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The Cincinnati "Flying Pig" Marathon is a relatively new marathon held in the spring in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. This year, 2001, marked the 3rd annual Flying Pig Marathon.

The participation in this marathon is around 6000 runners, making it one of the smaller city marathons, in contrast to the 25,000+ runners of the New York City or Chicago marathons. However, this year there were spectators lining the streets in the residential areas, and the density of runners was such that one rarely was running alone.

Cincinnati is hilly, very hilly in parts. Driving around the Mt. Adams area of town is enough to give a runner nightmares. Luckily, the course avoids the short, steep hills as much as possible. The starting line is on Seventh Street at Race Street. After running around the flat grid of downtown and the Riverfront area, the race heads uphill towards Eden Park. The view from the park, overlooking the Ohio River and across to Kentucky, is splendid. These hills, occuring early in the race are long, but not too steep. If you incorperated some hills into your workouts you should be fine, going nice and steady up them.

After leaving the park, you run into the Walnut Hills neighborhood (I think) and begin a long downhill grade. In fact, while miles 3-7 were mostly uphill (miles 5-7 the steepest) miles 7-15 are all predominantly downhill. This give your legs and lungs a rest, but you still have to remember to conserve energy. Between miles 9 and 10 the course goes through the quaint Hyde Park Square and neighborhood where there were great crowds cheering us onward.

Miles 11-12 are a steeper downhill toward the Ohio River and Eastern Avenue which leads back to downtown. At mile 17 the course is very close to the start, which is a bit heartbreaking. You know the finish is downtown near the start, but then the course leads away into western Cincinnati. Here, we follow Central Parkway west and north into a more urban area. There are freight trains and warehouses around more frequently. Only at mile 20 do you start heading back toward the finish line. At this point in my race my legs really started aching, but not as badly as in the Marine Corps Marathon. Still, knowing that we had to run in Kentucky before finishing, I knew it wouldn't be a cakewalk the rest of the way.

At mile 23, you might think, only 3 more miles, great! I was trying to drill this happy thought into my head as I came in view of the bridge from hell. Ok, it was just a normal bridge, (the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, apparently), but as I started up the long uphill grade my right knee rebelled. Well, the positive side of this was that the sharp explosive pain by my kneecap took my mind off of the nagging, pounding pain I'd had in my left foot for most of the race. However, it put in my mind the depressing thought of having to drop out of the race 2-3 miles from its finish. Eventually, I reached the top of the bridge and gravity help pull me off of it toward the 24 mile marker. The next mile consisted of trudging and plodding through Covington, KY to, yes you guessed it, another bridge (the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, apparently). I walked-jogged uphill, each step a challenge to my instinct to lie down on the pavement and cry like a toddler. Once at the top of the bridge I could see the arches of pink and black balloons and the music at the finish line. Back to my "God, just get me there before I die" jogging pace, and around some exit ramp with toilet-bowl geometry, and there began the long home stretch. Thankfully there were fans and finished relay runners lining the way to cheer the way to Yeatman's Cove.

The 2001 course was changed from the 2000 course. Comparing the elevation maps, it looks like they changed it to have the start be flatter until mile 5, then there are a couple more elevation changes later in the new course than the previous one.

Even with the pain of the last 3 miles, I still managed a new PR of 3:32:49. The men's winner was Rudolf Jun with a time of 2:28:07 and the women's winner was Becky Gallaher at 2:50:50. The weather was warm, but comfortable during my part of the run. The crowds, volunteers, and runners were all very supportive and friendly. I recommend this marathon for its intimate feel and challenging course.

The Flying Pig is somehow a mascot of Cincinnati. I think it has something to do with Cincinnati once being a huge pork-producing city.


May 2002 update

A new PR for me this year: 3:28:44! It was the same course as last year; the weather was a little cool and foggy for the first 2 hours then the clouds cleared and the day warmed up. Tatyana Pozdnyakova broke the women's course record by 15 minutes with a time of 2:34:35, finishing just a few minutes after the first male finisher, Cornelio Velasco who finished the course in 2:31:13. Also noteworthy was Greg Osterman, a heart transplant recipient, whose finish here (5:16:36) was his sixth marathon run since the operation. The men's wheelchair race was won by Chad Johnson with a time of 1:53:15.

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