As you know by now, my wife (D) and I traveled out to Cincinnati with another member of the Congregation (Bobby) last week to run the 15th annual Flying Pig Marathon (my photo essay of the race can be found here).And it was a blast!
The Flying Pig Marathon Expo
Cincinnati isn’t my favorite city but they sure do know how to host a race! The weekend was filled with marathon/running related activities with races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (a one mile, a 5K and a 10K) and the Expo all day Friday and Saturday. We didn’t do any of the other races, we went for one reason and one reason only: me for the marathon but more importantly, my wife for her first 13.1! (Ed Note: I’ve decided to stop calling the 13.1 distance race “Half Marathons” since I feel like it demeans the training that goes into completing one.)
I had been to eight marathons previous to this race, including New York City and Chicago. I tell you this not to brag, but to point out that I’ve run in major city marathons (as well as a few smaller ones) and the pre-race Expos I’ve attended don’t hold a candle to the one at the Flying Pig.
The formula for the Flying Pig Expo was pretty much the same as all of the others I’ve been to, a fair amount of race-branded swag for sale (hats, gloves, shorts, jackets, plush toys, shot glasses, etc.), a mix of local and national vendors, regional and national races trying to entice runners, local running stores with items for sale, national charitable teams, you name it, if it was running-related, it was represented at the Expo. While nothing out of the ordinary there was just something special about this one.
Was it the size? Maybe, it was HUGE. The size surpassed any that I’ve been to in larger cities (even NYC).
Maybe it was the layout? It was laid it out in such a way that runners had to snake their way past every vendor in ordert to pick up the event premiums (a tech shirt, lithograph and soft-sided cooler). Usually this would annoy me as I like to get in and out efficiently, but for some reason, I really enjoyed it and we spent some quality time walking around, talking to vendors and other runners and came out of it with some great running-related swag.
Our hotel was less than 10 minutes from the starting line so we got to sleep in a little later than most on race morning (the wake-up call came at 4:30AM for a 6:30AM gun time).
As if 4:30AM weren’t bad enough, we woke up to pounding rain. Not a great sound if you’re preparing to run a 13.1 or 26.2 mile race. As we made our way down to the “grab-and-go” breakfast at the hotel we found ourselves severely unimpressed with the offerings Overpriced coffee, tea and a barely thawed frozen bagel were consumed as we donned garbage bags for raincoats and headed to the starting line. As luck would have it, as soon as we stepped out of the hotel, the rain stopped.
The Flying Pig Marathon
The starting line was pretty well organized with an enforced corral system. My only complaint was the lack of enough Porta-Potties in each corral. For the first time in the history of the Flying Pig, the race was sold out (anecdotally, we think this is because of people showing support for the recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon). Race organizers should have taken note of the uptick in runners and made accommodations at the starting line. However, to be fair, this is the only aspect of the entire race I felt lacked proper planning.
Miles 9 – 26.2
By the time I left my wife, I felt I needed to make up some time. My biggest mistake was to try and do it all within two miles. My splits from 9-11 are my fasted of the entire race. As any first time marathoner knows, this is not a smart strategy, I should have gained time at a much slower and more consistent rate. I paid for this with slower miles through the rest of the race.
Around mile 16, I came upon Steve. I recognized him as one of the people I had been running near for a few miles. And yes, I’m that annoying guy who will start talking to you in the middle of a race. I need to be distracted and I find that talking to people is just the kind of distraction I need to ignore the screaming pain in my body. Turns out this was Steve’s first 26.2, he was a local and was looking for someone to help pace him through to complete the race in his goal time. I was up for it.
At about the same time I met Steve, we were going through the village of Mariemont. This section needs special mention. Without a doubt, these folks were the most enthusiastic spectators on the course. I felt like they lined the streets for close to two solid miles. The village looked cute too, it reminded me of a small New England town like this one I grew up in.
So, How’d I Do?