Neely Spence Gracey impressively debuted at the marathon last year, finishing ninth in Boston (first American) in 2 hours, 35 minutes. Proving it was no fluke, she came back seven months later to place eighth at the New York City Marathon in 2:34:55. Come Sunday, Gracey, 26, drops down to the 5K at the Carlsbad 5000. Spence Gracey says it’s been her bucket-list race to run the world’s fastest 5K and it will be her first 5K race in nearly two years. Her 5K PR on the road is 15:34. On the track it’s 15:25.34. Before leaving her home in Boulder, Colo., on Friday to head to Southern California, Spence Gracey sat down for a chat with us, sharing her running goals for 2017, her favorite foods and pre-race superstitions.

You’re no stranger to San Diego, racing twice in the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in your high school days. What are some of your favorite San Diego memories?

“I loved the zoo. The zoo would be cool even if there weren’t animals there. It’s definitely a must view if you’re visiting San Diego.”

What are your running goals in 2017?

“I would like to PR in the marathon and half marathon, and I’d like to win a national title. I’ve never won a national title as a professional athlete.” (Spence Gracey’s half-marathon best is 1:09:59. She’ll compete in the half marathon national championships on April 29 in Columbus, Ohio.)

What’s your favorite workout?

“Anything speed related would be my least favorite. Anything on the track, 800 or mile repeats. I really like the long, hard runs. It’s a strength of mine. I think that’s when I gain a lot of mental fortitude. I’m more confident in my fitness when I can nail a solid long run.”

Who’s your favorite all-time runner?

“My dad. (Steve Spence won the bronze medal at the 1991 Track & Field World Championships and won the 1992 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Neely was born on the day her father ran the 1990 Boston Marathon.) He taught me everything about the sport. I’m eternally grateful for him showing me that this is possible.”

We know elite athletes are strict about their diets. But give us a guilty food pleasure.

“Ice cream, hands down. Every time after a race, that’s my treat. I have to find a great ice cream place.”

Do you have a favorite flavor?

“I don’t do a favorite, but usually it’s chocolately.”

Favorite guilty TV pleasure?

“Anything HGTV. (Home & Garden TV.) We’re building a house, and I’m obsessed with the show, how to decorate, color schemes.”

Would you give us a little-known Neely Spence Gracey fact?

“One of my pre-race superstitions is I always like a Kombucha the day before my race. I’ll search whatever city I’m in to find Kombucha.”

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