Q and A with an ELITE

I hope you all are having an amazing Saturday!! I am hanging with my familia and eating donuts (seriously, does life get better than that?) so I have a super awesome interview for you!  Neely Spence is just 22 years old and has won PIAA and NCAA Championships!  Neely is now part of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project.   Her PR for the 5000 meter is 15:27.72….CRAZY SPEEDY!  She qualified for the Olympic Trials but because of a stress fracture earlier on in the year she was not able to compete.   She says she is already working towards getting to the next Olympic games!

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1.  What have been some of your absolute favorite running moments?

In college, I had the privilege of anchoring our DMR team indoors. My favorite racing moments are from those NCAA events where all four of us worked together toward a common goal. There is just something magical about sharing the experience of an NCAA title with teammates.

But, as any runner knows, we spend a lot more time “behind the scenes” than competing. I love getting up for those crisp fall morning runs and breathing in the cool oxygen rich air. I love the feeling of wearing brand new shoes and the cushioning makes you feel like you’re running on clouds. I love the funny comments people say when I’m out on a run. I love being tired at night and knowing that when I wake up the first thing I will do is what I love… RUN!


2 NeelySpence XCchamp

2.  How did you mentally overcome the stress fracture in your foot? What advice do you have for runners to help them to mentally deal with injuries?

This was my first serious injury. There is never a good time to be injured. But, unfortunately, it seems inevitable in our sport so the key is to make the most of that time away form running to focus on weaknesses and the things that you may neglect when your mileage is up. Whether it’s cross-training, lifting, stretching, PT, massage, a mental break from all things running, a time to redevelop your love of basket weaving, then do those things that help you stay happy.  I am not a good swimmer, but getting in the pool really helped me loosen my muscles and relax my body and mind during the injury. I don’t swim hard, but I have continued to use this “therapy” as a means of recovery.

 3.  What are some of your future running goals?

I was qualified for this years Olympic Trials, and it was devastating to not be on the track in June. Thanks to Brooks and Hansons, I was able to attend the trials and watch the events. I now know what to expect in four years, and Rio 2016 is definitely on my goal list. Until then, there are lots of national and international opportunities and I am excited to see what comes my way. My racing season is now just beginning, so this fall will be the starting point for what is to come!

 4. What made you start running? What keeps you running now?

I grew up in a running-focused household. My dad was a professional marathoner, and my mom held a 5k PR of 17:00. Running was part of our daily routine; it was just what we did as a family. My competitive career began when I watched the Footlocker CC meet on TV in 8th grade. I was amazed. I asked my dad how those girls got there, and he said “they ran really fast”. I told him that’s what I wanted to do too, and well, the rest is history. Since then I keep setting higher goals, progressing with my own training, learning, and now developing this passion into a career that I hope is long-lasting and fulfilling.

 5. Does your Dad play a big role in your running success?

My dad has taught me pretty much everything I know about the sport. He has been the number one contributor towards my achievements. I have been developed very slowly from the beginning with a progression towards an extended career. He understands, having been at each level himself, and I trust him because he knows me as both an athlete and person.


NeelySpence withDad

6. Do you think you will ever compete in the marathon? 

Absolutely. I was born while my dad was running Boston. He didn’t find out until after the race! I have aspirations to run Boston one day, and others as well J Part of the reason why Hansons was a good match for me. They understand that it is several years down the road though.

 7. What does a week of training look like for you?

Each year I have progressed, and after nine years of running, I can finally say I have done a week over 80 miles! Typically I am around 70 with two workouts, a long run, and a few doubles. Maybe something like this:

S-90min long run

M-60min AM 30min PM

T-45min AM 30min PM


TH-60min AM 30min PM



 8. What are some nutrition tips that you have for runners?

Everything in balance. I learned this the hard way by being raised vegetarian and then suffering from low iron. I now eat everything, but save the “safe foods” for before a run. I have found that everyone is different with what works for them before a run, but if it works, stick with it. So many people get caught up in the nutrition thing, but I think it can be quite simple. Listen to your body, use the time right after a run to get in a good amount of protein, and don’t be afraid to treat yourself at the end of the day. I always keep ice cream in the freezer!

9.  What are three pieces of running gear that you can’t live without?

Shout out to Garmin, Oakleys, and the Brooks Launch running shoes! Absolutely my necessities J

 10. Outside of running, what are some things that you do to make yourself a better runner? Do you cross train?

I have now incorporated swimming into my routine as discussed above. I also was introduced to the ElliptiGO during my injury and have continued to use this awesome piece of evolutionary equipment to benefit me. I try to lift twice a week to maintain strength, and do some level of core work nearly every day. But the little things like sleeping, wearing supportive shoes, not over-committing, hydrating, and listening to my body’s needs are what helps me the most!


Will you answer one of the questions that I asked Neely?!?!?

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I thought her name sounded familar! I, too, went to Ship, but only my freshman year, and many years ago! I currently live just a half-hour away from campus. Pretty cool!


What an amazing athlete! Great interview too. :) Neely seems so grounded, but yet very focused. Very impressive for someone so young!


Thank you! I appreciate the positive feedback :)


Just looked up the ElliptiGO – wow what an amazing piece of equipment! When I hit the lottery I’m going to get one. :)

A running goal I am looking forward to is completing my Tower of Terror 10 miler at the end of the month and my half marathon in November!


I am so pumped you got to interview Neely! I competed against her all the time in college(we were in the same conference) and needless to say she kicked my butt! I love following her and an so excited that she is now a pro runner!


Wow!! What an amazing interview! What an incredibly athlete!! She seems like such a lovely, down-to-earth, super motivated lady. I love how her approach seems so relaxed, and yet she probably kills it all. I’d love to be able to emulate her attitude. She seems to really just take everything in stride as she continues to stride forward. I needed this inspiration today for sure!! :)


You are so kind. Thanks :) I just love what I do, and that allows me to embrace it. Not every day is easy, but having goals helps keep me on track.


Great interview!


This was fun to read, thanks for posting the interview!


Omg I was so shocked when I read you interviewed Neely because I met her in July. My husband runs for Brooks-Hansons and we’re moving on to Michigan in a few days. Small world! :)


HEY!!! Ran with Colby yesterday, congrats on the wedding and would love to see you. Still have my number?


So cool to hear stories like this!


Great pieces of info! Thanks so much for this one.


How inspiring!! I’ll definitely be looking out for her in Rio!


wishing all the best to neely!
#9: my ipod shuffle, a hairband and compression socks!
enjoy your weekend, janae!


Such a fun interview! She’s beyond cute and it’ll be fun to look for her name in the upcoming years and at Rio!

4. What made you start running? What keeps you running now? I’ve never been athletic, but always envied athletic bodies and just girl runners who were in great shape. I’ve been overweight my whole life and finally a year a half ago, I decided to change that and hopefully never yo-yo back to my starting weight again. I’m not coordinated with sports, so running seemed like the easiest fit for me. I stumbled upon SkinnyRunner’s blog a few months before I became committed to losing the weight and living a healthier, happier lifestyle. I fell in love with someone who had such a passion for life and running and still being funny and crazy. One day, her links sent me to your blog, and you two daily keep me excited about the sport. I’ve really progressed from not being able to run a .25 of a mile, to now my longest run being 10 miles!! I’m currently working towards a half in November, but I want to do a full after than. And then I just want to keep doing other races. I’m not fast, but I love exercise now and after losing 50 pounds, love the energy and confidence I have in myself. (haha gosh, I’m getting sappy and Biggest-Loser-esque here). Anyway, you play a big role in my motivation and inspiration! :) So thanks!


Great interview!! I especially loved her answers to the first question, it made me crave a crisp fall morning run!! I’m excited to read more about Neely, I think we’ll see lots more of her in the future! Thanks for sharing a great interview :)


I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I just got on today to catch up when I saw this post. I went to Shippensburg University and worked for the athletic department, so I have always followed Neely! SO exciting to see a familiar face on your blog. Love the interview questions. And by the way, for those who wonder, Neely is as down to earth as she comes across in this blog. :) Thanks again for sharing!


Another inspiring post, thanks!


What a cool athlete, and such a great interview. Very inspiring! To answer #9… my running capris, a great pair of shoes, and my Bondi Band. (LOVE those headbands!)


I have heard so much about Neely. My boyfriend lived in Chambersburg which is really close to Shipp. Such an inspirational woman and I can only hope for the best at Rio. I know you qualify Neely and as weird as this is-hearing all about your running inspires me so much!


Thanks! I was actually born in Chbg… cool connections :) and i appreciate the support.


Awesome interview! My dad is actually friends with her dad from their Ship days. When I decided I wanted to run a marathon, my dad took me to meet Mr. Spence so he could check out my running form and give me some tips (basically an excuse to go visit with a buddy at their old stomping grounds). Mr. Spence was so nice and helpful, and although I don’t know Neely, I have been hearing about her accomplishments for years and she has had such an impressive career already. It will be so cool to watch her in Rio (fingers crossed)!


Thank you Janae and the hungryrunnergirl for the great interview questions :) I enjoyed answering them and appreciate the positive comments it has generated.


Neely is a lovely, inspiring young woman. What a joy to read this interview!


Favorite running memories: being able to run for 30 minutes w/o stopping, my first 10K, my first half, anytime I run with a smile on my face. :-)

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