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Interview with Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project Athlete Neely Spence

by Meghann on September 4, 2012

Everyone always mentions “breakfast for dinner” but what about “breakfast for lunch?” That works too.


Two scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese.


One piece of toast with mashed avocado.


And apple slices.


See? Amazing.

Interview with Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project Athlete Neely Spence

Neely Spence is a Cross Country and track rock star. She recently went pro with Hansons-Brooks and unfortunately had to scratch out of the Olympic trials due to a broken foot injury. Now she’s fully recovered and ready to take on the upcoming USA 5k and 10k championships. I recently had a chance to interview the rising 22-year old runner on everything from her favorite workouts to what it’s like to bounce back from an injury. Here’s what she had to say:


1. You’ve done both cross country and track, which is your favorite?

I like different aspects of each sport. Cross-country has a way of unifying a team and creating special memories in a close knit group. I like the variation of the courses and terrain, but sometimes it can be frustrating. Last year for example, I raced in Edinburgh, Scotland. The course was a mess, 6 inch mud, sharp turns, steep hills, log barriers, and creeks. On the final turn, I felt something snap in my foot, and it is what prevented me from competing the past six months.

Track has a rhythm, this can be good and bad. If I am having a good day, I love it! If not, I know immediately because of the constant feedback on pace. The team dynamic is different in track because in college there were over 100 people on the team. So it wasn’t as tight of a group as cross country. Over all, I just love to run, I enjoy both the course and the track, but I am beginning to love the roads so I may have a new favorite!

2. I’m always impressed with track runners who can complete 5000 meters+ running in circles. How do you keep yourself mentally entertained while keeping track of what lap you’re on?

We practice this every day during workouts, so by the time we are racing, we know exactly what our splits should be for every lap. I focus on my breathing, my position, my form, and the laps just whiz by. The only time I was slightly confused was during Mt. SAC last year when I ran a 30+ second PR… I just wasn’t used to seeing such fast times on the clock!


3. You were sidelined last year with an injury. How did you deal with the emotional side of not being able to train?

I had an ElliptiGO and just shifted to doing all my training on that. I was able to get outside, and just went off of time using my Garmin to track my miles, pace, and heart rate. This greatly benefited me both physically and emotionally. It was still tough to not be able to run, but it was definitely better than nothing!

4. What’s your secret to coming back after an injury?

There is no real secret or everyone would do it. Understanding that everyone is different, and the key is to listen to your body and what it is telling you. Also, to spend the time while you are injured developing a plan and support system for the long road back to full strength. That way, once you are able, you can begin to progressively work into training again.

5. What’s your favorite speed workout?

I enjoy fartleks. Running hard up and down rolling hills, pushing myself, and listening more to my breathing, and rhythm than my watch. I like to do the standard 2x30sec, 2x1min, 2x3min, 1x5min, 2x3min, 2x1min, 2x30sec. I always feel confident afterwards.


6. Do you have any specific goals for the coming year?

Who’s a runner without a goal? Of course! I am so happy to be back to full training… in fact, training more than ever before. I hit one goal already, and that was to get in over 80miles in a week. But in terms of racing, I am preparing for the USA 5k and 10k road championships and am excited to rock the Hansons-Brooks jersey in New England. After that, I will be racing in NYC at the Dash to the Finish 5k the day before the INGNYC marathon. I hope to test myself, see how I am responding to the new mileage, and gain valuable experience that will lead to more success in the future. Ultimately making national and international teams are a huge goal, and hopefully will begin happening this fall as I seek a spot on USA Ekiden relay team in Japan.

7. You recently signed with Hanson-Brooks, how do you feel coming on board as a track runner?

This was something that was discussed before I joined the team, though I certainly have aspirations for the marathon, I have yet to race a 10k! So, I am working on the shorter distances and plan to accomplish all my goals there first before I begin to move up. I see it as a continuation of my progression.. I was a 1 and 2 miler in high school, a 5k runner in college, and naturally I will just keep building.

1 Lauren September 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm

So proud she is a shippensburg alum, like myself! Our PRs are *slightly* different though.

2 Cait September 5, 2012 at 7:44 am

yay for Ship alum!! 🙂

3 Annette @FitnessPerks September 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Yay! Love this. So inspiring to see athletes GO for goals & break records 🙂
Annette @FitnessPerks recently posted..Head To Bed, Not For The Sugary Snacks

4 Emily@SavoryandSavage September 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Oh, I love interviews with runners! Especially when they talk about how they deal with injuries.
Emily@SavoryandSavage recently posted..Chicken Tzatziki Salad

5 Emily N September 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Thanks for posting this. It was great to read and see that although our paces are very different, in some ways, we have similar goals!
Emily N recently posted..September = Fall

6 Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale September 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Neely is quickly becoming one of my favourite runners — her enthusiasm about the sport is just so genuine. She sounds like she has such excellent perspective on her training. She’s so humble, and you can tell that really, she just LOVES to run! What a great interview!!
Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale recently posted..Wearing Out My Second Wind

7 Cait September 5, 2012 at 7:42 am

how cool! I am a Ship grad as well.. I thought I recognized the name!!

8 Nikki September 5, 2012 at 8:53 am

This is so cool! I know Neely! She went to school with me and is awesome 🙂 Such an inspiring athlete! And I used to see her on her ElliptiGO all of the time and would watch her out of jealousy!
Nikki recently posted..WIAW: Three Days at Home

9 abbi September 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Loved reading this interview on someone considered a somewhat ‘local’ runner!
abbi recently posted..August Recap

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