journey. And that's one of the reasons I love having the fundraiser that we have, the race, is because I do feel like it's so intertwined. Our physical health and our mental health, our emotional health, and our spiritual health are all very intertwined. And you can't leave that piece out. It's' especially difficult for people who struggle with depression or anxiety to get out there and move their bodies.

"We added back the one mile this year. So we have the 10K, the 5K and then the one mile, because people can do that. It may take them a while, but they can still do it. That's why it's so important, because it's so tied to our mental health."

About that kidney transplant

"I have my two native kidneys and I have my donor's kidney. I got that in December 2018. My dad had the same kidney disorder (polycystic kidney disease) that I have. I had grown up with all of that. He got transplanted in 1995, and I had watched all of that. In 2009, I had some issues and got tested, a CT scan. I thought it was just a kidney stone issue, but that's when the doctor saw that I also had the polycystic kidney disease. For those nine years, we were managing it, but then as it started getting closer, I was like, 'Well, I guess this thing is going to happen.' I ran up until surgery. I was probably walking more than I was running to be honest.

Cindy Mondello at a half marathon in Baton Rouge, La., celebrating her one-year 'kidneyversary' and helping stir the post-race gumbo for runners.

"The really cool thing is that my surgeon is an ultra runner. And so she understood when I asked, 'How soon can I run?' Everybody else on the team said six to eight weeks. She was like, 'Two to three weeks; just go easy.' I had some issues post-transplant, not so much with the kidney but with the medications. And so it took it took a little bit longer. I went for a walk the day after I got out of the hospital. It was probably a month before I really was able to start running a little bit."

The Cooldown

A favorite race

"Wow, so many that I've done, though I haven't done an enormous amount, are favorites for different reasons. To narrow it down, Grand Teton Half Marathon (Jackson Hole, Wy.) for the amazing scenery. Big Cottonwood Half Marathon (Salt Lake City) because I've never run so fast in my life (downhill course)."

My last race

Jekyll Island (Ga.) Half Marathon, Jan. 14.

My next race

"My next race as race director is May the Course Be With You 5K on May 4! My next race to run is TBD. It will be a destination half marathon. I'd like to find one in the Northeast in the fall, as that is an area I've never spent much time in."

Words to the wise

"Your beginning running pace should be slower than your fastest walking pace. Someone told me this many, many years ago, and it really helped me not get overwhelmed when I began to run."

Cindy Mondello refueling at mile 10 of the Rock 'N' Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon in 2008.