Cory McGee on Creating Opportunity in an Unpredictable Time

Cory McGee and Emma Coburn run on a dirt road

Cory McGee is a professional middle-distance runner for New Balance, primarily competing in the 1500 meter distance. She lives and trains in Boulder, CO, and is in her third year as a member of “Team Bosshard,”coached by Joe Bosshard.

We caught up with McGee over Zoom to learn how she improves her fitness despite the pandemic, who she looked up to as a young runner and, of course, her favorite NB training gear.

How has COVID changed the way you train, plan and set goals?

Being on the team made 2020 a lot less of a worry, which is such a blessing, truthfully. My coach, Joe, handles unpredictability very well and I’m thankful for that. We have a small team and we spend as much time together as possible. We quarantined separately for a while but then once we were able to meet together, most of the women returned to training together in a small group.

Our team did a training camp up in Crested Butte, and we put together a few small races with three or four people on the starting line where we raced some of our own teammates. We did a Colorado mile, one in Indiana, an 800 in LA that had six women in the field. And we ran a 1500 in Nashville. It was Emma, me and a few other women.

Cory Mcgee smiles and sits on a fence

What were these mini races like?

Even though it wasn’t normal racing, it was cool to go through some of the race process, like being at an AirBnb together, having a pre-run dinner. We did the things you usually do with your teammates before a race, only it wasn’t a full starting line, just you and your friends.

So it was kind of weird, but you still get into the competitive mindset of a regular race. Even if it’s just you and your girls! But it is harder to turn that on. You have to really dig for it. It feels a little bit different when it’s the women whom you count on and train with. Although it does make you realize we’re in it together. It adds a different element of security.

Thankfully I don’t feel a huge amount of pressure to race right now because I’ve been able to knock out the times that I need going into this summer, which is such a weight off my chest. Being on a team where we create opportunities is an advantage. A lot of individuals train on their own and don’t know how they’ll get into a race. That would be so nerve-wracking.

I feel like right now people are so desperate to have an opportunity on the track in order to get a good time or see where they’re at, especially if there won’t be a whole lot of races between now and the trials.

What is your next race?

There’s a race in Austin, TX, that I might run in February. I’m honestly not really sure, and that’s just kind of how you have to be right now. You might have a race and you might not. I learned this summer, I don’t expect to race until I’m on the starting line. At any moment races could be canceled.

What gear are you training in these days?

I’ve run in New Balance shoes since 2014. For most of those years the 1080 was my number one go-to trainer. I now mix it up a bit. I train in the 1080, the Beacon and the 880, all neutral shoes.

But the 1080 is a very important shoe in that rotation because it’s my reminder that it’s OK to take it easy and feel good. It’s a good recovery shoe but it’s also really versatile. I like the 1080 v11 because I feel like I can also do some uptempo strides, or hill reps.

What’s different about the 11th iteration of the 1080? [This model launches January 29, 2021]

It’s good for a variety of different types of runners. It feels like it has more foam, but it’s also lighter. The upper is more snug too, but it's still flexible, which I like. We have a joke on our team that if you forget your flats you can turn your trainers into flats by tying them tighter. Now that the 1080 fits a bit tighter, it feels faster. But it’s also a good shoe when you want to take it easy.

It’s one of the shoes I often recommend to people. Like for my dad I’ll suggest the 1080. I think it also lasts longer than some other shoes because of the thickness of the foam and flexibility of the upper.

Cory McGee running on a dirt path

I’ve heard you say before that when you aren’t running, you’re intentionally resting, as a result of joining your current team. Tell us more about this.

The expectation was always there to rest between training but my training is a lot harder now than it has ever been. I could not survive this training if I wasn’t resting. And that’s because of the effort I put in and the nature of being on this team. I feel a level of expectation every day and that motivates me to be better about the little things. I learned a lot from the people I train with. Joe is good to remind us to make sure we’re getting naps every day.

I pretty much go for my run, eat good food, refuel and rest. And then I go for my second run. I don’t do a whole lot else. I focus on the workouts I have and being recovered for each one. It’s a cycle. I’m generally running harder than ever, and living at altitude adds more strain and challenge to it.

How much mileage are you running per week?

I’m running between 70 and 80 miles per week, with a down week every few weeks. Right now it’s about the most I’ve ever run. And I’m in less pain this year than was last year at this time.

Talk a little bit about your mentality when it comes to competition. How would you describe yourself as a competitor? Has your approach changed at all over the years?

Yeah, it has gradually changed. I was so committed to running at a young age, I thought I was supposed to be regimented, serious, focused in order to be an elite runner.

As I’ve gotten older I realize that I run better when I have more fun with it, and I’m not as hard on myself. I was always trying to prove my dedication. I learned it through trial and error over the years, and having friends in college who weren’t as obsessed with running helped me loosen up. And then I started running better, and it was more fun, anyway.

I went from being really hard on myself growing up to a lot more chill now, I think. I always have this inner dialogue. I laugh to myself if I have my phone on instagram. In the past I wouldn’t bring my phone to a meet. I was so dialed in, I thought it was a distraction. I can go with the flow now, and I’m grateful for that.

Which runners did you look up to most when you were younger?

Probably Bernard Lagat. I loved watching him race and saw him win the Melrose Games year after year. And he was so soft spoken. Now I have met him, and feel like I know him as a person, not just as a runner. And it’s really cool when people live up to those expectations. He’s always been kind and wonderful. He’s someone I always looked up to. Shalane Flanagan is up there, too. She has always been great. I could go down a long list of people I loved.

Cory McGee stands with hands on hips

Rapid fire questions:

What music do you listen to to get ready for a race or tough workout?

Our team has been listening to a lot of Miley Cyrus lately, which I like. Her new album is good. We’re always on the new hit music at practice.

What is your favorite running gear currently?

The tights I’m wearing right now. They're the New Balance High Rise Pocket Cropped tight. They’re high waisted and not your typical slick fabric. It’s a more casual tight that I just wear around and I run in them, too. They look so nice and fit better than any other tights.

What is your current running mantra?

I always have a mantra. My workouts are tough and I love to give myself pep talks to remind myself I have all the tools that I need. I use mantras like, "Do what you do best." Or,"Be who you are."

Who’s your favorite runner on social media?

All of my teammates, the guys and girls on Team Boss. Aside from my teammates I like to follow Nikki Hilts. Her pictures are such good quality. She’s got a great personality. I like Danish hurdler Stina Troest. Harry Aikines is so fun to follow.

What are you watching on Netflix?

My boyfriend and I just watched Dr. Foster on Netflix. It was a lot of drama. And on my own I’m watching Pretend It’s a City, which is hilarious.

What’s your favorite pre-race meal?

The night before a race I eat a basic meal of salmon, vegetables and rice. If I can’t get salmon, I eat chicken since you can get it at any restaurant. If I’m racing at night I’ll eat a big breakfast that day with eggs, bacon and pancakes. Then about five or six hours before my race I’ll have half of a sandwich so I’m never hungry. Then on the way to the track I’ll have some peanut butter toast. That’s my go-to.

What’s your favorite post-race meal?

I go immediately for burgers and fries, and maybe a milkshake or something sweet after nearly every race. I add bacon, avocado, everything. I love red meat, and I eat steak about once per week.

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