DMT Beauty Transformation: Danni McNeilly Broke Three Hours By Prioritizing Happiness
DMTBeautySpot featured

Danni McNeilly Broke Three Hours By Prioritizing Happiness

November 20, 2023BruceDayne

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

For Danni McNeilly, 37, this year’s Chicago Marathon was special for a lot of reasons. For one, it was her 15th marathon and her fourth time returning to the race, which was also her first marathon in 2013, which she finished in 3:33:15. This year, she finished with a new personal best of 2:59:33, and with that milestone, she also became the 31st woman added to the List of the fastest Black American female marathoners, which is maintained by historian Gary Corbitt, son of Olympian and New York Road Runners founding president Ted Corbitt.

But while McNeilly certainly celebrated these milestones in the immediate aftermath of the marathon, many might be surprised to learn that she never put much stock in hitting sub-three before this year.

“I never really cared about it because it’s just an arbitrary number,” McNeilly says. “A marathon is a marathon—does it make it any less important if I ran it in sub-3:00, 3:00 flat, 3:05 or 3:10? It’s still an accomplishment. I just made sure I was always going to put myself and my happiness first.”

‘I Just Had to Care’

Instead, McNeilly, who has trained with Black Roses NYC under coach Knox Robinson since 2014,  focused on getting the best out of herself as she chipped away at her marathon time over the next decade. However, that’s not to say the pressure wasn’t there—several of her teammates are also sub-elite athletes who have added their names to the List over the years. Her teammates also weren’t shy about encouraging McNeilly, who was the first female member of the club, to be the next to do so. But while McNeilly knew they meant well, she ultimately needed to reach the achievement on her own terms.

“My teammates are my inspiration and I admired them for their tenacity in going after sub-three and actually making the List,” she says. “But I think they, as well as other people [in my life] wanted it for me more than I ever wanted it for myself. I still don’t think that my desire to break three ever really matched theirs until I finally wanted it earnestly for myself, which was the shift that I had in training this year. We all knew I had it in me; I just had to care.”


(Photo: Middle photo: Sarah Stafford @sestsfford; left-right, Danni McNeilly)

Getting to that point required a lot of patience from McNeilly, who lives in her native Brooklyn and works in finance at an educational nonprofit. Though she’s been a runner for most of her life (she ran cross-country and was also an 800-meter runner in high school), she didn’t run collegiately. She also didn’t start to dabble in longer distances until 2010, when she started running to support her best friend, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to lose weight before having surgery. And while her friend eventually made a full recovery, McNeilly never stopped running.

“One [3.35-mile loop] of Prospect Park became five, became seven, and I just kept testing my limits to see how far I could go,” she says.

After one of her runs in 2012 took her from her home in Brooklyn through Manhattan and all the way to the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey (which was 16 or 17 miles total), McNeilly decided she wanted to find a purpose for her running. She signed up for and ran the 2013 New York City Half Marathon, followed by the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and then that first Chicago Marathon that fall. She trained with the Bridge Runners run crew before being formally invited to join Black Roses in July 2014.

All About Showing Up

To date, all of McNeilly’s 15 marathons have been World Marathon Majors, with multiple finishes at the Chicago and New York City Marathon (which she admits are her favorites), in addition to Boston, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. She also completed a virtual marathon in Los Angeles in 2020, which was designed by Robinson to run through historically Black neighborhoods in the city while official races weren’t being held due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I had teammates fly out and friends in Los Angeles who jumped in and ran with me,” McNeilly says. “It was a great culmination of people coming together and just coming to support me for something that only my team and my coach would do.”

Through her training with Black Roses, McNeilly navigated her individual running journey over the last decade, eventually figuring out that weekly mileage in the 70s was too much and left her feeling exhausted. After she ran her previous PR of 3:03:12 at last year’s New York City Marathon (notably the hottest race day in its history), she finally figured out that weekly mileage in the 50s and 60s with pool workouts for cross-training suited her best. In training for Chicago, she did a lot of her runs on her own because it was hard to coordinate with the team based on her work schedule, and because she also often values the alone time.

As for what’s next, McNeilly unsurprisingly doesn’t have a time goal or her next marathon on the calendar just yet, even though she does believe she will continue to run faster. In terms of what motivates her in lieu of times, she emphasizes representation, which is why making it on the List is still so meaningful for her.

“It’s a privilege to be able to participate in the sport the way I do, and it’s an honor to be a part of this list when three of my teammates are on it as well,” she says. “That’s why I was ugly-crying at the end of the race, because it’s all of those feelings, all of those thoughts, all of that work culminating in one historical moment.”

“I know how important visibility is, just to show up and show people that you can do it and that you deserve to be where you are,” she continues. “I’ve worked for my spot, I’ve worked to be where I am. And even if you physically can’t be here, know that I’m representing you to the best of my abilities. I want more of me, and I want more of us out there.”



mmitchell, DMT.NEWS, DMT BeautySpot,

You Might Also Like


DMT BarberShop

DMT BarberShop
Come get the professional touch you deserve!

YouTube Channel

Contact Form