Talk about taking motherhood in stride! This summer, distance runner Neely Spence Gracey, along with her two-year-old son, set the Stroller Mile World Record. Yes, there is such a thing and it is quite an accomplishment in itself. But making the record even more impressive, the Boulder, CO, resident accomplished this feat at elevation.
Currently training for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the marathon, Gracey has represented Team USA five times, including at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the Pan American Games. In college, she was an eight-time NCAA DII National Champion. Gracey is the founder of Get Running Coaching and co-authored “Breakthrough Women’s Running: Dream Big and Train Smart.”
With all those accomplishments and background, Running Insight welcomed the chance to learn more about Gracey, her new world record and her love of running.
You shattered the Stroller Mile World Record by more than 30 seconds, coming in at five minutes, 24 seconds, while pushing one of your two sons. Can you share why you decided to go for this record?
There were two key motives for me. First, I’ve been doing the mother runner thing for the past five years and I quickly learned that one of the ways to ensure the miles get done is to stroller run. I’ve put in hundreds of miles with my boys and it’s a special way for us to spend more time together. So it was truly amazing to combine my worlds as a competitive athlete and a mom with the stroller mile world record attempt.
What’s the second reason?
The other reason was to get the word out to other parents that hey, just a reminder, your fitness goals don’t have to end once you have kids. In fact, having a child is a great impetus to be all the more focused on prioritizing health and personal victories.
What do you look for when selecting a stroller?
I broke the record using the Guava Family Roam Stroller. This is my favorite running stroller because it has airless tires, so I never have to worry about getting a flat. It folds up 30 percent smaller than its competitors and we travel a lot, so that is key. I also really like how it easily switches back and forth from swivel (stroll mode) to lock (run mode) which allows it to be more versatile for our family’s active, on-the-go lifestyle.
Our readers may not know that you come from a renowned family of runners. Your father, Steve Spence, won a bronze medal in the 1991 World Championship Marathon, and finished in the top 20 at the Boston Marathon on the day you were born! (Side note: Gracey was the first American female to cross the line in Boston in 2016.) Can you talk about what it was like growing up in a running family and the role running plays in your family’s life now?
I love the story of the day I was born…it never gets old. But now that I am a parent, let me tell you, I would be so mad if my husband missed the birth of one of our kids.
Understood. How did that come about?
I do feel bad about that for my parents. It was just a different world without cell phones and my dad had no idea what was going on.
And with that running start, did running continue to be a part of your growing up?
One of my favorite things about my childhood was how normal it was for us as kids to have our parents running and focusing on their health and fitness. All my siblings run and are fit and active as a result. This is something my husband and I have emulated for our boys. We start each day off with runs and I run the kids to school in the stroller to start their day. We love the together time.
You recently signed a sponsorship deal with Jambar, a new organic energy bar created by Jennifer Maxwell, who co-founded the original PowerBar back in the 1980s. Can you tell us more about this partnership, and fill us in on your nutritional philosophy in general?
It feels so authentic for me to work with Jenny and her new brand Jambar. We are both busy mother runners and I love having healthy and easy snacks to fuel my running and parenting activities. I also love that each flavor is so unique, but my personal favorite is the Chocolate Cha Cha.
And what is your nutritional strategy?
My approach to nutrition is seeking whole foods, reducing added sugars when possible, and leaning into organic and free range/grass fed options when possible. We have no allergies in the family so nothing is off the table, but we always have healthy staples on hand and appreciate when they’re easy, like Jambar.
Runners can be notoriously superstitious when it comes to race day, reading into their bib number or swearing by lucky socks. Do you have any pre-race rituals or good luck charms?
I personally was so superstitious in high school! I had special socks, underwear, hairstyles, exactly what I ate the day before and the day of races. Honestly, I don’t have time for that any more. I do like to get a massage race week, page through my training log and see the work I’ve put in to instill confidence and if I have time, I get my nails done. But on race day, my goal is to just remember the basic essentials. It feels good to be way less obsessive about it all.
You’ve qualified for your fourth U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the marathon, which takes place in February. Can you talk about what training has looked like at different times in your life for this?
I am so excited about this incredible opportunity and proud of myself for being at this point. I qualified for the 5K trials in 2012 and the marathon in 2016, 2020 and now 2024. I’ll be the first to admit that while this streak is impressive, my ability to show up on race day has been subpar.
So how are you approaching this race?
I am feeling so much more confident this time around because I’ve had the most consistent and healthy training. I have running in a place of balance in my life amidst everything else I am doing. Previously, running was everything and I was all in. I learned the hard way that this approach doesn’t work for me. I need to be a lady with many hats and not overly focused in just one area. So here’s to a fun and joyful marathon cycle doing one of the many things I love to do!
Neely Spence Gracey shares her favorite gear…
Shoes: Adizero Pro 3
Socks: Lululemon Macro Pillow Crew Length
Tights: Adidas DailyRun 7/8 tights
Jacket: I hate running in jackets, which is a problem because it’s winter six months of the year in Colorado! My favorite summer sports bra is the Adidas Pocket Bra so I can just pop my phone in and not have to carry it.
Hydration system: Salomon Active Skin 4 vest
Energy bar: Jambar Chocolate Cha Cha
Watch: Garmin 265
Sunscreen: Fre. I love all their products because they’re designed for active women!
Favorite workout toy: MOBO board for single leg stability work