Virtual to Reality: Virtual Trainers Swap Stories of TCS New York City Marathon on Medal Monday


On Monday, November 5, just hours after the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon concluded, the NYRR Virtual Training class of 2018 met with their coaches for their annual group photo. And where better to meet than at the world-famous marathon finish line.

For runners, the meetup was a chance to meet their virtual coaches in real life and thank them for all the advice and support they received while training for the five-borough race. And the coaches got to put some faces to the names of runners that they had e-coached since July.

Many inspirational stories were told—with PRs being a common theme.

For Brooklyn’s Geraldine Aine (pictured below with coach Steve Mura), the Virtual Training program not only helped her through a tough year, but also prepared her to hit a major goal—finishing her first marathon. “This year, I had a lot going on,” she said. “My dad was sick and I needed something to channel my energy. I volunteered at last year’s marathon, right here by the grandstands. Shalane [Flanagan] sprinted past me on her way to the finish line.

“It was electric,” she added. “It inspired me to do it.”


When she signed up for Virtual Training, 16 weeks seemed “daunting,” but the more she spoke to her coaches, the easier it became. “Living in New York, I saw my coaches a lot at the NYRR RUNCENTER,” she said. “In early September, I was finding it tough mentally so I wrote to the coaches and they helped.”

On race day, Aine felt prepared for anything—and when two unexpected bathroom breaks broke her momentum, she remembered everything she had learned from the program. “After the bathroom breaks, I got to mile 16 and thought of all the advice my coaches gave me about the last 10 miles being a mental challenge,” she added. It worked as Aine finished in 3:55:06.

Bridging a 22-Year Gap

In 1996, Daniel Bases ran the New York City Marathon with his brother, finishing in a time of 6:41:48. He’s had 22 years to think about his performance and after getting in through the drawing for the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon, Bases wanted to better his time.

“A lot has changed since then, but I thought I could do better,” he said.

A friend recommend NYRR’s Virtual Training program. At first, Bases was a little skeptical, but over time, he found the program suited all his training needs.

“I thought it was just a computer program,” he said, “but as I began to use it, it served as a motivator, telling me what to do. And then it became much more personalized as I took advantage of the notes section, putting in my thoughts after runs.”


The program helped Bases stay on track, even when life got in the way.

“It’s like having a buddy train with you. It says virtual, but there’s human beings behind it, which is a massive help,” he noted.

Bases finished in 4:52:34. He’s not waiting another 22 years for his next marathon, though. “I’ll be back next year for the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon. And I think I can do better again.”

For Stephanie Grossman, it was her second year running the TCS New York City Marathon—and her second time using Virtual Training.

“It’s very motivating,” she said. “When you have early days and you have to prepare and motivate yourself to get through it, the program is very encouraging.”

Grossman’s 2018 time of 4:47:11 shaved about 10 minutes off her 2017 time. “This year, I was able to push myself harder, I trusted myself more than I did last year with the program, and I knew what to expect,” she said.


Grossman says she will race the TCS New York City Marathon once again—and train for it the only way she knows how.

“I would recommend the Virtual Training program to everyone. It tells you what to focus on and what types of runs you should be doing—tempo runs, intervals, and hills.”

Looking to use NYRR’s Virtual Training program for your next half-marathon or marathon? NYRR’s Virtual Training page has a list of available options, including specific plans tailored toward the Fred Lebow Half-Marathon and the United Airlines NYC Half.

Gary McLaughlin