Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Road to Houston - A Look Back: Devyn Cook in 2020

At First Watch restaurant in College Station earlier this month after the BCS Half Marathon, Volte founder Bill Dwyer was sitting with a small group of his athletes updating his paper worksheet while waiting for their food to be delivered.

While certainly pleased with his athletes' efforts and performances, and never one to brag himself, he was delightfully happy that nearly everyone's time that morning fell within a targeted range that he had for them based on their training.

For a coach, it is as much a validation of their guidance as it is for the athlete of their effort in training and on race day.

It wasn't new territory, though, for Dwyer.

As he waited for fellow coach Layton Gill to pick him up the morning of the 2020 Chevron Houston Marathon, he was pretty certain that one of Gill's athletes - then 24-year-old Devyn Cook - had an opportunity of a special day.

One that she had been working on for 11 and a half years.

And that was to be able to run well enough to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon.

It would be her fifth effort at the 26.2-mile distance and since her debut at the distance four years earlier, she had come a long way from an opening time of 4:47:51 at the 2016 Chevron Houston Marathon.

And just one year before, while running a very respectable 3:43:34, it was on the outside looking in at the three hour and 30-minute qualifying standard.

Although Cook admitted in her Instagram postings that the hardest part of her running journey was jealousy.

"I had been through a lot as a runner, and I had a “woe is me” attitude," she admitted.  "I desperately wanted my journey to be easier. I took it personally that it wasn’t. 

"I faced obstacle after obstacle all while seeing it come together for others, which broke my heart.  It hurt my love of the sport.  I decided that I was not going to have this mentality anymore."

And, according to Gill, that was part of what she did.

"She had a more focused training approach," he said.  "She limited the focus on what others were doing and truly focused on what she could control.  

"She also took a less is more approach to limit injuries."

Cook said in her Instagram postings that she peaked at 56.5 miles per week.

"Devyn's training had been very solid and Layton's plan for her was to target 3:20," said Dwyer.  "While on the course cheering and supporting everyone, we were constantly watching the tracker and Devyn was on pace at every check point."

Cook started the race running with Holly Benson and Mayra Caamano and treated the first two miles as a warmup going at a 7:55 per mile clip.

Early in the 2020 Chevron Houston Marathon, Devyn Cook was excited that the day was unfolding well.  (Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)

But when the 3:20 pace group passed her, it was time to take chase.  

It took her to mile 10, she wrote, though, to catch the 3:20 pace group.

Her official time showed her at 24:11 for the first 5K and 23:11 the next 5K for a total 10K time of 47:22 -- and then she produced a 23:14 5K to the 15K mark.

When she made it to the half-way point, she had a new half marathon personal best of 1:39:29.

"Mile after mile, I maintained the pace," Cook wrote.

And indeed she did.

Because there wasn't a separate 20K timing mat, her time from the 15K to the 25K was 47:36, just 14 seconds slower than the first 10K of the race.

From the 25K to the 35K mark, 47 minutes even.

She was running like a metronome -- and Roger and Robert King - a pair of Marines - hadn't even joined Volte yet.

And Cook darned near negative split the entire race -- going 1:39:29 in the front half and 1:39:53 in the back half.

Cook was focused coming through the Memorial Park area on her way to her fifth CHM finish.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)

She rode the wave of emotions from mile 20 on in.

"People cheered the pace group on and commented about how strong we looked and how fast we were," she said.  "A guy shouted that we were going to qualify for Boston at that pace.  It felt like royalty."

In the later miles, when she was sure that she would qualify for Boston, she said that she started to sob, but told herself to cry at the finish line as she was starting to cramp up.

"I had a thought that I could break 3:20," she said. "But I would be happy anyway if I qualified. 

"At mile 26, I passed the 3:20 pace group and heard my mom shouting “You’re going to qualify for Boston.”  I booked it (on in) to the finish line in 3:19:22."

There she found Olympian Meb Kelfezighi's arms to fall into and cried once there.

After the race, Cook had realized a dream that because of the pandemic was slightly delayed -- and that was to run the Boston Marathon, which she did this past October.

Sort of a victory lap of her running to date.

Turning 26 on race day this year, where she'll run Houston for the sixth time, Cook's progression has been nothing short of impressive, including running two faster times the last two years at The Woodlands Marathon.

Devyn's complete marathon history is here:

2016 - Chevron Houston Marathon - 4:47:51
2017 - Chevron Houston Marathon - 4:55:49
2018 - Chevron Houston Marathon - 4:02:17
2019 - Chevron Houston Marathon - 3:43:34
2020 - Chevron Houston Marathon - 3:19:21
2020 - The Woodlands Marathon - 3:13:09
2021 - The Woodlands Marathon - 3:16:56
2021 - Boston Marathon - 4:04:27

That day, she was certainly grateful for all that she experienced and learned, which later in 2020 segued into her receiving her RRCA Coaching certification.

We're all excited to see where the roads lead for Cook in her life - and running life too.

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