Neely Spence is on the up and up in the running world. She has had a successful collegiate career – both athletically and academically and has just completed her first season running professionally for Hansons-Brooks.
Neely had a slight set back in 2012 having to withdraw from the Team USA Olympic Trials process due to an un-diagnosed stress fracture in her foot. This being said she used her recovery time well and finished the year as the first American woman to win the Zapotek 10,000 in Australia, clocking an impressive 32:16.51 and closing out a year in which she also managed an impressive debut 2nd place at the USATF 5k Road Running Championships in Rhode Island.
At the age of 22 it is fair to assume that we will be seeing quite a bit of Neely Spence in the future, be that on the track at 5000 and 10,000m or on the roads at varying distances! It has been noted elsewhere that Neely has not ruled out the possibility of following in her father’s footsteps and stepping up to the marathon at some point in her fledgling career. Watch this space!
When did you start running and did you have any particular reasons for starting?
I began training and racing competitively in the middle of 8th grade. I have grown up in a running family, so it’s always been a part of my life, but my 8 year old twin sisters started running and I couldn’t let them beat me! I had been running for a month when the High School Footlocker Cross Country Championships were on TV. When I watched the race, I told my dad I wanted to get fast enough to go. He put together a training plan and it all began.
If you could run with and/or race anyone, anywhere who would it be and where? Over what distance and on which surface?
This wish already came true! I raced my dad this November in an 8k road race and won! It Was so special running beside him, me as a young pro, and my dad as a 50 year old. He talked smack on me all week, so the win was super sweet! He obviously gave me his competitive genes.
Running wise, who do you look up to and who has inspired you?
Again, my dad has been a huge influence in my running. His life as a runner inspired me to chase the same dreams. I also look up to many pro women who over the years have become more than just a name beside a record; they have become competitors and friends. It’s been really neat getting to know and learn from athletes who I aspire to be like.
What are your favourite training conditions and are they the same as your favourite racing conditions?
I absolutely love clear skies, low humidity, and sunshine. I have trained in Boulder, Colorado for two summers and love the weather and athletic atmosphere, but the altitude makes racing not so fun. So 60s and clear is my fave, but hey, if it was awesome weather all the time we wouldn’t appreciate it, so I like whatever is thrown my way on race day because I will use my strengths no matter what!
What is your fondest memory of running and, conversely, your worst?
I will start with the worst to end on a positive note. My ninth grade year, I raced at Penn Relays in the Olympic development 5k. Each lap felt harder, and I was progressively getting slower. I got lapped by multiple people, and with 800 meters to go, my dad pulled me off the track. I cried the rest of the night I was so embarrassed. The next morning, I woke up with the stomach flu and threw up 31 times. That was the end of that track season.
One of my fondest memories is my first NCAA championship title where the Shippensburg Distance Medley Relay Team broke the DII record in Houston, TX. It was so special to share it with my teammates and there is something beautiful about each leg of the relay focused on the same goal.
Where do you see yourself in six years?
Running of course!