Kristine Lilly: Slowing my pace

This is the second in a series of blogs from former U.S. soccer player Kristine Lilly, who is running in the Boston Marathon on Monday to raise money for Boston Children's Hospital.

Training for a marathon is much different than soccer training.

Marathon training involves three to four months of running, running and more running -- with varying distances, of course. And all that running prepares your body for a 26.2-mile jaunt that only 1 percent of the world's population has completed.

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When Kristine Lilly was in top soccer shape, her body was trained to be quick, agile and able to sprint short distances.

Soccer training involves running, too, but in shorter bursts. I used to prep for a match by honing my agility and quickness so that on game day I could sprint after a ball with my hair on fire. Whether I tried to defend the ball or score it, I was running at Mach speed!

I'm also used to having teammates around to support me in good times and bad. Marathon training and running is such an individual endeavor -- all you have is you!

I was fortunate to get some good advice from Karen Smyers, a world-class triathlete. As far as athletes go, Karen's an all-around stud! She met with me before I started training and gave me first-hand information and a training program.

When you're venturing into a new sport, seeking advice and getting information from the best is a good idea. I took Karen's advice to heart and started to train. For me the biggest challenge is pacing myself.

Like I said, 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, which is a great place to get a cardio and weightlifting workout.

I also trained at CATZ after my first daughter was born to get me back into soccer shape. The birth of my second daughter was the impetus for my marathon training. What better way to get back in shape? With CATZ and Karen's training program on my side I was good to go. No sweat, right? I'll borrow a phrase from my soccer to marathon training transition: Not so fast.

Throughout a soccer career that spanned four decades, I never suffered a serious injury. So when heel pain sidelined my marathon training, my first thought was: "What?" I couldn't believe it!

But as astonished as I was, I'd been around athletes and injuries long enough to learn a rock-solid nugget of wisdom: When an injury plants a voice in your head, you should listen to it, since it's really your body telling you to take a break. And that's what I did. I took about six weeks off from high-impact, road running. But I didn't stop training. I continued to work out at CATZ, where I did some low-impact and interval training.

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.

So remember to listen to your body and take care of those pesky injuries. Now all I have to do is eat right, hydrate, get plenty of sleep and stay healthy. On race day I'll be good to go ... as long as I pace myself!

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