Training for the Virtual Boston 2020

by John Slyer

Running and triathlon have been an integral part of my life for decades. Like everyone else, my coaching, racing and training life was completely up-ended in March by COVID-19.

When 2020 started I fell into my normal training routine preparing for the Boston Marathon, IronMan Lake Placid and an ultra trail run. For me, these are events that connect me to my family and friends who race and train with me. My training and racing alone and with others is my therapy and it keeps me grounded and inspired to be outside and active.

It was early March and I went out for a long run feeling great. I had an awesome run and thought about how good it would be to run Boston in April. I took a fun pic for my family at my 12 mile turn around.  That night I opened my email to find out that my run in Boston was not happening. What a bummer! All the work done to qualify, and train was for naught

March 10th began my biggest break in training in three decades. The social distancing was not suiting my training and racing lifestyle and I lost all motivation to train. I cut wood, cleaned, organized, donated away more things than ever. It soon became clear that 2020 was going to be a very different year.  On Patriot’s Day, I went out and did a “Boston Marathon Hike” with my 16-year-old daughter Ruby.  I think she knew how much the loss of my racing and training was impacting me.  We had a great time and got 20.62 miles on that day. Not quite a marathon distance but going that far with my Ruby made it even more memorable.

       John with daughter Ruby on Boston Marathon Hike on Patriot's Day

I found myself trying to keep some hope that Lake Placid would somehow be a go but by early May it was clear that no big races were going to happen.  It seemed that life was going to hit “pause” for everyone. 

On June19th my friend Brian Coyne texted me about doing the Virtual Boston Marathon. I explained to Brian that I was afraid I would be very slow if we ran together and that my training has consisted of using chainsaws and gardening for the last few months. He convinced me to run it and to train all summer. Well, I did sign up, but the training didn’t happen.

I found myself immersed in running SKYHIGH sports camp with extraordinary COVID precautions. It was a constant obligation to keep all of my kids, staff and families safe while allowing them to have some fun and physical activity. I found myself exhausted each day and continued to not train, or as my staff like to say, I was “taper training.”

On August 11th I finally had a chance to breathe and realized that I only had a month until Virtual Boston and I was scared to say the least. I got out my training log to see if I had ever trained up this fast and the answer was no.  I’ve trained up quickly before, but this would be a challenge.

The following five weeks were both interesting and fun. I hiked mountains, biked, did some great open water swimming and I got in some running too. The week before the Virtual Boston, I called Brian and told him I thought it would kill him to run so slow with me. He laughed and said let’s do it anyway. 

We decided to run the Mohawk Hudson Marathon course. Dropping down drinks the morning of the run was motivating. We both know the course well and it was a beautiful morning. Off we went! We only missed one turn and added a bit of distance, but we were relaxed and moving.

The trail was packed with walkers, cyclists and families getting out. We even had a support crew show up with cold Gatorade at mile 21. The toughest stretch was, as always, the Corning Preserve and the difference between our Garmin GPS and the Boston Marathon app. Getting to the finish line was cause for more celebration.

I was a Virtual Boston Marathon Finisher and yet the road to this run was one I will treasure. My break in regular training gave me time to do things with family that I had not done in years. The impact of the pandemic on our world has given me a new perspective on life, family and friends. Living a healthy, balanced life is important even in a pandemic. My heart goes out to all of those who have suffered and survived and especially those who have lost loved ones.  Please take the time to share love and kindness with others.

John with his family 


Adirondack Sports Profile

John is a science educator and triathlon coach who runs the SKYHIGH Summer Camp to share his passion for sports with enthusiastic kids.


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