Lilly and fellow football staff member Ben Odom completed the SunBurst Marathon last Saturday in South Bend, Ind.
The finish line for the 26.2-mile course was the 50-yard line at Notre Dame Stadium, complete with the Irish Fight song blaring and serving as inspiration for most of the field of 666.
"You are getting ready to run down the tunnel, they have the Notre Dame Fight Song playing, so that was pretty nauseating," Lilly said and laughed Thursday. "As running a marathon wasn't nauseating enough."
Well, there was nothing nauseating about Lilly's performance.
He completed his first attempt in 3:55.35 (8:59 per mile) and finished 21st out of 50 in his age bracket (30-35), 236th overall. Odom also turned in an impressive performance despite suffering from a swollen knee. The farthest the pair had run in a training session was 16.2 miles.
"I was excited. It was something I wanted to do," Lilly said. "It was a challenge and I had a goal in mind (finishing under four hours). It was going to be an exciting experience one way or another."
Lilly and Odom arrived in South Bend late Thursday night. The pair relaxed Friday and was met by perfect conditions (58 degrees) for the 5:45 a.m. start Saturday morning. Lilly said the course was relatively flat and the temp never got above 70 degrees.
A telephone call from Tennessee Titans assistant coach George Henshaw – his son Matt is a tight end for the Seminoles – late Friday helped calm Lilly's nerves. Henshaw's advice had a football flavor.
"George has run a bunch of marathons and he telephoned and left a message, telling us good luck and he made the comment that once you get to 20 (miles), it's going to be tough, " Lilly said.
"He said the last 6.2 is just like playing Miami, it's a gut check. Once I got to 20, I wasn't beat bad at that point. But I can't think about Miami that long because you start running too fast. About the last six miles I picked out six different games to think about each mile. Anything you can do mentally. I was quoting scripture. I really didn't get hit with it until the 24th mile. By then, you are so close to being done you are going to finish."
Lilly finished alright, never stopping once to walk.
"The course to me was a perfect one – it was flat for the most part," Lilly said.
"There were some who complianed about some hills – there was one around 24 miles -- but based on what we run on around here, to me there wasn't a hill that was any bit of a challenge. In fact it helped your confidence because I was able to pass (runners) on that hill (24 miles)."
Lilly and Odom low-keyed the weekend.
They visited the College Football Hall of Fame and other campus sites, though they did not meet with any Irish coaches. Lilly also said he got to watch more television than he's had in the past few months with the conclusion of spring practice and spring recruiting.
Naturally, the best part of the marathon, Lilly said, was finishing – despite the choice of music that filled Notre Dame Stadium.
"When you got on campus and turned the corner, I kind of knew where we were in the mix of things," Lilly said.
"When you turn the corner and you are looking at the stadium and you are getting ready to go down that tunnel, you are glad because it's almost over. From a standpoint, I knew I was going to be under four hours and I was excited about that."
Lilly's also excited about the Seminoles' recruiting. Although on vacation this week, Lilly has been in the office every day. Such was the case Thursday morning as he continued his opponent game plans and worked the program's upcoming football camps.
"The way it usually is you kind of have a feeling at the end of May as to where you are in the whole thing and where you stand with a lot of people," Lilly said.
"Obviously, things can shift during the summer depending on what you do and what kind of opportunities you have to get around the kids at camps and so on and how many times they call you and how much you are able to keep up with their coach. I felt like we are in pretty good position at the end of May – we are in a good position as we've ever been."
Lilly also feels the Seminoles' are in good position with some of the nation's top quarterbacks. FSU hopes to sign two in February.
"It's always going to be a difficult position," Lilly said. "It seems like quarterbacks, over the last few years anyway, have tended to commit a little earlier. They tend to commit in the summertime so you want to definitely to be in the hunt for the right one for the summer."
Lilly also plans to continue to run. A distant goal might be the Boston Marathon, though he would need to trim 40 minutes from his current time.
"I got back out yesterday (Wednesday) and it felt pretty good," Lilly said. "I had some (joint) soreness but overall I felt good. It's just something I enjoy to do."