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November 3, 2016

Neely Gracey

New York, New York

Q. So this is your second marathon. Top American in Boston. What did you learn from that experience? What have you learned in this buildup from the first one?
NEELY GRACEY: I think every race presents new challenges and new opportunities, and so just taking years of experience of racing and applying that to Boston, I think really helped me, and I feel very prepared for the race. Now that I've done the marathon distance once, I can definitely use that experience as I prepare for the New York Marathon on Sunday.

Q. Is there anything specific you learned that you've taken into the buildup for this marathon?
NEELY GRACEY: I think the biggest thing with the marathon is learning how to hold focus for so long. I remember finishing Boston, and physically, I felt pretty fine. I honestly didn't really get that sore. I felt like I could have gone and run the next day, no problem, but mentally I was very fatigued. So it took me a solid week or two after Boston to sort of, I think, let my mind recover. So that's been a really big part of my preparation for New York this year is to train the mind to stay focused and to be able to handle staying mentally in the game for all 26 miles.

Q. Do you consider the heat in Boston and the time at 2:35 might not be reflective of what you're capable of?
NEELY GRACEY: Honestly, time is obviously very important, but I think the biggest thing is showing up on race day and competing, and I feel like I did that at Boston. Honestly, it was my first marathon. I don't know any different. I understand, as an athlete and as a coach, that heat does play a big factor in time. However, I've never run a marathon in good conditions. So my goal is just to go out there and to run the best race that I could on that day, and that's my goal for this weekend as well.

Q. I was talking to your coach Steve Magness earlier this week, and he said that he felt like in your first buildup, you were sort of a half marathoner who ends up doing the marathon. Now do you view yourself as a marathoner?
NEELY GRACEY: Once I completed the Boston Marathon, I said, okay, now I officially can call myself a marathoner. I don't have a 26.2 sticker on my car, though. So I don't know if that makes me legit yet.

Q. Who are your training partners?
NEELY GRACEY: I live in the Boulder, Colorado area so I have a really nice network of people I can run with. I'm not affiliated with any teams there. I call myself sort of Team Boulder. I just like to float around, and whoever is running something similar to what I'm running that day, then I jump in and join them. I do a lot of workouts solo, and I have some guys who help me out. So I think the biggest thing for me is, when I look back on all my training, the amount of support I have and how running's just maintained to be something that's really fun to me as well as my career.

Q. When you say guys, are there like men?
NEELY GRACEY: Yeah. So this past season in my preparation for New York, I had two guys who consistently did workouts with me. The one would drive about an hour and a half each way to meet up with me at 7:00 a.m. for morning workouts. So that's really amazing to me, and I'm very grateful for that support that's behind the scenes that, when I'm out there racing on Sunday, it's just me and myself running against the competition. But there's so many miles with a lot of people who have helped me along the way.

Q. Is it easier to find male training partners who are about your pace versus women?
NEELY GRACEY: In Boulder, there's a lot of elite women. However, a lot of them are doing their own training for their own specific purposes and their own specific goals. So Cameron, my training partner this fall, he is training for Boston, and so this is just sort of base work, whatever he gets in, he's happy with because his training doesn't become specific until much later.

Q. How often does Magness meet with you?
NEELY GRACEY: Usually, I get to meet up with Steve two to three times a year for training. He and my husband keep in contact, and they work together. My husband is there on a consistent basis with me, so Steve is a little more behind the scenes but easily accessible and supportive along the way.

Q. What's your goal for Sunday?
NEELY GRACEY: My goal for Sunday, I have, of course, a handful of goals. I always like to go in with a couple different goals laid out. First of all, I just want to PR and apply the experience that I learned in Boston to running. I really want to focus on running my own race, and I think I got a little bit complacent during Boston where I should have maybe made a break and run by myself a bit more, but that was too scary. So I held back, and then all of a sudden, I had to really push hard the last four miles to meet my goal of 2:35.

So I think that I need to try and even that effort out a bit more for New York.

Q. What's the most interesting bit of advice you've gotten on running New York? This is your first New York City Marathon.
NEELY GRACEY: It is. You know, this is probably pretty normal advice, but respect the bridges. I think I was actually on the taxi ride with Kara Goucher last night to the hotel, and I was trying to get some advice from her, and she said, the year she ran the American course record here, her first mile was 6:30, and she said she panicked. She was like, well, there goes the record. It's over. She's like, and then I went on and broke the record by a minute. So I thought that was really helpful information to not panic for that first mile and just sort of let the race happen.

Q. [ No microphone ]?
NEELY GRACEY: And she said you're standing on the starting line freezing until it starts. So you have to warm up all over again.

Q. Talk about your training. What's the hardest training session you've done?
NEELY GRACEY: I did a 22 1/2 mile run, and I'd say that was probably the hardest. It was my first week at 7,000 feet. So I did a higher altitude stint. I live in Boulder, which is about 5,200 feet.

Q. Where was that?
NEELY GRACEY: It was in Monument near Colorado Springs. So that's at 7,000 feet. And I found that -- you know, my goal was to progress into the long run, and I had fluids set up at the bottom of the hill so that way I do two miles one direction, two miles back, pick up my bottle, and have to run hard up the hill to simulate taking fluids while I was running hard.

So I think that really helped, but that's probably the hardest run I've had this buildup, where the last four miles I really tried to push the effort and the pace. When I finished the race, I almost felt sick, like physically. So that's the first time I've ever had that happen during a workout that I was able to push myself that hard for that long. I think that really helped prepare me for the marathon distance.

Q. [ No microphone ].
NEELY GRACEY: No, it wasn't at marathon pace at all because it was at 7,000 feet.

Q. But a marathon effort?
NEELY GRACEY: Yes, a hard effort.

Q. [ No microphone ].
NEELY GRACEY: Yes, each mile I cut down, and I think I finished at under six minutes. I was really happy with that workout, and that helped me give me some confidence. All of my markers, like the standard workouts I do during a segment, have been better than they were during my buildup for Boston. So that's also been encouraging.

Q. What sort of surface? Was this on a paved surface or on dirt?
NEELY GRACEY: No, it was all dirt, and it was rolling. So I think I had over 1,000 feet gain during the whole run. I did two miles out, two miles back, got a water bottle and just kept going.

Q. What were some of the big take-aways after Boston?
NEELY GRACEY: Some of the things I took away from Boston was to trust your training, trust the people who are around who you definitely -- who have seen your progress. So I think that was really important, and I think also accepting where you are. We all want to be better, and we all want to push farther and faster and harder. The thing I learned about Boston was that it's best to run to your ability on that day.

With the heat and the wind at Boston, that's what I did, and I in no way expected to have the winner run 2:29 when there was a 2:18 girl in the race. So it's just all about competing on that day, and that's pretty much my goal when I go into any race is maximizing myself on that day to get the best results I can.

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