Running with the Graceys

Kristina and Dan Gracey are a couple from the Albany region who share a passion for running and volunteerism. Kristina is a resident physician in Family Medicine at Albany Medical Center and Dan is a senior staff attorney at the Hartford. For the past several years they were the co-editors of The Pace Setter and wrote extensively about their running experiences abroad. Recently, they welcomed a new addition to their family and now have two lovely daughters, Amelia and Abigail.

Kristina went to a small high school in Stafford, Connecticut. She was an active child focused on baseball and soccer but her parents thought she had more potential with running and encouraged her to try cross-country in high school. She found running to be challenging but made the team and played a part in the team’s championship efforts. As a junior, she decided to go to Trinity College, a liberal arts college close to home. Trinity was NCAA Division III so she thought it was a great opportunity to balance academics and athletics. She started to work harder with her running and became much faster from 800 meters to the 10,000 meter races.

Dan was born in Maine, but as a youngster his parents moved around frequently secondary to his mother’s engineering career. He went to high school in Connecticut where his father was a physical education teacher. Ironically, his father was Kristina’s middle school gym teacher, but Dan and she never met. Dan did track and field in high school but didn't really run, since his focus was on throwing events. His father pushed him to run but he never liked it so he only ran a little.

Dan and Kristina met when he had finished law school and she was in her senior year of college. They moved to Boston to live together after Kristina graduated and Dan passed the Massachusetts Bar. Kristina worked in research while Dan started working for a mid-sized law firm. While in Boston, Kristina completed her MPH before moving to New Haven, CT, for a year, where she coordinated research studies related to pediatric infectious diseases. She was later accepted at Albany Medical College for medical school, which brought them to Albany.

Dan was a reluctant runner. He commented that Kristina cajoled him to run and he only did it to appease her. He would run with her a few miles but really did not enjoy running until in 2008 when he became motivated to improve. His first marathon time was 4:38. He has steadily improved and now his PR is 3:08! He has done 7 marathons: Chicago, Boston, New York City, Paris, California International, Houston, and Austin. Kristina has done 11. Dan’s favorite is Boston because they lived there and he and Kristina are from New England. In addition, Boston has the history of being the world's oldest annual marathon. It is in a class by itself.

Dan and Kristina have run two marathons together. They did Boston in 2013 and were close to the bombing site. They were at a restaurant recovering when they heard something that sounded like construction work. When they found out what happened, they were stunned that something like that would occur at a celebration of running. They have also run the Paris Marathon together and thought it awe-inspiring. It starts at L’Arc de Triomphe and goes straight down the Champs Elysee, which is beautiful but treacherous since stretches are cobblestoned. The course covers the major tourist highlights of Paris and was captivating.

Kristina and Dan have run around the world so to speak. When they go to a foreign country, they run every day on vacation. It is a wonderful way to experience a new region. When Amelia is with them, they run with a stroller. The running in Iceland, a land of earthquakes and volcanoes, was some of the best they have done. In Paris, they got up early so they could see Paris intimately with few people and fewer cars around. The running on the Isle of Skye in Scotland was memorable. It is very rocky but no matter where they ran, the views were spectacular. The weather in both places made it ideal for running. They were in Scotland in April and Iceland in August with both areas in the 50s, which is ideal for running. Kristina particularly loved running in Bogota, Colombia’s capital. The high elevation did not daunt her. She was amazed by the sites in Bogota and the variety of runners from athletes to young children, and to people in their 80s who were running at a good clip punctuated by people riding bicycles. It was a Sunday morning running fiesta with thousands enjoying athleticism.

Presently, Kristina is walking and just starting to jog again after recently delivering her newborn, Abigail. When in training for races, Dan analyzes her schedule and plans times for her to train. For this pregnancy, she continued running but in moderation until 25 weeks at which point she stopped. During her first pregnancy, she stayed active with walking and, after significant running following her delivery, began to achieve the fastest times of her life. She is looking forward to consistently running with friends and family again.

Dan has been fortunate to have not had a serious injury or reason to take a long time off. He is currently only running approximately 20-25 miles per week but hopes to get back to about 60 shortly. His goals are to run a mile in under five minutes and a marathon in under 3 hours. His best mile time is 5:12. He and Kristina love running together. It is difficult given their busy schedules but they try to fit it in as much as possible. It is immensely rewarding for them as they share a sport about which they are passionate.

Dan’s favorite distance changes but presently it is 15k to half-marathon. Kristina likes the marathon since it is her strongest distance as she has great natural endurance. It does not bother her to run a fast paced marathon but she finds she has to work harder at the 5K and feels the intensity is more remarkable. Dan loves a 5K. Even though he understands what Kristina is saying, the 5k is over very quickly and you feel fine the next day unlike after a marathon. Dan noted that the level of running in Albany is highly organized and efficient. He thinks it amazing that during the racing season from late March to late November, you can find a high quality race every weekend. People take it very seriously and because there are so many good ones, you cannot put on a bad one and get away with it. That’s one of the reasons they love running here.

Their diet is made up of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. They love to travel and to go out to eat and find Albany’s restaurants to be outstanding. They don’t subscribe to a pasta dinner before races. They ascribe to the belief that whatever doesn’t upset your stomach and makes you feel well, go for it. For running, Dan wears mainly Nike shoes and lightweight ones for racing. Kristina loves a heavier shoe like Asics Gel Kayano. Dan keeps a detailed log of his running but surprisingly Kristina does not.

Their favorite running tip is first and foremost to enjoy it. You should embrace the times when you are running well, enjoy the times when it is not as ideal. To be able to run on a regular basis is fortunate. Running is a way to connect with others and enjoy the outdoors. To make running more interesting, if you go a certain route, use your running watch or favorite app to map the distance and then ditch the watch and just enjoy the run without constantly analyzing it.

We congratulate the Gracey family on the new addition to their family and thank them so much for all they have done for The Pace Setter, a magazine they have loved and nurtured. It is only fitting that they should be honored in the last print edition for all they have done to make the Albany area a richer place for running. And, maybe, in the future we will see them jogging on local paths with their daughters. Thank you!

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