Sydney Devore looked up and the Mile 20 marker had passed.
She had never run farther in her life.
And she was all alone in first place.
The voice in her head kept repeating, “Oh my gosh, you’re going to win this thing!” as if her brain was torn between celebrating the unbelievable reality that an elementary school teacher from Polk County, Florida was on her way to winning the Pittsburgh Marathon, while also reminding her not to screw it up.
Further up the road, those internal voices were suddenly joined by actual yelling as Tim Russell biked up alongside her on the course.
“My boyfriend’s high school coach biked onto the course at Mile 23 and he starts yelling, ‘You’re going to win this thing!” Devore said. “I was like, ‘I know. I can’t believe it.’ He was like, ‘You don’t have to do anything. Just keep chugging along.’”
In a sense, that is Devore’s story – ultimate perseverance over injury, personal loss, and more than a decade away from the sport to rediscover both her identity and her love for running while also establishing herself as one of America’s up-and-coming elite women’s marathoners.
On Sunday November 4, the 27-year-old, one-time teacher and newest member of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project will enter her second career marathon, the TCS New York City Marathon, as a 2020 Olympic Trials qualifier, as the eighth fastest American woman in the marathon this year, and with the firm belief that absolutely anything is possible.
“Winning the Pittsburgh Marathon and qualifying for the Olympic Trials solidified the idea in my mind that I can do anything,” Devore said. “I can’t tell anyone what I’m capable of because I just don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t set any limits yet.”
To hear Devore tell it, she and this sport were made for each other, not in a she-hit-the-ground-running-from-the-womb sort of way but more in the sense that it was tailored to the independent nature she exhibited from a very young age.
Yes, like most kids growing up in Florida she tried ball sports like soccer when she was five years old. It turned out terribly. So much so, it’s not something that she and her family ever talk about to this day. The only thing she says she remembers is going to Twistee Treat after one of the games.
“I don’t remember playing. I don’t remember anything about it,” Devore said.
“From a young age, I think had a difficult time socially with my peers and connecting with other children,” Devore added. “I was always introverted, especially type A. I wanted to do everything on my own. I needed to control everything. Team projects were never, ever good for me. Anything that involved relying on somebody else was not something that I was going to, I was never going to survive in that kind of a situation.
“I wasn’t very good in group situations or relying on other people. I was always very self-motivated. The kind of kid who would have their own goal stickers and give them to myself. I always felt like I didn’t need anybody else. I didn’t need any teammates. I didn’t need peer help. I wanted to do everything myself. I was an only child until I was 7. I’ve always been fiercely independent, sometimes to my detriment.”
Where that type A personality served Devore well was in the classroom. She was identified as being a gifted student early on and by the time she reached high school she had already set her sights on attending the crème de la crème of colleges.
“After my freshman year of high school, my guidance counselor said that I needed to do a school-affiliated sport in order to beef up my resume because I had grand ideas of going to an Ivy League school and she was like, ‘Well, you don’t have the extracurriculars,’” said Devore, who up to that point participated in club gymnastics.
“I had missed tryouts for pretty much everything, not to mention I’m terrible at anything with hand-eye coordination and I’m not exactly known for being good at teamwork. I needed something that I could do independently but still be part of a team and track was the direction I was pushed. I knew some girls on the track team, and I was told that everybody made the team so I joined. That was all that really mattered because it was just something to put on my college application.”
By her own admission, Devore didn’t like running, nor was she good at it when she joined the track team in 2006 at Lake Region High School in Lakeland. The first time she ran the two-mile, she was so slow they didn’t even let her finish.
“It was like old school where they gave you popsicle sticks to count the laps,” she recalled. “I remember when the told me I was done, I counted and I only had seven so I knew I hadn’t even done the eighth lap.”
While she may not have improved much on the clock that first year, Devore did make important strides socially. She made friends on the team and slowly became more extroverted. That spring, her neighbor told her about the Lakeland Mayfaire 5K race, which she had never heard about before.
“It didn’t sound too terrible because I had done a two-mile and he was really cute and I was like, ‘Okay, I will train with you,’ so we started meeting up and I started to run with this kid,” Devore said. “In May, I did that first 5K race in Lakeland. I ran 24 minutes only because I stopped and walked like twice.
“After the race, the high school cross-country coach was there and she came up to me and was like, ‘Have you thought about running cross-country?’ I had not heard of it at that point. I thought it was something where you traveled across the country to run.
“I was like, ‘What is that?’ and she said, ‘Basically, what you just did. That’s what we do, but on grass.’ I was like, ‘That sounds pretty tough.’ She said, ‘I’ll give you a training plan. If you practice over the summer, you have a spot on the team in the fall.’ I was like, okay that gives me something to do over the summer.”
Armed with her new training plan and accompanied by her neighbor friend, Devore spent her summer running five days per week, three miles per day. When cross-country practice resumed in late August, she had been the only one who had trained the entire offseason and the work had showed. She had immediately shown she was the best on the team and the girl who grew up not needing or wanting teammates was named team captain.
“What’s weird is that being put in that leadership role where it was acknowledged that I was going to take on that role by an authority figure, I loved being in that position,” Devore said. “In cross-country it’s nice because I could independently succeed and I could do things for myself but I was also able to feel like part of a team.”
In her first race of the season, Devore’s 5K PR improved from 24 minutes to 21 minutes. She said it was the first time she ever truly felt good at something. And it was infectious.
“I showed that if I put in the work, there was a direct result. I actually watched my body transform. I saw myself getting better and faster. It was like immediate feedback, you put in the work and this is the outcome. You don’t get to see that in a lot of things so clearly. I became obsessed. I wanted to see how good I can be. I’m a voracious reader. I started studying running and training. I spent every minute that I wasn’t in class in my coach’s office talking about what I can do to get better.”
By her senior cross-country season in 2008, Devore established herself as one of the top runners in the state of Florida, scoring victories at the Thunder Cross Country Classic, FLRunners.com Invitational 9, Without Walls Invitational, Polk County Championship, FHSAA 3A District 4, and FHSAA 3A Region 2, before finishing fourth at the FHSAA 3A state meet.
“All of a sudden colleges started looking at me, which was something that I had never considered,” Devore said. “When the University of Florida sent me a recruiting letter that changed everything. They were No. 1 in the nation at the time in track. My stepmom had gone to UF and it was super exciting for my family.”
After taking visits to Florida, Florida State, South Carolina and Wake Forest, Devore ultimately decided to sign her National Letter of Intent with Florida and moved to Gainesville.
It didn’t take long for her to figure out that in stepping up to the college running scene, she was now surrounded by gators, and not just in the figurative sense.
“When you go to a Division I school, obviously only seven girls get to travel for cross-country,” Devore said. “There were three of us freshmen and we all wanted to be on the team. Instead of there being a sense of team, I came in and I felt like we were all competing. It’s just a whole new world when you’re 17 and suddenly realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I may not even get to race this season unless I crush practice.’ So now, every run was like a race. Even when we were supposed to be doing recovery runs, it was like, ‘I want to make it back first so coach sees that I’m better.’”
Devore survived the cutthroat process and made the team that first season. She recorded one top-10 finish in the 5K, running 18:17:30. At the Southeastern Conference Championships, she was the seventh fastest freshman in the field, finishing 37th overall in the women’s 6K in 22:45:81 to help Florida capture the team title. Devore was, “on top of the world.”
In between the cross-country and indoor track seasons, Devore and her teammates were given a biomechanical evaluation, something not uncommon among major (Devore used the descriptor “cutting edge”) collegiate programs.
During that evaluation, it was revealed that her right leg was shorter than her left. The doctors determined that if they treated her leg discrepancy with an orthotic, as is the most common non-surgical treatment for the condition, that she would become a more efficient runner. But after just two weeks of running with the nine-inch long, nine-millimeter thick insert in her shoe, Devore began feeling pain.
“We were doing straight leg hurdle drills and I just remember I finished the set of drills and we were done for the day and I went to jog across the field to the locker rooms to shower and suddenly I couldn’t lift my leg,” Devore said. “I had to drag it behind me. I couldn’t activate the hip flexor at all to lift my right leg up. I was literally hobbling and pulling my leg behind me. I went to the trainer and I said, ‘I don’t know what just happened.’
“We did some hip test and stuff and I just remember after that day it was one of those, ‘Okay, just take a few weeks off, just get in the pool.’ I had to put the floaty between my legs because I wasn’t allowed to even kick for like six weeks. I don’t remember ever being given an explanation other than later on it was decided that I had tendonitis in my hip flexor and I ended up getting the cortisone shot. Now that I’m an older runner and I’ve read about things I probably tore my hip flexor and didn’t let it heal properly because I wound up having pain in my hip for three years.”
Although Devore was unable to compete during the indoor or outdoor seasons, she remained on campus during the summer of 2009 to take classes. The struggle to get healthy and deal with the pressure associated with trying to make it within one of the premier Division I track and field programs in America was beginning to take its mental toll so she began seeing a sports psychologist.
“I knew that I was dealing with severe depression,” Devore said. “I was going to visit my grandparents in Miami and my psychologist suggested that I start taking Prozac. I remember I called my grandmother crying. ‘I don’t want to take this.’ She says that if I forget to take it I could have seizures. I was like, ‘I’m horribly forgetful. I can’t even remember to take a multivitamin daily even when they’re chewable. What if I lose the prescription or lose the medication and then I have seizure I die? I’m like I’m not taking this. I’m not going to take Prozac. I’m going to find a way to rebalance the chemicals in my brain some other way.’”
Devore and her family decided that perhaps the best way to alleviate some of the pressure she was experiencing would be to put some distance between her and the situation by moving into an off-campus apartment with girls who were not on the track team.
But the move coupled with her injury prompted Todd Morgan, Florida’s distance coach at the time, to question Devore’s commitment to the sport and the team.
“The reality was that I couldn’t even jog 20 minutes in the grass without pain but he asked me, ‘Do you even want to get better? Do you even want to run any more?’ I freaked out on him. I was like, ‘How can you think that I don’t want to be here and I don’t want to run? Do you think I’m only at this school because I want to run?’
“And I quit the team.
“It was one of those moments, that if I can go back in time, I would change my reaction. But I was a child and I responded emotionally. I thought someone would say, ‘What are you doing? Why would you throw this away?’ Or that a teammate would reach out and say, ‘Everybody gets injured you’re going to get through this.’ I thought somebody would’ve said you’re making a mistake. Not that I would’ve even listened because I was out of my mind and miserable and hated everything and everyone. I thought somebody would care enough to stop me and nobody did.”
So instead, she quit running altogether, cold turkey.
“Not even cross training,” Devore said. “Nothing. I don’t need to care about keeping my fitness anymore. I’m done. Like nothing.”
She got a job at a Mongolian restaurant. She adopted a puppy and renamed her Porsche – Pineapple was her given name – after her grandfather’s love of the sports car.
A conversation while attending a Christmas party in 2012 shaped the next chapter of Devore’s life.
“I was talking to my dad’s workout partner who said his sister had just come back from living in Korea for seven years where she was teaching and how she saved up enough money to live in New York City and she was working for a Korean-American magazine company,” Devore said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh that sounds incredible. Can you put me in touch with her?’ So I reached out to her to hear her story and I was like, ‘That’s it. I’m going to do that.’ I’m going to move to Korea and maybe never come back.
“I felt like I hated marketing and advertising. So I was like, ‘OK, my only option is to get a master’s degree in something else,’ but I needed a break. I was burnt out. I needed to get out of Gainesville. I couldn’t stay there anymore.”
Within two months of graduating or a month after graduating from Florida, Devore moved to Busan, South Korea, and got a job teaching English.
“The job paid really well, well enough for me to travel and save a lot of money,” Devore said. “Also for me to realize that I really enjoyed teaching and working with kids. It was the first thing I found that made me feel like running where I wanted to be the best. It consumed me. I was reading everything I could about teaching methods and ways to break things down and I was like I became all in 100-percent committed. I want to be the best teacher. It was really good for me to find something that got me fired up again.”
Devore taught English to students of varying levels, aged 8 to 15. She had a class of middle school students she taught essay writing skills and basic vocabulary communication, and another more advanced class that she taught reading literature, written composure and entrance exam preparation for western universities. One of her students gained acceptance to Harvard.
After the first year, she was able to take a term off to travel. She spent those nine weeks on an epic backpacking trip that included three weeks in the Philippines, three weeks in Bali, 10 days in Thailand, a week in Cambodia, and culminated in Sweden where her boyfriend at the time proposed.
“We decided to move back home in November of 2014,” Devore said. “My grandfather had cancer and we thought it was best to just go back home and then figure out what we want to do from there. We just went to where we can stay somewhere for free, which was my parent’s house in Florida. I needed to do something while we were planning a wedding. I got a substitute teaching job and I was loving it.”
In the meantime, Devore enrolled in a one-year program at the local community college to get her teaching certification. A scholarship enabled her to complete all of the coursework for free. She was eventually hired by the school where she was substitute teaching third grade.
And just like running had before, teaching became the bright spot in Devore’s world.
“At this point, I’m loving teaching so much,” she said. “It’s like it consumes every waking minute. I’m very happy. It’s the only thing I care about. I want to be teacher of the year because that’s my personality. Whatever I do I want to be the best at it. I got hired. I did a really good job.”
Outside of the classroom, however, things weren’t as rosy.
Devore’s personal life was in tatters. Her grandfather, whom she called “the most important person in her life,” passed away. Her brief marriage was, “a huge disaster.” Her mom was in rehab and her relationship with her father and stepmother had become estranged.
“I was actually very unhappy in everything except teaching,” Devore said. “There was a lot that shouldn’t have happened, but I was just not happy with who I was. I felt like I didn’t understand how I had gotten to that point. I didn’t like the person that I saw in the mirror. I didn’t feel like I had any friends because the friends I had made were still in South Korea. I was back in my hometown. I was like, ‘How did I end up here?’
“Really I hated myself, but at least I had teaching and I had all those kids. When I close the classroom door there’s no time to think about me because everything is about them. I got in those hours that I didn’t have to think about me or where I was going or what I was doing or how I was feeling because the only thing that mattered was the kids.”
One week, Devore met up with some old high school teammates for a pub run organized by the Lakeland Runners Club. It was the first time she had run any distance, let alone a 5K, in years. She pulled it off pain-free.
“More than that, I remembered how amazing running feels,” Devore said. “It’s truly like a drug. I was making friends left and right. I was feeling like I was gaining self-confidence again. I was feeling like that just inner joy knowing that you’re doing something great for yourself and you’re in total control of it.
“Once I went for those pub runs, it was like this massive light bulb that went off that this is what I had been missing because I found my social group and the people that I felt understood me and it’s where I was able to fulfill a lot of those internal desires. It was the thing that I basically needed to be me. When I got injured I lost that sense of self and it took me a while but I realized that when I’m running I’m like the truest, the best version of me.”
After a run one night in late 2016, her teammates started talking about training for a half marathon, a far-fetched idea for someone who was easing back into running after a four-year running hiatus and who had taken the fall/winter racing season off after suffering what she believed to be a stress fracture in the second metatarsal of her foot, but she agreed to go for it.
“I was like, ‘What, that’s insane!’ But I was like, ‘You know what? Whatever. Let’s do it,’” said Devore, who ran her first half marathon in 2015. “I needed another goal, something also outside of teaching. I knew my career couldn’t be my obsession. I needed a balance.”
Devore did almost all her training on trails, treating her foot injury gingerly, with a very gradual build-up in miles and no speed work in the first three months of the training block. In March of 2017, she raced the Beach Halfathon in Fort Desoto, Florida, and won the race in one hour, 25 minutes.
“I just got hooked again,” Devore said. “I was so stoked with winning and how awesome that it was that I signed up for the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon and that became my next goal race.”
Racing at Disney a month later, she took a whopping five minutes off her PR and won the Dark Side Half in one hour and 20 minutes. Although she hates to admit it, after the race she began to realize for the first time that running could be her true talent.
“It was this race that made me realize I needed to get serious. My body was still responding really well to the training and I felt like there were no limits. I realized that if I just really was able to put in the extra work I could be really good at running.”
It was also after that race that she heard people mention perhaps the two most far-fetched words she had ever associated with her and running.
“Someone asked me after that race if I thought about trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Devore said. “That just sounded like the most insane thing I have ever heard in my life. This is like my third half marathon, I’m like, ‘You’re talking about the Olympics?’ I didn’t understand that this was something that a lot of people qualified for.
“Then I found out you just had to run 2:45 for the marathon which was like, I mean I ran an hour 20 for the half, if you add two of those together, that’s two hours and 40 minutes. I was like if I really trained I could probably do that twice. I was like you know what I’m going to make that a goal. I’m going to do it.”
That summer she decided to rent a four-bedroom cabin in Colorado Springs and opened it up to her runner friends to join her. It offered a welcome break from the Florida heat and humidity, and altitude training “was the hip thing to do.”
Her friend, now boyfriend, Jon Mott, took her up on the offer as he was preparing to run the Detroit Marathon later that fall while she eyed the Houston Marathon in January.
“I didn’t know anything about the altitude training or what you’re supposed to do or how you need to adapt or anything,” Devore said. “I just went and I ran like 80 miles my first week. I didn’t even have the proper shoes for that kind of mileage. I ended up tearing my calf while I was there, which set me back for six or eight weeks that I could not run.”
Nevertheless, Devore still managed to return home from Colorado Springs in the best shape of her life and even on just three weeks training she continued with her plan and ran the Detroit Half Marathon as a tune-up race, finishing third in an hour and 20 minutes.
“I was like, ‘OK, I didn’t run that much and I’m basically back where I was in April except I got there in just three weeks,’ so I was feeling pretty confident coming off Detroit,” Devore said.
She knew it would be rocky juggling teaching and training for a full marathon, so she arranged with the athlete coordinator at the Houston Marathon to switch her entry from their full marathon to the half marathon. On January 14, Devore raced the Houston Half and lowered her personal best to 76:54. About a month later at the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, she improved her PR further to 74:21 in a fourth-place finish.
Two weeks after Gasparilla, Devore and her boyfriend Mott traveled about 30 miles from their home in Lakeland to Clay Loop, a 10-mile trail not far from the Olympic Training Center in Clermont, Florida, that is popular with elite runners to get in a 17-mile workout. When they go there, Devore spotted a van with the Hanson-Brooks logo on it and was immediately starstruck.
“I see the van and I freak out,” Devore said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, Desi Linden might be out here running and training, or Dathan Ritzenhein.’ I totally fan-girled to see who was getting out of this van.
“After I finished my run, Dathan and Shadrack Biwott are doing drills and they’re like, ‘Dang, how fast did you just run this?’ I had done two laps and something like 6:20 pace and their minds were blown. They said that was so fast for out there. So I told them I was training for my first marathon and gave them some background. I told them all of my training was on Strava if they wanted to follow me. We said our goodbyes and I told Dathan I was a huge fan.”
As Devore was driving home, she got a notification on her phone. Biwott followed her on Strava.
“I’m like losing my mind at that point,” Devore said. “Then I got another notification that he commented on my run. It said, ‘Coach and I are very impressed with your training.’ Later that evening, Shadrack added me as a friend on Facebook and messaged me. He said, ‘Coach is really impressed by what you are doing. Have you ever considered joining a professional running group? For maybe a day when I was a freshman in college but not since. He said Kevin was going to call me and we agreed to meet and have dinner.”
“I saw her out running a few times and I said, ‘That girl looks pretty good,’ but I wasn’t sure exactly what she was running,” Hanson said. “At one point she asked us about the program but in my mind she wasn’t quite good enough yet to be in the program.
“But then she ran an outstanding half marathon at Gasparilla. She was fourth and the three that beat her were Diane Nukuri, Sara Hall, and Stephanie Rothstein. I was like, ‘That’s good company.’ After meeting with her and hearing her backstory, I was really impressed with her. I knew she was going to run Pittsburgh. In my mind, looking at how well she was doing, I thought she might be able to dip under 2:40.”
Bolstered by her race performances, uninterrupted training, return to health, and belief of the Hansons, Devore’s confidence continued to skyrocket as her marathon debut in Pittsburgh neared.
“As I continued to train, what started out as a goal of running 2:40 turned into, ‘Maybe I can break 2:40,’ which turned into, ‘Oh my gosh, I can get the A standard of 2:36,’ which then turned into I don’t know what I can do,” Devore said. “Shadrack told me, ‘You could run 2:30.’ I was like, no we are not going to go there. But I had just done a long run of 20 miles at six-flat pace so I felt like 2:32 might be a possibility.”
When Devore showed up at the start line for the Pittsburgh Marathon, she did so with the signatures of her students on her socks and the comfort of knowing she would have family on hand for support -- her father grew up 40 miles east in Chester, West Virginia.
But when you have never run more than 20 miles in a single clip in your life, those things can’t do much to help when you hit the proverbial wall and the unknown of those final miles, or the angst that just thinking about it brings.
“That whole extra six is like, ‘Who knows?’” Devore said.
Before the race, Hanson messaged Devore some final words of encouragement. He reminded her to run pace mode for the first 16, and beast mode for the last 10. Devore wrote the mantra on her arm and her water bottles.
The race couldn’t have broken more favorably for Devore. She took the lead basically from the 5K mark, which was perfect for someone who trained alone and knew how to run within herself and control her own pacing. She was able to take things through the halfway point in 1:17:30.
“I started doing the math in my head and I was like, ‘1:17 times two, dang it I’m going to run 2:36 today,’” Devore said. “I said to myself, ‘Well, I feel really good. I’m just going to pick it up and see what happens in the second half.’”
Devore wound up negative-splitting the second half of the race by over two minutes and finished the race in 2:32:38, the eighth-fastest time by an American woman in the marathon this year, and well below the Olympic Trials A standard. She also earned $8000 in prize money for the victory.
“I felt way worse than I expected in the last two miles,” Devore recalled. “Up until like Mile 24, I was like, ‘This is too easy,’ and then I was like, ‘There it is,’ and it caught up to me really hard for the last two miles. But being able to run the last half in 1:15 was crazy. It was all unbelievable.”
It was all about to become even more so.
After making headlines for her triumph and Trials qualifier in Pittsburgh, Devore returned to Bartow, Florida, for the final weeks of the school year at Spessard L. Holland Elementary School. They were going to be her final days teaching period.
Before running Pittsburgh, Hanson envisioned Devore as a woman who, with the proper training, could be an impactful marathon in four to six years. Her debut, specifically the comfort in which she negative split the race, expedited that timeline considerably.
“I thought if she has a positive experience and gets under 2:40 it’s going to be good, so when she was what she was I was like, ‘Holy cow,’” Hanson said. “And nobody knows who this person is right now. She needs to get out here and visit NOW!
“She’s two to three years ahead of where I thought she was. She is somebody people are going to very quickly learn who she is. People are going to say, ‘Ooh! Where did that one come from?’”
So, after Mott completed the Ottawa Marathon, the couple flew to Michigan to meet with the Hansons and explore the possibility of joining the group. Having finally established some stability in her life, Devore initially wasn’t sure she should give up her life and teaching career in Florida to chase what amounted to a pipe dream. But the more she thought about it, the more sold she became.
“I told Jon you can make whatever decision you want but unless something goes horribly wrong, I’m doing this,” Devore said. “Kevin and I sat down, and the thing that ultimately sealed the deal was he said the one thing that I was most scared to say out loud which is that he thought I had a chance at making the Olympic Team for 2020 and that I was a good bet for 2024.
“He basically said what I had been so afraid to say to even Jon, even my parents. I was even scared to admit that I wanted that for myself.”
“I don’t know what the learning curve will be with her but she definitely has so many of the intangibles in the sport to eventually become an Olympian, and I believe that strongly,” Hanson said. “Whether or not that is in 2020 or in 2024, there are still a great number of lessons to be learned.”
Devore and Mott both accepted invitations to join Hansons-Brooks. Devore gave up her teaching job, Mott quit his job in a running store, and the two jammed their belongings into their Mini Cooper and moved to Rochester, Michigan, to begin their lives as professional runners.
“When I called my grandma and said that I had an opportunity to be a professional runner, she was like, ‘That doesn’t exist,’ and just laughed at me,” Devore said. “I was like ‘No, it’s a thing just like they have professional basketball players and football players.’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, but you can’t possibly make it a living.’ I explained that I found a team that wanted to take me in and it’s going to be possible for me to just run.
“It’s scary to walk away from teaching,” Devore added. “It’s one of those careers that once you get in ever year it benefits you. Every year your pay increases, you’re adding to your retirement plan, you have health insurance. It’s a very safe career and to walk away was terrifying but at the same time it was like how could I not. There was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity. I can put 30 years into something else later. This is the only time that I can give this a shot.”
While Devore is right to statistically consider herself one of the 15 or so women who should be factors at the Olympic Trials in February 2020, the one thing she lacks that many of her rivals possess is experience.
In that regard, Hanson fully expects school to be in session on Sunday in New York, where Devore will face reigning race champion Shalane Flanagan, 2018 Boston Marathon champion Desiree Linden, and 2016 NYC Marathon third-place finisher Molly Huddle among others in what may arguably be the deepest field of American women assembled in race history.
“New York is a perfect race for us,” Hanson explained, “because she will have to learn how to race with somebody else being in charge of the pace; whether or not this is a spot you respond to the pace or lay off the pace; whether or not if you lay off the pace you have the tenacity upstairs to be able to come back on the field.
“This is a race without pacers, much like the Trials and much like the Olympics, and there is uniqueness with the course where it is not just a track on roads where there are some tactical things that are important to respond to and it will be important how you respond to someone else’s tactics. All of those are learning things that Sydney does not yet have in her pocket.”
Additionally, Hanson said it’s an opportunity for Devore to do a little strategic reconnaissance while also learning how to manage her surroundings.
“The biggest thing for her is to learn about some of the other top Americans and how they are going to race,” Hanson said. “There are people there she is going to be given an opportunity to contend with at the Trials so we want her to see this person is someone who has a tendency to push, this person is somebody who likes to lay off, learn that about her competitors.
“Also, with no disrespect to the Pittsburgh Marathon, New York, and Boston, both do a great job with the hype and buzz surrounding the event and sometimes how you deal with that and chaos going on around you is something that we talk about a lot and it’s something that you can’t really simulate without being in a situation like this.”
“I got lucky at Pittsburgh because I didn’t have to respond to anybody,” Devore added. “New York will be my first experience with having to make decisions mid-race that could seriously come back to bite me if I don’t make the right decision. That excites me and terrifies me at the same time.”
Either way, there will be another race, and you can bet Devore will keep chugging along.