Meet Strider: Neely Gracey's Ace in the Hole

In 2013, competitor.com predicted that Neely Spence Gracey was poised to become the next great American runner. An eight-time NCAA Division II national champion, Neely turned Pro in December of 2011. She is now a professional runner for Adidas, coach, and mom. She is also the top American finisher at the Boston Marathon. A resident of Boulder, Colorado, she has her sights set on running a marathon in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo (now postponed to July 23, 2021). What's her ace in the hole? From our perspective, it might just be her dog.

When we were first introduced to Neely, she had just adopted a Vizsla puppy who she has since trained to be her running partner. We asked Neely to take some time out from her busy schedule to tell us all about it.

Here's what Neely had to say ...

The name came to us long before the pup, as a nerdy running couple we picked out the Vizsla breed in 2010 when Runner’s World had an article regarding the best breed of dog for a training partner. We bounced around names like Dash, Chase, Miles, Cruise, and then my little brother was reading The Lord of The Rings, and he suggested Strider. It stuck in our mind and 5 years later, we picked up a squirmy 8week old puppy and we knew it was the perfect name for her.

So obviously, running is a big part of our lives. My husband and I moved to Colorado in January after spending 5 summers here for training. We love the Boulder area, the mountains, the athletic environment, the many running friends, and the trails. We started dating in college at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania where we both ran for the cross-country and track and field teams. I signed a Pro contract, and immediately after graduation began my career as a distance runner. Fast forward several years, and I am an Adidas athlete, a personal coach, and pursuing my first attempt at an Olympic Team. I will be racing my debut marathon in the 2016 Olympic Trials this February.

When Strider was 6 months old, she would run up to 10 minutes a few days per week. We started as soon as we got her doing little walk/jog fartleks but nothing more than 20-30 seconds at a time. It is all about getting her used to it, having her trained to listen, and preparing her to ignore distractions when we are “working."

We have been using the Iron Doggy™ SideKick leash, and loving it! It has made a huge difference for me because it doesn’t impede my form since I don’t have to carry anything. We have to be cautious and build up her mileage very slowly until she is done growing, but as a coach, I fully understand the progression and need for her to be strong and able to handle the stress. Right now we are having fun, she is learning how to run safely by my side, and we have many miles ahead of us when the time is right.

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