Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Flying Pig Marathon Review

One of the Flying Pigs painted like a Cheetah 
Flying Pig Marathon
May 6, 2012
Cincinnati, OH
20th Marathon Completed
Time - 3:45:00
Pace - 8:36/mile
Place - 78th/357 40-44AG
          590th/4084 Overall
Overall Experience ... 5/5!!!

Spoiler Alert ...
  • Probably the 2nd or 3rd best marathon experience I've ever had
  • GREAT volunteers and organization
  • GREAT community involvement and pride around the event
  • BEST water stops and aid stations ever
  • Challenging, but very nice course
  • Got to run in two States ... crossing over from Ohio into Kentucky briefly
  • Hung out with our friend Coy from First in Philly all weekend,  and met fellow blogger Jeff from Detroit Runner
  • Awesome weekend in my most favorite part of the country
  • HIGHLY recommend this race!!!
Medal & Swag ...
2012 Flying Pig Marathon Medal - Front & Back (pig butt on the back, hahaha)

2012 Flying Pig Marathon Race Shirt and SWAG, which included great P&G Duffle Bag and race poster
Cincinnati, Ohio ...
While I think I've been to almost every nook & cranny in the Flyover-States in my 43 years, Cincinnati, Ohio had somehow eluded me.  But I always knew I would love it.  After all, it's fairly close to some of my favorite people and cities ... Louisville, KY - Indianapolis, IN - Nashville, TN ... so how could it not be great!  And I was exactly right ... it was awesome!  And it's now on my favorite cities list!

Cincinnati, Ohio at night on the banks of the Ohio River - one of my most favorite pictures I've ever taken
There are just so many great things about this part of the country that I love.  For starters, there's so much great baseball with a mix of major and minor league parks.  The people are genuine and wonderful.  The countryside is amazing.  And there are also a couple of world-class events only a couple of hours from each other ... The Kentucky Derby (which ran on the same day as the Flying Pig) and The Indianapolis 500.

Some more pics from the Expo
Cincinnati is a beautiful city located on the banks of the Ohio River.  We didn't have an opportunity to spend a lot of time in downtown, Cincy - but rather ate, slept, and watched a movie in neighboring Newport & Covington, Kentucky - which are directly across the river.  In fact, from the entertainment district in Newport, you have a beautiful view of the Cincinnati skyline.   And I got a great picture of the city lit up at night on Saturday evening before the race.

Michael & me with the great Pigippides
Why the name Flying Pig???  The name honors the history of agriculture, riverboats, and pig trading in Cincinnati in the 1800's.  In fact, there was so much pig trading that the city was know for a while as "Porkopolis".   And when Bicentennial Commons Park was built in 1988, the city recognized the pigs that had "given their lives so the city could grow" by placing four flying pigs statues on top of four Riverboat smoke stacks at the entrance to the park.  And on race weekend, it's like a celebration of pigs with pig costumes featuring ears, noses, and curly tails everywhere!

Expo & Packet Pick Up ...
Depending on the size of the race, Expos seem to come in two sizes ... small & non-existent or over-the-top huge.  This one was the latter.  It was a huge, very well organized, very festive race expo that matched the enthusiasm and excitement of the 30,000 runners for all events being held during the weekend ... but the overwhelming thing that stood out the minute you walked in the door was the volunteers.

I've never experienced a race with better volunteers.  They were simply everywhere and unbelievably helpful.  They stepped up and offered to take pictures without being asked.  They offered assistance and directions willingly and without hesitation.  And almost every volunteer greeted you with a smile and wished you good luck.  The volunteers were probably the single greatest thing about the weekend.  They were simply unlike any I've ever experienced.

Coy, Michael, Jeff, & me at the Flying Pig Marathon
The Expo was really great as well.  There were of course the standard sunglasses, shoes, upcoming race, and nutrition bar booths offering free samples and fliers.  But this Expo was sponsored in part by Proctor & Gamble which meant one thing ... FREE tooth brushes, toilet paper, dish-soap, and maxi-pads for everyone!!!  It was kinda funny, the line for the free P&G stuff was longer than any other line during the weekend.

From time to time I've had the opportunity to meet other bloggers at races, which is always really fun.   At this race, we met Coy from First In Philly, and Jeff from Detroit Runner.  I've followed both of them for a while and love reading their blogs.  Jeff and his running buddy had driven from Detroit and met us for a few minutes to chat and snap a picture at the Expo.  I really felt a little out of shape for this marathon and told Jeff that I might end up walking the last 10 miles.  Jeff laughed and said, "Yeah right!" ... and he was right, I ran the whole thing (more on that later).  But it was great to finally put an actual person with a blog.  He was a great guy and I think had a pretty good race too!  I told him that when I ran the Detroit Marathon in a few years I would look him up.

Coy, on the other hand, is a completely different story.  Where do I begin with crazy awesome Coy!  My wife Michael, has become really good friends with Coy over the past year.  In fact, this was the second race they have ran together, but the first time I've actually met her, other than getting beat by her in Words With Friends.  If you read her blog you know she's friggin' hilarious ... and she's even more of a riot in person!

Umm ... you two know that's not a real bear, right???
Michael and Coy are cut from exactly the same cloth ... both a little weird awesome.  And those two together could do some serious damage ... not the least of which is abusing a poor guy in a bear suit simply trying to sell some toilet paper.  Coy spent most of the weekend with us and ran the half marathon with Michael.  I know they had a really great time and it was great to finally meet her in person.

The Race ...
On race day, I usually go through the same routine.  Get up about 3 hours before the race.  Eat a banana.  "Read the paper".  Stretch.  Stress worse than a Fashonista over what to wear ... both to accommodate the temperature at the starting line, and to look somewhat stylish (which has never worked thus far).  Seriously - I'll write a blog on this later, but it's pretty ridiculous.  I mean I'm a totally heterosexual 43 year man who worries more about what he's gonna wear for a race than the actual race itself.  Pathetic ... I know.  And then, after everything is in place, and if Michael is at the race with  me ... we get down wit da World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party.  Up until now, it's always been a two person party with Michael and I bustin' a move.  But for this race, we had the honor of adding Coy to the mix.  I was a little worried that she would be camera-shy or not really get it ... but no chance with this gal.  She was a perfect fit and got her pre-race dance on right along with us.

Me & two grown women in pig ears flat out gettin' down!
Michael and Coy both wore pig ears for the race which was pretty cool.  But on the way to the starting line, a lady asked me where mine were.  I told her I was completely sane and wasn't going to wear them.  Plus, I was VERY tense and grumpy before the race.  I had some serious doubts about how this race would go.  I was kinda mean to Michael and later apologized to the gals for being such a jerk.  Hey, I'm a guy - it obviously happens!

Going into the race I felt severely under-trained and less than prepared.  I don't remember ever feeling this "out of marathon shape" before a race.  I was worried about the temperature, which was about 60 degrees, with 90% humidity and expected to near 80 degrees before the race ended.  And I was worried that I would simply crash at about mile 20 or 21.  I promised myself that I would go really slow at the start and then just see what happened.  I fully expected a 4 to 4-1/2 hour finish time.

2012 Flying Pig Marathon Elevation - 1,459 ft of elevation climb
The Flying Pig Marathon is know as a hilly course, and it did not disappoint.  The first 8 miles are definitely the toughest with a 450 ft fairly steep ascent from miles 3 to 8-1/2.  After that it's pretty much the typical rolling hills and slight up and downs.  The total elevation climb for the race was about 1,459 ft - which is quite a bit for most marathons.  But even though I wasn't in peek long distance form, I had done quite a bit of hill training over the past few weeks, so honestly - the elevation didn't really seem that tough on Saturday.

The finish line in Cincinnati
I had qualified for Coral B, but because of a late pre-race port-o-potty stop, I ended up in Coral D.  This caused my first few miles to be a little slower than normal, which was completely fine.  My first mile was 10:32 - the slowest first mile of any race I've ever ran.  I picked it up a little on miles two through four, but a bathroom break at mile 5 resulted in a 12:21 mile.  After that I decided I was feeling pretty good and began to pick up the pace.  I started averaging between 7:45 and 8:40 and felt pretty good considering the conditions.  I just took it easy on the hills, but never walked.  At some races, I'm up toward the front killing myself with a lot of other idiots killing themselves too.  But toward the middle of the pack, people are chatting, singing, laughing, and enjoying the race a little more.  It was pretty cool.

The course was beautiful and you definitely got to see some of awesome sights of Cincinnati.  You start at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals - and end at Great America Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds.  I was hoping to see the Reds play, but they were out of town in Pittsburgh.  Between the start and the finish, you cross the Ohio River twice, enter Kentucky, run by beautiful Hyde & Dogwood Parks, and see a lot of the greater Cincinnati area along the way.

By far and away the best thing about the race was the incredible crowd support and world class volunteers.  There were folks watching and cheering at almost every turn, which was not surprising considering the more than 30,000 runners at the race for all events on Saturday.  But the volunteers were really what made it special.  I had never ran a race with such great volunteer support on the race course.  There were water, Gatorade, orange slice, Jolly Rancher, spray hose, and medical stops everywhere.  I'm not kidding.  I usually take water at every stop in a marathon, but for this race, I skipped a few because it was simply too much water on my stomach.  If I would have taken fluid at every stop, I would have floated home.  And at mile 21 (I think) the volunteers provided a "Pig Wash".  They actually had ice-cold wet towels and hoses for every single runner.  A FRIGGIN' ICE COLD TOWEL IN A MARATHON ON A WARM DAY!!!  How awesome is that!  I was the perfect pick-me-up for the final few miles, and one of the most awesome features to any race I  had ever ran.

It got a little warm in the final few miles, but the day had been so enjoyable that I hardly noticed.  Don't get me wrong, I was ready to be done.  But at mile 24 I received a High-Five from an 85 year old woman.  Not to be out done, an 85 year old man offered the same High-Five at mile 25!!!  Two High-Five's from folks old enough to be my grandparents.  That was cool!  I really hadn't looked that much at my pace along the way - I was just enjoying the day.  But at about 25.5 I looked down and thought I might be able to get in under 3:45, so I pushed it a little for the last few hundred yards.  I ended the race at 3:45:00.  And that was completely fine!  It was a pretty good day for having no idea how I would do and starting so slow.

I can't really decide what I enjoyed most about the Flying Pig Marathon.  Meeting Jeff and spending a couple of days with Coy was awesome.  Being in Cincinnati for the first time was definitely cool too.  But as far as the race goes, I just can't say enough about the volunteers and how well this race was organized and ran from top to bottom.  I would highly recommend it to everyone!!!
... be great today!


  1. It really was a great race overall you speedwalker you! Nice job. It was freakin' hot!

  2. I love your race reports! So glad you guys had a nice weekend, with a hot but fun race thrown in, too.

  3. Totally great swag. Got that same duffle about 10 years ago! Loved everything about that race!

  4. Sponsored by P&G/ bet those port-a-potties didn't run out of paper.

  5. Sponsored by P&G/ bet those port-a-potties didn't run out of paper.

  6. That might be the most upbeat, positive race report I've ever read. I wish they all could be like that. Great pictures too. If I lived a little closer to Cincy I'd add this to my list after reading that summary. Dig that medal too. Good stuff.

  7. Great post! I am a new follower, but I like reading about your races. I am actually thinking about signing up for this marathon next year. Your post was definitely encouraging!

  8. this sounds like a great race! after a great report like this they should give you a free entry for next year! :)

  9. Great report and great run again by you! Congratulations! Really seems like a super event. So wish I had tons of money to travel the world to races.

  10. May have to put that one on the schedule one day. Nice report!

  11. Sounded like an awesome race & experience! 3:45 not your fastest, but ANYONE would be happy with that time! Congrats on a great race!

  12. Sounds awesome. Cinn is one of my favorite cities as well. My kids live a mere 55 minutes from there. Well done. The bling is really cool. I guess that I just dated myself by saying "cool".

  13. We had a pigtacular time didn't we!!?? Thanks for such a great visit!! Seriously, I had the best time! I'm somewhat disappointed that you didn't run in pig ears but am quite impressed that you stopped for a bathroom break that lasted THAT LONG! HAHAHAHAHA!!

  14. Congrats on the race! I ran the Pig in 2010 and loved it. They do an amazing job that is for sure.

  15. Glad you got to meet Coy! It does seem like Michael and Coy are the same person, lol

    Sounds like a great race! That medal does look awesome, that is probably my favorite one out there. Seemed like a ton of fun overall!


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