Do Pigs Fly? Keep Your Eyes Wide Open in this Race!
Just the name, in itself, grabbed my attention. There are plenty of races to run throughout the country, but few are as unique as the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. For my family, this run had extra significance because my “Papa” attended the University of Cincinnati medical school. This venue felt like the ideal way to pay respect to him and the city of Cincinnati and was an easy choice for race #3 in this year’s #10for10 challenge: 10 different half marathons in 10 different states.
Why is this race actually called “The Flying Pig?
In the 1800s, Cincinnati was a hub for commerce when riverboats plied the Ohio River. Pigs were brought in by boats and marched through the streets of Cincinnati to the processing plants. When the city celebrated its Bicentennial in 1988, they decided to renovate the riverfront area. Four smokestacks were built at the entrance to the Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point, with four flying pigs on top.
At first, the four little winged piglets caused a lot of controversy. They’ve since become part of the fabric of Cincinnati culture and have one of the “best named” marathons in the country.
A Family Affair
Apparently, more and more races look to host multiple distances for runners and walkers alike by combining them over a weekend. The Flying Pig Marathon is no exception and offers the following choices: Marathon (individual or four person relay team), Half Marathon, 10K, 5K and the Little Kings Mile (for children which kicks off on the Friday before the race).
My family and friends chose to participate in the 5K while I ran the appropriately named Skyline Chili 3-Way (10K and 5K on Saturday, Half Marathon on Sunday). For those of you not familiar, Skyline Chili has been around since 1949 and is a Cincy foodie staple (tried and tested in my race video).
True to its theme, when you walk into the expo, you are immediately surrounded by creative Flying Pig swag from ear-to-ear: a banner that says “The Finish Swine,” flying pig artwork, pig sculptures and balloons, pig T-shirts for each race, pig decals spread out on the floor, and a trough of other pig related bells and whistles.
Race Day – Be Prepared to Run Uphill
I heard this from tons of locals and runners. Be prepared. Since I am beyond neurotic and superstitious, I never look at the route in advance so I assume the worst and then times it by 10. True to their word, there were plenty of hills in the 10K and half marathon but not so much in the 5K.
10K – Saturday morning at 8:00 am: 35 degrees with 10 mph winds
The 10K run, like all the races, began in downtown Cincinnati. Runners make their way through the city, onto the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, over the Ohio River and into Northern Kentucky.
Lets just take a moment to recognize how cool it is to run into another state with the entire skyline of Cincinnati in the background. Is it just me? Come on, I know you cross-state loving runners are out there!
I digress. After a few hills and three miles on the books, I saw a man standing with purple wings. Of course, I had to stop and take a picture with him.
The Flying Pig race volunteers cheered runners on and all of them were sporting their pig T-shirts. Spectators lined the streets with hilarious “this little piggy” signage and clearly enjoyed playing up the theme throughout all 6.3 miles. I was able to cross my first finish swine in 1:05:51.
5K – 10:00 am: 45 degrees with 5 mph winds
The course was fairly flat, stayed within the downtown Cincinnati perimeter and runners face a few small uphills. For people looking to run their first 5K, I highly recommend this race, and if it’s not already obvious, the atmosphere lives up to the hype. Plus, if you can survive 3.1 miles with my father and I, you must have a really open-mind or be completely pig crazy. We crossed the finish swine all together at 43:08.
Half Marathon – Sunday at 6:00 am: 40 degrees with 10 mph winds, oh, and 1 or 2…
Hello hill after hill after hill, nice to meet your acquaintances. The race began with fire shooting out of the start line banner (never seen that before, have you?). The half marathon took runners along a similar route to the 10K, but at Mile 4 quickly veered up a whole host of back-to-back-to-back-to-back (well you get the idea) hills. They were legit and lived up to the city’s hilly reputation.
This race had everything and I mean EVERYTHING. The spectator signage was hilarious, the murals along the route were beyond captivating (see race video above), real pigs with wings were chilling in red wagons at Miles 4 and 6, a singing Elvis was outside a planetarium (no idea why, but it cracked people up), pulled pork sandwiches at Mile 9, kids playing orchestra instruments at Mile 10 (just because they could), pig gummies at Mile 11, pig rig’s (official care of the race) at Mile 12, and of course, the famous “finish swine” at Mile 13.1. I was able to finish with a time of 2:26:39.
Take the Initiative
The 19th Annual Flying Pig Marathon had a total of 37,244 runners that came from all 50 states and 20 countries. The races completely take over the city and are covered wall-to-wall by the media. As a runner, if you are contemplating this race, take the initiative and sign up today.
On Sunday afternoon, I took time to walk around the Cincinnati medical school campus. While the buildings might have been “slightly” updated since my “Papa” was in school, it felt extra special to walk those same grounds knowing he was here as a medical student almost 70 years ago.
If he was looking down at that moment, I am sure he would’ve said “Jason. go put on a jacket and take an ice bath. Oh, and where are you running next?”