Often, the start of a calendar year means new goals, milestones and expectations.
Shippensburg University alumna Neely Spence Gracey took to the desert to compete in the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix, Arizona Jan. 15, with her goals written on her hand. The writing read, “Find, Focus, Fight, Finish.”
Spence Gracey achieved all her goals and much more, breaking the tape in the half marathon. Spence Gracey finished first among women and 17th overall, covering the course with a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 39 seconds.
“My goal was to go out and run hard and get a good idea of where my fitness is so I can build from there,” Spence Gracey said. “Last year I started out my season at the New Orleans Half Marathon, running a 1:14, and this year I started out with a 1:12, so I’m happy about that.”
With the win, Spence Gracey started her season out in spectacular fashion.
“I’ll always take a win. It’s always a good feeling to be the one to break the tape,” Spence Gracey said.
The race was also the first race of the new year for Spence Gracey, and her first race since running the New York City Marathon back in November.
Running in Arizona was also a change for Spence Gracey, who had more recently been competing in races in colder climates. Spence Gracey was prepared for a warm day, but the weather worked in her favor.
“I was expecting it to be warmer than it was. It ended up being overcast and in the 50’s so it was pretty much perfect,” Spence Gracey said. “There was a little bit of wind but I just tried to work with the guys I was running with and not take the full front of the wind. Overall, I have nothing to complain about with weather and I’m hoping that things continue that way.”
The win showed Spence Gracey that she has improved, while her focus remains on being consistent.
“Consistency is such an important part of the sport, and for me, I’ve had a quite a few good seasons in a row now, and I think that they're coming off one after the other,” Spence Gracey said. “Even though I took some time off to get out of shape after New York, I was able to get back into shape quicker than I have in the past and I hope that ultimately by the end of the season I’ll be that much fitter and stronger.”
Spence Gracey now shifts her focus to speed work, while focusing on 5K and 10K races, as well as other small distance races in between.
Spence Gracey’s upcoming schedule consists of the Rock N’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon, the 15K US Championships in Jacksonville, also known as The Gate River Run, The Carlsbad 5K, the US Championships Half Marathon in Columbus, the US 25K Championships in Michigan, followed by the Boulder Boulder altitude 10K to end her spring season.
“My goal next is the Rock N’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon, which is the one I opened up my season with last year,” Spence Gracey said. “It will be a nice gauge of fitness, comparing to where I was last year to this year.”
For Spence Gracey, the 2017 season is one that is full of optimism. Spence Gracey has achieved a lot of success in recent years and hopes to use this season to improve on her speed. This season is just one more stepping stone in preparing to attempt to earn a spot to represent Team USA in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
With outstanding resolve, Spence Gracey’s goal of reaching the Olympics is not farfetched. Spence Gracey will run in the Rock N’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon on Feb. 5.