Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Flying Pig Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Everyone has that ONE television show and/or movie that they absolutely believe their friends MUST watch right now. For example, when “The Office” was in its prime, a good chunk of my friends would ask me if I had watched the most recent episode. The answer was always no, because I hated that mentality that something was SO popular that I “had” to watch it.
I make this point because, to me, “The Office” was to television what the Flying Pig was to running. Friends and fellow runners had hyped this race so much that I wanted nothing to do with it – ever.
Obviously, that has changed. Before I recap the race, and in the spirit of full disclosure, let me bring you up to speed on how I got there…don’t worry, it’s the CliffNotes version…
About three weeks prior to the Flying Pig (of which I had given NO thought or attention), I noticed that a significant amount of attention was being paid to races in and around Chicago. Being from Ohio, and having some pretty decent races coming up, I was curious as to why this was the case. I reached out to the coordinators of the BibRave Pro program and they were PDQ in getting back to me. I won’t share all the details of why the Ohio races weren’t getting as much attention, but know that there are definitely opportunities for them to get love again in the future!
After a little bit of back and forth, I was extended the opportunity to jump in to help promote the Flying Pig via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. This quickly escalated to an invitation, if interested, to participate (read: RUN) in said event.
So here’s a race I’ve been avoiding for quite a while and now not only a chance to promote it, but a chance to RUN it.
To paraphrase one Don Vito Corleone – they (Team BibRave) made me an offer I could not refuse. With that said, I officially registered to run the Flying Pig Marathon on April 25th. For those of you playing at home, that was a week and a half before race day.
Now that the backstory is out of the way, let’s recap this thing.
On Saturday, May 5, I was running a 5k in my hometown, which is roughly 90 miles north of Cincinnati. The race went well and almost as soon as I had arrived and run, I was back in the car and on my way to Cincy. Thankfully, I had some friends from college who were signed up for the 4-Way Challenge with Extra Cheese who had generously offered to let me crash in their hotel room the night before the race. Upon my arrival in Cincy and getting settled in the room, we ventured to the expo so I could collect my bib and other race goodies.
The expo for the Flying Pig Marathon is incredibly well done and VERY well organized. The layout was very friendly and you knew exactly where you needed to go, thanks in large part to the volunteers and signage throughout the Duke Energy Convention Center. As one would expect, vendors galore with all their various wares and enticements. However, the most noticeable was the primary event sponsor – P&G – who had a massive setup where expo participants could snatch up some free samples of various P&G products, such as Tide, Olay, and so on. They also provided a nylon laundry bag to keep all the samples (and other expo purchases) in, which made navigating the expo very convenient.
OH YEAH – can’t forget about that sweet race SWAG! For this year, it included a technical race t-shirt, a poster commemorating the 20th anniversary of the race, and a premium travel blanket (think indoor/outdoor blanket). I was VERY impressed as all I expected was the race shirt to be honest!
The rest of the evening was relatively quiet as we all turned in fairly early. This proved to by a fantastic decision as far as being rested for race day. However, it also proved very difficult as I am usually a night owl when it comes to falling asleep.
Our hotel was maybe a half-mile from the start line so it was a very easy downhill walk to the Cincinnati riverfront and Paul Brown Stadium. Finding the gear check and my corral was, again, super easy due to TONS of signage and fantastic volunteers. As I got settled in my corral (D for those wondering), I was fortunate to connect with Juan, a fellow BibRave Pro who was in from Texas for the race. Sidenote: this was my first official race as a BibRave Pro, so it was fun getting to meet up with a fellow ambassador! Of course, as with most things, we had to take a photo (pics or it didn’t happen, right?).
There was a very nice woman standing close to us who was kind enough to snap a photo for us. We then learned her name was Sarah and this was her VERY FIRST MARATHON! As with most marathons that I have run, the race organizers provide TWO bibs for first timers – the normal race bib to be worn on one’s front and a “it’s my first marathon” bib to wear on one’s back. Not wanting to draw that level of attention to herself, Sarah opted to forego the first-timer bib on her back. Of course, I had to snap a selfie with her because running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and she SHOULD get her moment in the sun!
Before I knew it, I was crossing the start line and on my way. The first few miles were relatively slow going – mainly because of how crowded in I felt, but this ended up playing to my favor in the later stages of the day. The first mile took me by one of my favorite locations in the world – Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds. GABP brings back great memories from my childhood, so this is already making this race very enjoyable. After crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and then coming BACK across into Ohio, the remainder of the course stays in Ohio – winding its way back into downtown and then out into the easternmost points of the metro area (as most marathon courses do).
What sets the Flying Pig Marathon apart from a lot of other races, or so I’m told, are the HILLS. There is a pretty significant incline that begins at about the marker for mile 6 and then levels out just a little after mile 7. For those wondering, this is about 250 ft of gain in the span of a mile. That may not seem like much to some, but to others this is like climbing a mountain. After this, the hills become more rollers than anything – some being worse than others. However, aside from these rollers in the second half, the course is mostly a downhill or fairly flat course from mile 12 to the end.
Throughout the course, there were plenty of sections where there were supporters and aid stations to get runners through the event. In addition to the water/Gatorade/Gu stops along the course, some of the other aid stations included the GraHAM station (graham crackers) and the SWINE & Cheese station (ham & cheese?). Before you ask – yes – there WAS a bacon station. This is the Flying Pig, after all.
As I progressed through the course, it became apparent to me exactly why this race IS as popular as it is. It’s most definitely a combination of the people involved in putting this event on (from the organizers down to the volunteers at the water stops) as well as the amenities that make the pre-race, race, and post-race absolutely enjoyable.
As I returned to the riverfront area and made my way again past Great American Ball Park, another realization came to the forefront – I was going to PR. The goal coming into this race was to FINISH and nothing more, especially having completed another marathon (and PR’d there as well) only two weeks prior! I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was still in good enough shape to not only finish the race, but to also put down another solid effort on a course that would be best described as challenging.
After crossing the FINISH SWINE (yes, that’s what the finish line is called at the Flying Pig Marathon), I met up with my friends/roommates and took in one of the best post-race celebrations/parties I’ve ever experienced. The park that they use for this post-race party is right along the river, with more than ample space for runners to walk around, stretch, grab food, grab a beer, and check out some of the local businesses who have set up shop. This is also where all runners would collect their post-race premium item – a black finisher’s jacket with a black version of the Flying Pig Marathon logo on the chest. I love the jacket…I just wish we didn’t get it on such a hot day!
Simply put, I avoided the Flying Pig for so long because of hills and the peer pressure of popularity of the event. With that said, I should have absolutely listened to that pressure, said screw the hills, and taken on this race YEARS ago. I totally understand the hype and the hills – yes, they are tough, but they could be MUCH worse. All and all, I am very glad to have accepted the gracious invitation to run the Flying Pig Marathon. A huge THANK YOU to Team BibRave for providing this opportunity and who knows…maybe I’ll get “piggy” again in the future!
In the days after the Flying Pig, I was able to jump on Athlinks.com and “claim” my race results. I say “claim” because the results from this race have not published to Athlinks as of the publishing of this post. HOWEVER, I was able to manually add my time to my account, which will become official as the race results begin to populate.
Athlinks allows me to keep all my race results in one location. Head over and check out my Athlinks stats HERE and learn more about how I claim past results as well as why I enjoy using it HERE. It’s incredibly easy to use and it’s a lot of fun to see races you might have forgotten about pop up in your results feed! So while you’re taking a look around over there, set up your own Athlinks account. That way you can start claiming your results!