FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Kristine Lilly played in 352 games with the U.S. Women’s national soccer team, another 63 as a professional and countless more at Wilton High School and the University of North Carolina.
All of those games seemed easy compared to a marathon. Lilly finished the Boston Marathon with childhood friend Jodi Sorrells last week in 4:27:45, and she said it was “probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.”
Lilly can bask in the accomplishment, especially this weekend, when she receives the Gold Key from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance. Lilly will be the guest of honor at the group’s 71st annual dinner at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Stamford’s Mike Walsh, the long-time boys' basketball coach at Trinity Catholic and a veteran Babe Ruth baseball coach, also will receive a Gold Key.
The women’s soccer star ran her first marathon in Boston in grueling 87-degree heat. She ran to support Miles for Miracles for Children’s Hospital Boston, and raised more than $21,000 for the charity.
“It was amazing the amount of runners in the race,’’ Lilly said in a telephone interview from her hometown of Needham, Mass. “And the number of people that came to watch, that was fun. But the pain I felt was not so much fun. From mile 15 on, it felt like somebody was punching my quads.”
The marathon experience was unlike anything Lilly experienced on the soccer field, where she helped the United States win two World Cups and two gold medals in the Olympics. She played in more international games than any player in the history of the sport before she retired Jan. 5, 2011.
“In soccer, if I’m in pain and I’m tired it hurts to keep going, but there’s an end result, you either win or you lose,’’ she said. “In the marathon, I didn't really win, but I didn't lose. The fact that I did finish it was something I was proud of. When I finished I was like ‘Thank God.’ It’s something I wanted to do, and I did it.”
Since retiring, Lilly has been focusing on camps, coaching and children. She had her second child last September and is the assistant coach for a professional women’s soccer team in Boston. The camps, however, are her primary passion and current connection to the game. She has two camps scheduled this summer in Fairfield County. A camp in Wilton starts July 30, and she’ll also host at Camp at Chelsea Piers Connecticut beginning Aug. 6.
“I started camps in 1995, and I love the time I get out on the field with the kids,’’ Lilly said. “I have kids who went through it and now they want to help coach. I’m excited to be going it at Chelsea Piers. The kids will play soccer, have lunch, and then they’ll do other activities and then soccer. That goes back to my roots of doing other sports, which is something kids don’t do any more. I’m looking forward to that.”
Lilly was renowned for her energy on the soccer field during her brilliant playing career, and she has transferred that energy to her life off the field. Even with two children, she continues to juggle multiple tasks.
“I have a great husband who helps me tremendously,’’ said Lilly, who married David Heavey, a former UConn hockey player and golfer in 2006. “He was very patient with my marathon training. You make it work. Doing stuff and having kids see what you’re doing, it can have impact. It’s positive for your kids to see active.”