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Global Apr 16, 2012

U.S. Women’s National Team legend Kristine Lilly running Boston Marathon

By Charles Boehm

Her dazzling soccer career wound to a close a little over a year ago, but Kristine Lilly is still inspiring fans and pushing her limits. The longtime U.S. Women’s National Team star is running the Boston Marathon today, her first-ever marathon, in support of Children’s Hospital Boston.

“I told myself when I retired from playing soccer that I wanted to run a marathon, and then I got pregnant so I’m like, ‘OK, after I give birth, I’m going to get back into shape to run a marathon,’” Lilly told in an interview last month.

“One of my best friends, she’s going to run with me, and we’re running for Children’s Hospital Boston. It was a win-win for me. Running for Children’s is really great for me, because I visited the hospital so much while playing for the [Boston] Breakers and then just living in the Boston area.”

Lilly, who turns 41 in July and gave birth to her second child in September, spent a large part of her professional career with the Breakers in WUSA and WPS and was inspired by the runners she watched take part in the iconic event over the years. She will be running alongside Jodi Sorrells, an old friend she’s known since childhood who has run 13 marathons as well as an Ironman triathlon.

With an all-time world record 352 national team caps to her name, Lilly was known for her durability and fitness levels as a player. But the former midfielder/striker has had to learn a new approach to training in the course of her preparations, and as she explained in a series of blogs for ESPNW last week, she sought out advice from several top endurance athletes as she adapted to marathon pace.

“I’m used to sprinting down the pitch with my hair on fire. My DNA and overall muscle memory isn’t geared for a steady gait! To get my body accustomed to long-distance running, I started slow and jogged for an hour to two hours a day. I threw in some weight training at a facility called CATZ,” she wrote, explaining how heel pain forced her to throttle back her road mileage earlier this year.

“Today, my heel feels pretty good. I’ve received treatment for it and I’m ready to take on the marathon. Though I’m not as ‘road-prepared’as I’d like to be, I feel good about my training. I’m healthy and mentally prepared because I didn’t push my injury and overdo it.”

In a nod to the no. 13 jersey she wore over most of her career, Lilly set a fundraising goal of $13,000 for Children’s Hospital Boston. True to form, she surpassed it with ease as myriad small donations from the likes of former coach Tony DiCicco and teammates Michelle Akers, Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Shannon MacMillan pushed her total to nearly $20,000.

The 116th edition of the Boston Marathon kicked off shortly after 9 a.m. Monday morning, with some 27,000 participants registered. Sunny, unseasonably warm temperatures peaking in the mid-80s were expected to cause extra danger and hardship to the field and organizers have offered deferments to less experienced runners in order to limit the potential for overheating and other health risks.

[ +Read the first of Lilly’s three ESPNW blogs about her marathon adventure here ]

[ +Donations to her fundraising efforts for Children’s Hospital Boston can still be made here ]