An Interview with Devotia Moore of Greater Boston Track Club

 

devotiaBoston, Massachusetts – February 24, 2012 - Devotia Moore hails from Jamaica, New York.  She attended Townsend Harris High School, where she competed in a wide range of events: 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, 1500m, 3,000m, 5,000m, 2,000m steeplechase, and cross country.  After finding her niche in the 800m her junior year, she chose to continue her career at Duke University where she majored in International Comparative Studies.  The 2011 All-American (Indoor DMR) and Duke record holder ran a personal best of 2:03.45 and was a part of Duke University’s 4x800m relay team which won the Championship of America at Penn Relays in 2011.  She now trains in Boston with the Boston College Eagles and races for the Greater Boston Track Club.  Most recently, she took 11th at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, NM.

I've heard that you weren't very active in sports prior to high school, when you decided to try out for the cross country team.  What initially drew you to running?

Devotia: I kind of always had a vague feeling that I should be running. There was a pseudo track team in middle school that I was a part of, and my P.E. teachers tried to have me compete in the Colgate Games competitions, but I never joined the youth club running scene.  The first question I asked at Townsend Harris was when the cross country tryouts would be, and I’ve been running ever since. It didn’t hurt that I was pretty good at it! Every now and then I flirted with the idea of trying another sport but my high school coach promptly informed me in the kindest way that running was where I needed to be. Thanks Coach Connor!

You've said that you didn't fall in love with the 800m until your junior year of high school after competing in a variety of other events.  What is it about the 800m that you love so much?

Devotia: I didn’t really focus on any event in particular until my junior year. I think my wake up call was when I ran a 2:12 and got on a national ranking list. I ran because it was so much fun, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could be nationally competitive. The more I ran the 800, the more it made sense. For no particular reason I had a distance background, but could also whip out 57s in the 400 in my sleep, and the 800 ended up being the crossroad of the two. That, and my attention span continually decreased every year – I can’t imagine running an Indoor 3k now. Fifteen laps??? Not happening. I like that the 800 is nearly an all out sprint, not only are you expected to go through the quarter in under 60 seconds, you’re expected to do it twice with no breaks. It’s quite a daring task, much different than seeing who can maintain a slower pace or burn for the longest time. At some point, in every 800 you have to decide whether or not you’re going to will yourself past your competitors and the burning in your legs.

Did you have a good experience at Duke?  Why was it a good fit for you?

Devotia: I had an absolutely wonderful time at Duke! I had everything I could ever need, beautiful weather, amazing teammates, excellent coaches, an extensive support staff, and a campus full of resources. I knew instantly on my recruiting trip that it was the place for me. I felt comfortable and excited to be around my future teammates, the campus and student body were the perfect size (small yet incredibly diverse) and I was confident that I would succeed there. I never considered going to school closer to home. My mother will tell you that I’ve always been very independent, and I always want to be challenging myself in everything I do. Being from New York City, I knew that most schools available to me would be a situation where I didn’t know where the campus ended and where the city began. I really enjoyed that Duke was a close-knit, beehive kind of a campus.

What would you say was the highlight of your collegiate career?

Devotia: All of it. I really don’t have much more to say here. Because each aspect could not have been without the others, I wouldn’t hold any particular moment over another. If you really pinned me down for an answer, I would say the highlight was the journey I shared with my teammates. Athletically, I had an awesome senior year, which was highlighted by our win at Penn Relays (which I will admit was extremely kick ass) but those eight or so minutes of the race aren’t what I look back on. I fondly remember the way we supported one another over days, weeks and months of sacrifice. We hoped and believed, and one day everything came together at the right time.

When did you realize that you wanted to continue to train and compete after college?  Did anyone influence you in that decision?

Devotia: I realized when I was having trouble searching for jobs my senior year. All around me people were squaring away a variety of 9-5 jobs, and not only did sitting in an office all day sound terribly boring to me, it conflicted with my hopes of being able to train full time as well. Since I didn’t want to just continue competing, but rather wanted to compete at an elite level, the more I searched for flexible jobs the less I came across opportunities that would lend itself to my training and competition schedule. (If you know of any, let me know!) Seriously though, I had a consistent inner struggle over it and at the end of the day I wasn’t willing to budge on my desire to keep training. I had no clue what the logistics of it all would look like and how in the world I would make it happen, but I knew I had to try.

The more conversations I had with people the more it was clear that time was of the essence. I would say the combination of chatting with my mom and my coaches Kevin Jermyn and Liz Wort. I have the great fortune that my mom has so much belief in me and supports me endlessly in my athletic and life pursuits. My coaches gave me the courage to go off the beaten path and pursue my goals, and my friends brought an amazing energy to the idea that I could make an Olympic team. My high school friends, teachers, acquaintances, people I’ve never met before, my coworkers – they’ve all been instrumental in making this happen, and to them I’m eternally grateful.

You attended the first-ever RunPro Camp in 2011.  How did that help you to make the transition into post-collegiate running?

Devotia: Among the abundance of helpful information shared during the workshop, I think the most valuable thing I gained was knowing there were so many other people at varying stages of “making it happen.” I had never been in a room with post collegiate athletes with the same aspirations - some just as lost as I was and others who could guide us to avoid some rookie mistakes. Knowing that it has been done before and that there existed an infrastructure of support was very comforting. I still keep in touch with some of the RunPro alumni; it’s great to be able to chat with people who understand completely how unique of an experience this is.

What criteria factored into your decision to train with the Boston College Eagles?

Devotia: A couple of things, and a lot of luck. BC happened to have a volunteer coach position open up, happened to have two elite half milers in Caitlin Bailey and Caroline King, and my girlfriend happened to have gotten a great job offer in Boston. Personally I would have preferred somewhere warmer, like California perhaps, but it seemed like the universe was giving me an opportunity to be in the same place as my significant other as well as have a fantastic training situation. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

The first year out of college can be difficult for some runners.  Have you encountered any obstacles since graduating?  If so, what has helped you work through them?

Devotia: I would say the first year out of college is difficult for anyone, no matter what your post collegiate plans are. I generally really really missed college, my teammates, and the familiarity of Durham. All of my friends were overnight scattered across the globe, life was very different from grabbing coffee in between classes. Suddenly I was a real life adult, and I had a lot of running left to do. I wanted to leave Duke because I knew that by leaving I would grow as an athlete and a person. At first it was tough because I had no freaking idea what I was doing! I still don’t sometimes, but it’s far better than Day 1.

Simple things like registering for meets, picking up my number, organizing travel plans, are things that I never had to think about. I also found that I could decide whether I wanted to do a workout or a race, which is an autonomy I hadn’t experienced. I am the captain of my own ship! Which is wicked cool, but then sometimes it’s like whoa, if I don’t decide these things, it’s not going to get done. Every now and then I would have days where I would think, “What the heck am I doing??” and hoping it’s the right thing and that it’ll all work out. There are also so many messages about how best to train, race, feed myself etc which can be overwhelming at times. I don’t claim to know everything, but I had to learn to dig my heels into the ground and stick to what works for me.

What motivates you?

Devotia: Possibility and curiosity motivate me. I’m quite driven by the general rule that you get out of running what you put in. The outcomes of some sports have the potential to be influenced by other people. I enjoy that in running, there’s me and there are splits. There’s a defined distance and it’s up to me to accomplish what I set out to do before I run out of meters. The idea that through dedication and hard work I can be faster and stronger than I was yesterday…is wildly exciting to me. Then I start imagining, well, what if I do this for another day, then those days add up, and one day, I’m a sub 2:00 half miler.

I’m also humbled by the fact that to be able to do this is a special thing in itself. Some people can’t get up in the morning and go for a run. Whether it’s due to injury, disability, or a variety of things, I’m so lucky to be healthy enough to do this. On another note, I’m lucky to be really really good at this running thing. There are so many people who still have a burning will to do this, but they may have had limiting factors or their bodies wouldn’t let them go any further. I definitely think about that a lot. Whether I achieve my goals or not, it’s incredible to be able to run competitively at a high level. I’m so grateful for the opportunity every day.

Who are a few of your biggest role models in the running world and what is it about them that inspires you?

Devotia: For me there is great irony in this question – I actually don’t have what you would consider as a running role model. Of course, there are people whose names I know, I’ve read their life stories, and I’m familiar with their accomplishments. While I fully respect and admire them, to me they’re just like me, competitive really determined athletes doing what comes naturally to them. I find that I’m most inspired by the people I meet at work through selling running shoes. The irony I was referring to earlier is that these people usually say to me, “well I’m not really a runner, but I’ve done a couple marathons and half marathons.” To me these conversations blow my mind. I’m standing before every day people who have run farther than I ever have in my life. Perhaps its more impressive to a middle distance runner like me (longest run ever was 10 miles by accident, I tend to get lost) but for someone to tell me the last six miles of the 26 was brutal…I’m still getting over the fact that they’ve run that far in the first place.

It can be difficult to find training centers to join as an 800m runner.  Do you have any advice for 800m/mid-distance runners looking to pursue running as a profession?

Devotia: It’s still difficult!! Everything is so distance or sprint oriented; I found that to be very frustrating at first. First of all I would recommend figuring out if you can live without competing at a high level. Can you look yourself in the mirror and say you’re ready to walk away from the sport with no regrets and that you accomplished everything you set out to do? If the answer is no, or it’s a shaky yes, then it sounds like you’ve got some unfinished business. If that’s the case, the cliché if there’s a will there’s a way comes to mind. For me, I recognized that it’s something I have to do.

Graduating from college is the best time to do it, you’re likely in the best shape of your life, you have a network of people who support you (coaches, teammates, etc) and I’ve found that there was an abundant amount of support from my entire community when I set out to do this. Do keep in mind that it helps to have people rooting for you, as support isn’t just monetary. But enough of ideas, if you’re considering this, you need a framework for making it happen for real. When at RunPro, there was a consensus from the training groups in attendance that while they didn’t cater to the 800, they were willing to have me as a part of their group. I didn’t end up going down that road, but one of the most important things you can secure for yourself is a training environment that is supportive and full of people wanting to help you reach your goals. It’s half the work.

Secondly, you’re going to need to provide for yourself a basic level of things. Working part time at a running store enables me to get a great discount on running shoes and apparel. It also enables me to have a flexible schedule for training and racing. Third, you’ve got to have a plan. Mine developed as I went along, and yours will too, but even having a rough draft is helpful. For example, since you’re running the show now (congratulations!) researching and knowing which meets you’ll tentatively be going to is necessary. On the back end you have to hammer out the logistics on how you’re getting there, registering, where you’ll be staying, etc.

OK, I can sense this might be a little overwhelming, so my last and perhaps most useful bit of advice would be to take everything one day at a time, and talk to people. Lots of people. Not everything they say will be useful, but you’ll be surprised to find how many people are inspired by your journey and are willing to help out.

How are you able to support yourself (sponsors, job, coaching, etc.)?

Devotia: I recently joined the Greater Boston Track Club! They assist with entry fees, transportation and lodging for a portion of my meets. I also work part time at Marathon Sports, a running shoe store, and I’m fortunate that my family also supports me. As a coach I’m also able to travel to meets with the team, which has been very helpful.

What are some of your short- and long-term goals?  What do you hope to accomplish?

Devotia: I have lottttts of goals. Perhaps too many. In the long term it’d be a dream to break the 800m world record, win a gold medal at the Olympics, and be a multiple time world champion. As you can see, I rarely have little dreams. In the short term, preferably by the end of this Outdoor season, there’s only one goal. Run under 2 minutes for the 800. Simple right? Of course, there are little goals along the way that will help me get to where I’d like to be. All in all though, I just want to run fast and be happy doing it.

Is there anything else you think would be helpful for RunPro readers to know or that you'd like to talk about?

Devotia: Ask a lot of questions, and dream. Dream until it becomes your reality. Only you (with the help of others) can make it happen.

 

I kind of always had a vague feeling that I should be running. There was a pseudo track team in middle school that I was a part of, and my P.E. teachers tried to have me compete in the Colgate Games competitions, but I never joined the youth club running scene.  The first question I asked at Townsend Harris was when the cross country tryouts would be, and I’ve been running ever since. It didn’t hurt that I was pretty good at it! Every now and then I flirted with the idea of trying another sport but my high school coach promptly informed me in the kindest way that running was where I needed to be. Thanks Coach Connor!