New York City is known for being full of busy lifestyles, heavy traffic and millions of people.
On Sunday morning, roads and bridges were blocked off and traffic was replaced with some of the world’s most prestigious runners, lining the streets with high hopes and an endless amount of anticipation for one of the world’s most prolific races.
When the clock hit 9:20 a.m., the New York City Marathon was under way. Among the races’ top finishers was Shippensburg University alumna Neely Spence Gracey.
In her last race of the 2016 calendar year, Gracey impressed, conquering the marathon’s treacherous hills while earning a personal record in the marathon with a time of 2:34:55. Gracey’s time was five seconds faster than her finish in Boston.
Gracey’s time put her in eighth among women — second among American finishers.
“I was so happy to get to the finish line and was extremely happy I moved up a place from Boston,” Gracey said, referring to her ninth-place finish among women in the 2016 Boston Marathon.
Getting to the finish line, however, was a challenge for the former Raider standout.
“I felt really strong and smooth until about mile 20,” Gracey said. “There was a strong headwind and I had run by myself until I reached a group ahead of me, and found myself in what we call ‘no man’s land.’ I found that I really needed more sugars and energy near the end.”
This is something that runners call, “hitting a wall.”
“I ran out of sugars at the end and hit a wall,” Gracey said. “It affected my pace starting at mile 20, where I started running six-minute miles instead of five-minute miles. It was the exact opposite of Boston where I started out slow and finished strong. It definitely was not ideal.”
Even with the challenges of the New York Marathon course, Gracey felt confident in her ability to manage one of the more difficult marathon courses, which like Boston featured numerous hills.
“The course is definitely challenging and I felt that up until the last two miles, I managed the course well. I wanted a Top 10 finish and a Top 5 finish among Americans and I got it,” Gracey said.
She was also pleased with her recovery from the wear and tear of a 26.2-mile race on the body.
“I feel pretty good,” Gracey said. “My husband and I were doing a lot of touring around New York City today and walking has helped me loosen up a bit.”
Gracey also expressed her excitement of going to get her favorite post-race recovery food — ice cream.
“I always go for ice cream after a big race,” Gracey said. “It’s my favorite post race food.”
Along with the ice cream, the final race of the season for Gracey was sweet. With Olympic expectations for 2020, Gracey is ready to re-evaluate her goals after some time off.
“I am thinking of taking some time off and running either a marathon or half-marathon next year,” Gracey said. “I have some races in mind, but I am really looking at taking any opportunities that come to me.”
Gracey is currently setting her sights on April of 2017, with the Boston Marathon being one of numerous possibilities for her next races. Gracey also expressed interest in some races in Europe.
While it is uncertain when Gracey’s next race will be, there is one thing that is certain — with her motivation and consistent strong performances, there is no mountain too high for the former Raider to climb.