Yesterday I had the opportunity to my twentieth half marathon with my friend, Amy, who also ran my first half marathon with me nine years ago!
The Flying Pig Half Marathon has been on my race list for years. Many of my Procter & Gamble co-workers run or even pace this race each year since it takes place in Cincinnati, where our company is based. This is the cities primary race and therefore locals passionately support the race through volunteering, spectating and running. Now that I’ve finally experienced the Flying Pig Half Marathon, I understand the hype.
Amy and I chose to run this half marathon together with no goals other than enjoying every mile. We each have a lot of pressure and demands going on outside of running these days and therefore have taken a step back from trying to set personal records during half marathons and instead focusing on the fun that can be had when two best friends spend 13.1 miles running together.
We set out our race gear Saturday night, unsure what Sunday morning would bring. The forecasters projected a wet weekend, including temps in the mid 50’s and rain during the race. We made a last minute Brooks purchase on Wednesday to ensure we’d have the necessary gear in case it rained.
Race gear included: Lululemon Energy Sports Bra, Brooks Launch 3 shoes, Pro Compression Socks, Nike Tempo Shorts, Brooks Drift Jacket, Brooks Steady Short Sleeve Shirt, Brooks Sherpa hat and lots and lots of Glide
When we woke up bright and early Sunday morning we heard the rain drizzling. While we ate our typical pre-race peanut butter and banana toast we decided on a game plan for our race outfit. Since it was raining we decided we’d play it safe and wear our rain gear, deciding we could always tie the jacket around our waist if the rain held off or we got too warm.
There was no traffic heading from Madeira to downtown Cincinnati so we were able to easily find parking in a deck downtown by 5:45. As P&G employees we were able to quickly go into the downtown offices in order to use the bathroom one more time before heading down to the start. Since more than 40,000 people were signed up to run the half marathon and full marathon we knew that there would most likely be long lines for the bathrooms around the start. The walk to the starting line was about a mile, a perfect way to warm up our legs before the race.
We found our starting corral “Pig Pen C” and easily slid in just as the national anthem finished. Less than a minute later, at exactly 6:30 the elites crossed the starting line. I couldn’t help laughing as I looked around our corral as there were at least 50 people, men and women alike, dressed up as pigs. Lots of people ran in all pink, similar to us, but added pig tails, pig ears and even pig noses! It was such a sight to see! Due to the multiple “pens” we actually crossed just two minutes later, unheard of for a large race like this. As you can tell from the below picture, we are nerds who like to match when we run together. It makes it far easier to keep track of each other and the people cheering seem to love it too!
Throughout the half marathon, there were multiple things that surprised me along the course and helped me understand why people rave about this race. The first mile brought the first delight – no bottlenecking! The entire course is very wideso there was no bottlenecking, a welcome change from many races I run back in New York.
The second mile brought the first of many delights – a water station and bathroom at EVERY single mile. I have never seen so many water and Gatorade stations in a race, even Summer races. Due to the wide course the stations never got in the way and runners could easily run to one side of the road to avoid them. The volunteers at these stations were so friendly, offering support in addition to the water. While we never stopped to use the bathroom, we both noticed that there were never more than 2-3 people in line for the bathrooms due to their frequency – another nice change from most races.
The first few miles of the race were a gradual incline with the only noticeable inclines being the bridge we crossed over the Ohio River, leading us into Kentucky and then the bridge we took back into Ohio a few miles later. At the second mile marker Amy and I realized that we’d made a bad choice in wearing both a hat and waterproof running jacket as we were sweating buckets. The sun was shining and the temperature quickly rose from 55 to 69 by mile 2. We tied the jackets around our waist for the rest of the race – a first for me. Anytime we walked through a water station I would use the opportunity to tighten the jacket since it was constantly slipping down my hips. Oh well, live and learn.
The third thing that impressed me with this race was the level of crowd support. In many half marathons, there are clumps of crowds but rarely are the crowds throughout the entire race course. Whether it was the outskirts of Cincinnati or through the Kentucky miles, there were people everywhere! My favorite group of supporters were the elderly who cheered outside of their nursing home. Their signs were hilarious!
After crossing back into Ohio and downtown Cincinnati, mile five was filled with spectators as well as the anticipation leading into the arduous climb that would meet us beginning at mile 5.5. During the mile 5 water station I took the opportunity to stretch my left hamstring and glute in preparation for the hills.
The next few miles were the prettiest of the course as we climbed through Mt. Adams towards the Cincinnati Art Museum and Eden Park. I knew that we would be rewarded at the top with gorgeous views so instead of focusing on the incline we just chatted our way to the top enjoying the spectators and reminding each other how lucky we are to have each other as running partners who have run multiple races together in different states over the years.
The rest of the race is downhill as the course leads you back down towards Cincinnati. There were constant spectators and high school bands including a fun balloon arch across the course with the local football players and cheerleaders cheering. There were also a few groups giving out orange slices and Twizzlers! During the final few miles I definitely started to slow the pace a little bit due to some nagging in my left glute and hamstring. Unfortunately the constant foam rolling, stretching and deep tissue massage didn’t solve the issue so the last thing I wanted to do was injure myself during the race. We both were also feeling a bit of fatigue in our legs since neither of us logged very many long runs over the past few weeks so miles 10-13 included jamming to our Spotify playlist and high fiving all the kids.
Finally, we turned back to towards the waterfront area for the final dash to the finish line. We crossed the finish line in 2:15:17. While this is 15 minutes off my PR time, it is around what we expected since we ran for fun, conquered some crazy hills, enjoyed the sights, and talked throughout the race. It was a very different experience, and great reminder about the joy of running. Many other races, where I’ve targeted a specific goal, are a blur as I’m so focused on pace and conserving energy. If you are looking for a new Spring half marathon to add to your schedule next year, the Flying Pig Marathon race weekend includes a race for everyone – 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon distances. Even though it is a hilly race, if you can spend the winter months focusing on hill training, this is definitely a race where many of my co-workers have PR’d or even BQ’d during this race!
Your turn: What race is on your wish list for 2016 and beyond?
Thank you to the Flying Pig Marathon for providing a complimentary bib to this race. While I was provided a complimentary bib, the reviews are entirely my own.