By Seth Rubinroit
NEW YORK – Abby Wambach hopes to add “marathoner” to her decorated athletic resume Sunday at the 2021 New York City Marathon.
“Running in many ways has given me a beautiful life,” she said. “It has also really made my left ankle hurt.”
Wambach started running, sans soccer ball, shortly after retiring from the sport in 2015. She initially planned on pausing her exercise regimen to let her body recover, but the break did not last long.
“One of the things that I now understand,” she said, “is how much self-esteem [physical fitness] gives me.”
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion ran plenty of miles during her 15 years on the U.S. Women’s National Team, but running marathons requires an entirely different level of endurance.
“I was never shocked at myself that I could play 90 minutes of soccer,” she said. “What will be shocking to me is that I can run for four hours straight and not stop.”
After more than 30 years of competitive soccer, Wambach was ready to transition to an individual pursuit.
“Running is a very personal thing,” the 41-year-old Wambach said. “It’s not me against you. It’s me against myself. It’s me against my yesterday.
“This might be the first time in my life that I’ve ever done something not for an external reward, but for an internal reward…I’m doing this because I set a goal, a personal goal for myself that didn’t have a lot to do with anyone else.”
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During her soccer career, Wambach trained with the best coaches from around the world. But she chose a running coach much closer to home.
“One of my kids’ middle school cross-country coaches gave me the program,” the mother of three said in an interview on behalf of Gatorade’s Gx Sweat Patch, which she wears on the inside of her left arm to measure and analyze sweat rate for personalized hydration recommendations.
Wambach recently completed 20 miles, her longest-ever training run.
“I felt very impressed with myself,” she said. “I kept saying, ‘I can’t believe I just did that. I can’t believe that my body can do that.’”
Several other Olympic soccer players are expected to run the 2021 New York City Marathon, including Lauren Holiday, Kate Markgraf and Leslie Osborne.
Wambach’s goal is to run the 26.2 miles in under four hours.
“The respect that I have for marathon runners is so through the roof right now,” Wambach said, pointing out that Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei won the 2019 New York City Marathon in 2:22:38. “I am going to be running twice as slow as the people who are going to be winning the marathon. They will be running twice as fast as me and I will be running as fast as I can.”