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Race Review: The Flying Pig Marathon

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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.

Fly Pig Expo
Fly Pig Expo

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.

Pre-Race

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.

2013-05-04-16.33.52The three of us were in line for the bathroom when Bobby decided to run up to Paul Brown Stadium and use the facilities there (we were lined up right outside the stadium). This small decision changed everything about my race.
As I mentioned, this was to be my wife’s first 13.1 and the plan was for Bobby  to pace her for the first nine miles (until the courses diverged) as I was going to run faster. With Bobby gone, it was up to me. I wanted D to have a great experience and the only way to make that happen was to give her support as for long as I could during the race.
Turns out my wife is a rock star runner, while she needed to be pulled back a few times, she was pretty consistent through the first six miles and kept a smile on her face almost the entire time.
From about mile six to mile nine there is a 350 foot elevation gain. When running with D in the past, let’s just say that the hills haven’t been fun for anyone. But not today. I’m not sure what it was on race day, the crowds, the other runners, the adrenaline from being in a race or just great training, but she took the hills like a champ. And didn’t complain about them once. Not once!
FB-Elevation-Chart
By the time we got to the ninth mile, she was still all smiles and completely confident that she was going to finish the race well. And in fact, crushed the race. To complete her first 13.1 mile race in 2:01:11 after barely being able to run two miles 365 days prior is an incredible feat! I’m very, very proud of her.
D (in white hat) at mile 9
D (in white hat) at mile 9

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.

Meet Steve
Meet Steve

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.

Mariemont Spectators
Mariemont Spectators
The Ice Pop Lady in Mariemont
The Ice Pop Lady in Mariemont
After mile nine, the 26.2 mile course is mostly downhill with some rollers thrown in for fun. One of the advantages of running with my new friend Steve was that he had run parts of the course before and knew when all of the hills were coming up, so we could prepare. He also knew where all the downhills were – a solid advantage! Overall the course was really pretty bar one section around mile 18 when we were running on a highway (but manning the water station at mile 18 was the Cincinnati Parrot Head Club bringing a splash of Jimmy Buffett, color and fun to the area). And really, what urban marathon doesn’t include at least one stretch of highway?
Parrot Heads of Cinicinnati
Parrot Heads of Cinicinnati
Steve and I banked a little more than 10.2 miles together, swapping running and life stories. I pushed him a little and he pushed me a little, both helping each other to keep a decent pace. And when we got close to the end and he had some fuel left in the tank, I pushed him to leave it all out on the course. Steve would make a great addition to the Congregation should he ever decide to come to NYC!

So, How’d I Do?

Everyone I know has been asking me if I was happy with my time. My answer is always the same: I am proud of my rockstar wife who crushed her first 13.1. I wasn’t out there for time, I wasn’t going to win. When I run a marathon for the first time, my goal is always the same, cross the finish line and try and do it in under four hours. My time for the Pig? 4:00:11. And I’m thrilled with it.
Overall, I thought the Flying Pig was a fantastic race, the course was challenging, well supported and the crowds were helpful at all the right moments in the race. I would totally do this race again!
My photo essay of the race can be found here.

 

10 Comments

  1. Awesome! Love your picture of the finish swine, I was a horrible blogger, and basically got NO pictures.
    Congrats to your wife, I'm sure it was her first of many!

    Congrats to you too, it was a tough course, but certainly a blast!

  2. I loved reading this….you sir, are an awesome husband, and so glad that D had such a great 13.1! Now we've got to start running some of these together! – Carolyn

  3. I was at the Pig for my first half as well and I would have to say it was a great experience. I did have the same complaint about not enough Port-a-potties! I was in a corral that was actually 2 combined with no barrier in between and they only had 6 in there for the 2 corrals. crazy!

  4. I enjoyed your recap! I felt the same as I was reading your recap but I might have been completely let down because of all I'd heard about the race. I was also dealing with an injury and had just run the best put on half marathon I've ever been to, the day before. That being said, you should absolutely go to the Indy mini!! You'd looove it. Congrats to both yourself and your wife for absolutely crushing the half and full!!

  5. Congratulations on your finish! It was a really fun event, and I tip my hat to the race directors – and to all those neighborhoods who turned out in full force.

    I enjoyed reading your recap. You seemed to have none of the problems I had from 20-25, so that's awesome. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Oh, and congrats to your wife on her first 13.1!

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