For most people, running a sub-six-minute mile in any capacity would be quite the feat. And adding a stroller and baby to the mix? Forget about it. But one Colorado mom did just that, setting the Guinness World Record for fastest mile while pushing a stroller.
On June 30, Neely Gracey ran a mile in five minutes and 24 seconds while pushing her son, beating the previous record by 33 seconds.
"I looked up the current record and was like, 'Oh, wow, it's really not that fast,'" she tells Yahoo Life, explaining that this inspired her to take on the challenge. Gracey's personal best mile time without a stroller is four minutes and 36 seconds.
While this is the first Guinness World Record for the mom of two, Gracey is far from a running novice. She began running in eighth grade and went on to compete at the collegiate level. After graduating, she signed her first pro contract in 2012 and became an Adidas-sponsored athlete shortly thereafter. She consistently raced professionally until the birth of her first child in 2017, when she says she "switched gears into mom mode" and took some time off from professional racing.
"I tried to get competitive again, but my body was still pretty stressed," she says. While she wasn't training as intensely at the time, she found that going on regular runs with her son soothed some of her anxieties as a first-time mother.
"I had a lot of postpartum anxiety, and so being away from him was very stressful for me," she says. "Having him with me [in the stroller] kind of helped us both." She welcomed her second son in 2021 and says the runs have now become a group affair, allowing her to focus on two of the most important aspects of her life: family and fitness.
"We've spent a lot of miles together. I still push them in the stroller, even though they're 5 and 2 now," she says.
These family runs were also great practice for her record-breaking mile, which was a year in the making.
"I applied to Guinness last year, and it can take three months for your application to get processed and approved and all this stuff," she says. "There's a lot of red tape to make it official."
But she was determined to rise to the challenge and show that motherhood need not impede athletic aspirations.
"Having kids doesn't have to stop you from chasing your goals. And having a fit and active lifestyle can be inclusive of the whole family," says Gracey.
She admits that the idea that becoming a mom would be the end of her running career was something ingrained in her from her early days as a professional athlete.
"When I got pregnant in 2017, the standard in sport was, you lost your contract," she says. "It's like, 'OK, thank you for your time, goodbye. You can no longer do your job for us.'" Even though she was able to keep her contract, she had to reckon with the lingering fear of what a pregnancy would do to her body.
"I definitely felt some of that pressure and was asking myself, 'Why is my body like this?' or 'Why did I gain so much weight during my pregnancy?'" she says.
After months of comparing herself with other new-mom athletes online, she began to realize that "comparison is the worst thing that you can do. And I have to embrace my own journey."
It has been quite a journey. Since becoming a mother, Gracey has unlocked a new level of athletic prowess, achieving some of her fastest mile times and qualifying for the Olympic trials twice.
She rarely cries at a race, but it was different when she crossed the finish line with her youngest son on her record-breaking stroller run. The moment, she says, symbolized not just a running victory but also "the end of the baby years."
"There ended up being this whole sense of closure that I didn't know I needed," Gracey says.
Her sons may be too young to fully grasp their mother's accomplishment, but she hopes her victory inspires them as they grow older.
"I love that my kids get the chance to learn about setting goals and working to make them a reality, and they get a front-seat view of this during our runs together," she says.