Tri-town runners to take on Boston Marathon virtually

Aug 31, 2020

For the first time in the 124 year history of the Boston Marathon, the 26.2 mile race was cancelled due to coronavirus, throwing off training regimens for over 30,000 runners and dashing the dreams of those who hoped to run the famed marathon in-person.

But it won’t stop Nils Johnson and Bethany Couto of Mattapoisett, and Darnyl Dasilva of Rochester from running the marathon.

Instead, the three runners will be competing in the Boston Athletics Association’s first-ever virtual Boston Marathon in the week of Sept. 7.

All three have competed in the race before and decided to take up the challenge after the BAA cancelled the marathon for good on May 28 after hoping to have it on Sept. 14.

Dasilva said she was disappointed that the race couldn’t go on in-person, but is grateful that the athletic association is still working to make this year memorable for runners.

“I don't think they ever disappoint,” Dasilva said.

In addition to holding virtual discussion panels and championship runner interviews, the BAA will send every participant a post race package that will include commemorative gear that they would have received in-person.

After runners finish the race, they will upload their times to the marathon’s database where they can track their times against other competitors. 

For Dasilva, the year has been a bit of a disappointment because all the races she was scheduled for were postponed or cancelled.

This includes the 2020 U.S.A. Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee on Aug. 8. She was looking forward to it as both a runner who started out competing in high school, and now a triathlete.

At the time of the Boston Marathon’s cancellation, both her and her husband were nursing injuries, so she initially decided against running virtually. But because of the persistent emails she received from the BAA, she decided to run it solo. 

For Boston, Dasilva usually does a 16-week training program in the wintertime to prepare for the April marathon. 

This time around, she’s only doing a six week program. Instead of running six days a week, she relaxed the training to three to four days a week.

“It’s been a little bit more fun,” Dasilva said.

The challenge for her in training is long runs. 

Now up to 15 miles, it’s a challenge to get up early and beat the summer heat. 

Still, her marathon is “just going to be a typical day,” and she is planning her route along her old stomping grounds and places that are memorable to her.

For Bethany Couto of Mattapoisett, the virtual race will look different than what she has done in her last 12 Boston Marathons because of an extra accessory: a stroller with her one-year-old son, Leo. 

Runners normally can’t race with a stroller, so Bethany thought of running with Leo because she ran last year with him as well. That is, 26 weeks pregnant with her son.

“I guess the silver lining is that I can run with my stroller,” Couto said.

Like Dasilva, the race’s cancellation and shift to online was disappointing, but it’s not heartbreaking for Bethany.

The Mattapoisett native ran for Old Rochester Regional High School and has been running ever since. Her goal for this year’s marathon is less time-based and more for herself: to have Leo stay with her the entire race.

Bethany plans to run the Mattapoisett Road Race route five times. She is confident that if she can get Leo to nap during the Ned’s Point Lighthouse section of the route, then he can hang for the entire race.

To prepare, she’s been running 40 to 50 miles a week with the stroller. On their runs, Bethany and Leo like to point out bunnies, and Leo also recently took a liking to dogs and has been pointing them out as well.

During the pandemic, running is “really the only time I get out of the house” in the morning. Otherwise she’s at home with her husband during the day, so she said it’s nice to see the same people in the morning. 

Nils Johnson of Mattapoisett decided he was going to take it on the virtual marathon a day before registration closed. 

His goal? To get through the race to raise money for charity.

Now in his fourth Boston Marathon, the Inn on Shipyard Park co-owner ran each race for charity, and he doesn’t plan on stopping the tradition. 

This year, he is running to raise money for the William’s Fund, a Tri-Town community fund started in 2018 by teachers, staff members, and alumni of ORRHS to provide direct funds to students in need. 

This might be gift cards for groceries, heating oil for families in the winter, or a fee payment for a field trip. 

For Johnson, the charity aspect is more important than why he is running.

In the Tri-Town, “I think people think we have all the means in the world, but that’s just not the case,” Johnson said,

The Mattapoisett native said it’s hard to help others as an individual, so he hopes getting people to donate to the William’s Fund will help create a ripple effect.

“It kills two birds with one stone,” Johnson said.

Running Boston started out as a bucket list item. Johnson didn’t start running until his 30s, but he enjoys the sport because it gives him a moment to himself to get introspective.

In the past, Johnson ran to raise money for charities like the Boston Police Department Runner’s Club and the Arredondo Family Foundation.

He said the race is grueling, but it's an amazing event to be a part of. 

To donate to the William’s Fund, visit