Neely Gracey Proves Mother Runners Can Dream Big 

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If you have been following the women’s distance running scene over the past decade or so, the name Neely Gracey may ring a bell. 

She may even be a household name in your home, as Neely Gracey has been winning races, sharing stories of injuries and triumphs, and providing young women and now mothers hope for returning to the sport after injury and staying competitive as a mother runner, respectively, for years at this point.

Now a mother of two, Neely Gracey has fully embraced what it means to be a mother runner, and instead of seeing this chapter of her running career take more of a recreational bend, Neely seems to be as fit, fast, competitive, and aspirational as ever.

At the end of this month, Neely Gracey is planning to take a stab at the world record for running a mile while pushing a stroller.

We had the opportunity to speak with superstar mother runner Neely Gracey to learn more about her goal to break the world record stroller mile as well as what it is like to train as a mother runner, tips for other mothers who are trying to balance running and motherhood (and everything else in life!), and so much more.

Keep reading to learn all about Neely Gracey’s running career—past, present, and future—and tips for running as a parent.

Who Is Neely Gracey?

Neely Gracey is a professional marathon racer, running coach, and the author of Breakthrough Women’s Running: Dream Big and Train Smart and the Head of Running at Guava Family.

She has been a competitive runner for decades at this point, but even though she has two children of her own now, Neely is still chasing big goals and running faster than ever.

In this way, Neely Gracey is living proof that becoming a parent doesn’t have to “take you out” of the competitive game, and parents can still find ways to balance high-level running, parenthood, and every other responsibility in life.

Neely’s Foray Into Running and Running Accomplishments

After first taking up running at age 13 as an eighth grader, Neely Gracey is now in her 20th year of running and competing at a high level in the sport.

Even though she had to work hard at it, Neely said that she quickly saw success once she started formally running in eighth grade.

“I loved working hard and seeing results and my passion for the sport grew,” she said.

Neely shared some of her proudest running accomplishments to date, noting:

“I’ve had some really special races over the years, winning nationals in the 2-mile my senior year of high school, setting a D2 record in the Distance Medley Relay my freshman year of college, being the top American at the World Cross Country Championships in Poland, becoming the 11th American female to ever break 70 minutes in the half marathon, finishing 9th at the Boston Marathon, and most recently, qualifying for my 4th Olympic Trials and running a personal best at the California International Marathon in December 2022.”

Neely Gracey’s personal best times:

● Marathon: 2:30 (2022)

● Half Marathon: 1:09 (2015)

● 10k 32:16 (2012)

● 5k 15:25 (2015)

● Mile 4:36 (2015)

Neely’s Take On Postpartum Running

Neely says that even though there are some challenges to postpartum running compared to training professionally before she had the responsibility of raising her beautiful children, she has actually found that postpartum running has been a blessing.

“Prior to having kids, I definitely slept a lot more, and had more time to dedicate to ‘the little things’ in training like lifting, massage, mobility, core, PT, chiro, but I was too invested. It was very draining and zapped some joy in the sport for me,” she confesses. “I have blossomed [by] letting go and having more fun with training and competing since having kids.”

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Image Credit: Guava Family

She explains that part of this “blossoming“ or renewal and rejuvenation of the sport of running centers around a change in perspective towards one characterized by greater balance.

“My perspective is a lot healthier because, at the end of the day, I am more than just a runner,” shares Neely.

Neely explains that she also focuses more on recovery now.

“After having my first, there was a huge identity crisis shift that had to happen and learning how to adjust training to meet what I could do vs trying to train just as I had before,” recalls Neely. “I run less miles, do one workout a week instead of two, and emphasize recovery more than ever…and it’s working!”

What Is Neely Gracey’s Training Like?

Neely says that she currently runs between 60-80 miles a week with quality work mixed in.

“On Wednesdays, I do workouts, Saturday, I do a long run, and Sunday, I run super easy and short, usually with the stroller,” says Neely. “The other days are just easy miles that I can fit in around school drop-off and coaching.”

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Image Credit: Guava Family

This weekly mileage likely sounds quite high for most recreational runners, but it’s actually quite a step down for Neely. 

As a professional runner before having kids, she ran 80-110 miles a week with a speed workout on Wednesday and Friday.

Neely’s Tips for Staying Motivated as a Mother Runner With Kids

If you’re a parent yourself, you likely know that finding the motivation to train when you are tired and pulled in all sorts of directions with your kids, work, lack of sleep, etc.

Neely says she finds lots of ways to stay motivated to run and work running into her life.

“I’m very self-motivated, so that is a gift, but for me, it’s more important than ever to have that time for my own pursuits. I clear my mind, have the ‘me time’ to deposit effort into my goals, run with friends for some social interaction, run while talking on the phone to catch up with my friends and family,” explains Neely.

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Image Credit: Guava Family

“It’s all about locking into the routine. I run every day around 8:00 in the morning,” shares Neely. “My alarm is always set for 6:30, and my day starts with my run so then the rest of the day can be focused on coaching and the kids/family stuff.”

Neely Gracey’s Advice to New Moms for Running

Neely shared some advice she would now give her younger self:

“I wish I could have let go of comparison to others and to my younger self a lot earlier.”

This seems like valuable advice for any runner—young or old, whether you have children or not.

She also has advice for new moms who want to get back to running postpartum.

“For new moms, my advice is this is your journey. Every pregnancy will be different. Every person will be different,” advises Neely. “I found my second pregnancy so much more joyful, memorable, and pleasant than my first, because I fully embraced the ride, even the post-partum ride. Let go of comparison as much as you can!”

Neely Gracey’s Next Running Goal

Neely Gracey excitedly shared that on June 30, 2023, she is going to attempt the women’s Guinness World Record for the fastest mile with a stroller. 

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Image Credit: Guava Family

“Last August, I heard about the men’s stroller record getting broken and the seed was planted. I am the mom that runs my kids to school every day in the stroller,” shares Neely. “It feels so authentic to me to chase this record and to include my kids since they’re a big part of my training. I am excited to have it all come together.”

You can follow Neely on her Instagram account to watch her journey to set the world record stroller mile at the end of the month!

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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