Clear skies, full hearts, The Cowtown couldn't lose on Sunday

The skies cleared on Sunday and smiled on the 40th running of The Cowtown, a most timely substitute for the more than 9,000 runners who took to the streets for Fort Worth’s annual long-distance footraces.

Under that dome of welcome late February sunshine, Andrew Cook basked in a bucket list moment at a 5 minute, 40 seconds pace.

Cook of Flower Mound dueled with Bernard Too for 26 miles before sprinting past the Kenyan native to claim the 26.2-mile marathon title in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 51 seconds.

Too came in at 2:30:24.

“I grew up in Flower Mound,” said Cook, 37, “and I’ve seen a lot of local guys, Keith Pearce – great runner – and Logan Sherman win these races. I’ve competed against those guys my whole life, so this is a kind of a bucket list thing for me.

“To win this one means a lot to me. I ran this race when I was 12 years old [10K]. I ran this thing my whole life. I’m getting a little emotional now.”

The Cowtown’s three races Sunday drew 9,105 runners, including 7,245 in the half-marathon. More than 14,800 registered for Saturday’s 5K and 10K and children’s 5K, but heavy rain drove more than half of those away.

Inclement weather was not an issue on Sunday. Runners took off at 7 a.m. in the mid-40s.

The weather Saturday actually turned out to be a blessing for Cook, a cross country and track coach at Flower Mound. Ordinarily, a track meet is scheduled for Saturday. Those things go all day, taking a lot of air out of his Sunday marathons.

However, the rain canceled Saturday’s meet, meaning Cook could relax.

For his victory, Cook also collected the $1,200 awarded to the top men’s and women’s marathon finisher.

McKale Montgomery was the first woman to cross the finish line. She did so in 2:55.51.

Too, a Kenyan native training in Grand Prairie, signed a tax form declaring he had won $750. Gabriel Zambrano, third in the men’s marathon, won $500.

Only the IRS would be capable of catching those four, and Geofrey Terer and Jenna Wutz, the 31-mile ultra-marathon winners.

“I was moving good up to 18 miles,” Too said. “I had little problem. I got very tired.

“After he passed me, he sprinted and I had to accept the position. I could not catch him.”

Cook said that he’s usually the one to hit the wall. Past Mile 20 has been a struggle the last few years, he said.

“I was really happy to maintain a good, solid pace,” said Cook, a three-time winner of the San Francisco Marathon who owns a personal-best time of 2:19. My training has been better. I knew I could get to 20 and feel fairly fresh.”

Too had put a gap in between the two in the last mile. At that point, it was Cook who about conceded his position.

“I thought, ‘well, I tried my best … he’s got me,’ Cook said. “But we got to that last hill and all of the sudden I started closing on him. I got next to him and thought ‘I’m just going to sprint. I’m going to sprint this hill as fast as I can and hope my momentum carried me to the finish.

“I was able to get a gap up the hill. At that point, I was running scared, really, looking over my shoulder hoping he wasn’t coming up on me.”

The men's half marathon winner Sunday was 25-year-old Caleb Hoover of Flagstaff, Ariz., who ran the 13.1 miles in 1:06:50. The women's winner was Kelsey Bruce of Dallas, also 25, who won the race in 1:17:20.

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