Celeste Mucci Takes On the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix
Editor’s note: Commonwealth Games competitor and New Balance athlete Celeste Mucci has had a big few years since switching from the heptathlon to concentrate solely on hurdling. In this TEMPO exclusive, brought to you by New Balance, she shares her journey to Boston and a PB at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.
I’ve put in a lot of training since my last major race at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in August. There, I placed seventh in the 100m hurdles. Since then, with the help of my coach Darren Clark, I’ve altered a few things with my hurdling and I’ve been waiting for a day to see how well I can execute my cues in a big race.
So the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, held in my sponsor’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, was always going to be an opportunity to see if what we have done in training can transfer over in a big competition. Another change was that I would be racing in the 60m hurdles, a new, shorter distance that Darren and I have made my focus this year.
I’ve always followed this Boston meet closely as it’s an important date on the World Athletics tour and holds points towards rankings. For a long time I’ve wanted to race at such a top-tier event, especially at the Track at New Balance, which is the brand’s new state-of-the-art athletics facility.
“I love how extra Americans are with everything! It’s so different to any other place I’ve been, and I feel fortunate about where my sport takes me sometimes.”
Indoor gives athletics a whole different atmosphere and feel, and I’m excited to embrace it at this meet. It’s also awesome to represent New Balance, who I signed with in 2020, at their own event. I couldn’t ask for a better addition to my team; Matt Spicer and the whole crew who take care of me do an amazing job.
The event was set for Saturday 4 February and I left Melbourne on the Tuesday beforehand. I don’t mind long flights, and travelling for my sport is probably one of my favourite things to do – I feel like it makes it all worth it. Athletics can be a rough sport as an individual but travelling, seeing new places, meeting new people and competing on new tracks is something that will always be special to me.
Also, I have a hidden talent. When I’m travelling, I’m able to sleep, no matter the time of day. I sleep for most of the flight, waking only every couple of hours to stretch my legs.
We land in Boston on the first of February – and it’s freezing! Stepping out of the airport, my first impression is, “I don't have enough warm clothes for this.” Melbourne’s warm weather feels a long way behind me.
But I quickly fall in love with Boston and its architecture, its beautifully preserved apartments and buildings. I instantly want to take photos of everything – photography is a passion of mine. And the athlete hotel is warm and welcoming, a reprieve from the wintry temperatures outside.
I’m one of the first athletes to fly in, and the New Balance team did an incredible job taking care of us, including taking me to their headquarters and store to get anything I wanted or needed.
I get in a shakeout session at the track and it’s just as perfect as in the pictures. I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it. It’s extremely quiet while I’m warming up – just me and a couple of other people cleaning and setting up. I feel like this is probably the only time I’ll have the track to myself.
Later that evening, the New Balance team takes the few athletes who have already arrived to a Boston Celtics game. The home game is amazing, and I love how extra Americans are with everything! It’s so different to any other place I’ve been, and I feel fortunate about where my sport takes me sometimes.
The next day, the hotel is much busier as all the other athletes start to filter in. I know that, come race day, I’ll be competing against some of the strongest hurdlers in the World Athletics tour. Most of the girls I competed against at the world champs and Comm Games last year are here, so they’re all familiar faces.
It’s not a very talkative field but, at the end of the day, everyone is here for themselves. I can respect that.
Back at the track, I have my last hurdle session before the competition. I test out the blocks and where I’ll be warming up. I’m feeling very excited to be racing here and it all feels a bit more real today.
Later I go on a hunt to find a photography store so I can get some rolls of film. Successful in my mission, I wander around shooting images of this interesting city. I do this often to pass the time when I’m overseas. It also helps me more fully embrace the places I visit, as sometimes the trips can go by so quickly.
The following day – the last before the event – begins with an icy morning and a little hunt for fruit and snacks, stocking up for comp day. It’s –15°C outside despite being sunny, and it’s probably the coldest I’ve ever been in my life.
We receive our new competition kit for the 2023 season. I’m instantly in love with the detailing and simplicity of the design. Then it’s time for a photoshoot as we try on the new gear.
Later that day I have my last warmup at the track before the big day. I’m feeling the best I have since getting off the plane, and the stadium is buzzing with athletes – a lot different from when I was alone earlier in the week.
Race day. When I wake up, it’s –22°C with a wind chill warning. There’s frost inside the window. I’m definitely not leaving the hotel before my race.
When it’s eventually time to head to the stadium, the minute it takes to get off the bus and get inside is long enough to feel my whole face freeze. But besides that, I feel good. Having beaten the jetlag, I managed to get some decent sleep for the first time the previous night, and my body feels more responsive today than it has until now.
Race day flies by so quickly – and so does the race. But I try to embrace it all while remaining focused on what I need to do. I’m allocated lane eight – not a surprise as I knew I’d get either lane one or lane eight as I had the eighth fastest seed time out of the women.
And then the starting gun fires. Despite my disadvantage of being on the outside lane, I’m pleased with how I execute my race. I start well and gain on every hurdle; I know in my head that once I come off the last hurdle I need to use my speed to the finish line as 60m hurdles have a longer run off from the last hurdle to the finish line compared to 100m hurdles.
I pick up third in a field where I came in ranked eight – it’s a new PB for me! I’m super happy and can come home feeling even more confident in myself.
Boston has been everything I imagined and I’m so lucky that my sport brought me to see this amazing place. I’m extra grateful that I’m part of such a great brand, and it’s been incredible to see where they’re based.
Competition-wise, I certainly can’t complain about a new indoor 60m hurdle personal best and finishing third in such a strong field. It makes the 22-hour flight here – and back – all worthwhile. I’m already hoping I can get back here next year.