Sunday, May 6, 2012

Flying Pig Half Marathon 2012 - Cincinnati, OH

I signed up for this race back in October 2011.  I chose this race because I was planning to meet someone from my online moms' group.  I can't explain this well enough to anyone from outside of the group to make it sound like we're not weirdos, so I won't even try.  I'll just say we've all been in contact through the internet since we were pregnant with our babies that were born in or around June 2008.  We've grown to be very close friends even though many of us have not met in person.  We talk about everything from families, kids, health and exercise.  Some moms were already runners, others have started couch to 5k plans, and others are still thinking about running.  It's kind of cool how many runners are now in the group.  It's not strange to hear talk of PRs, long runs and speedwork at any given time.   

So, after nearly five years of knowing each other, we all look for opportunities to do "meetups".  The Flying Pig Half Marathon in May 2012 was one such opportunity. It was a good halfway point between one of the running moms and me.  I also have family in Cincinnati, so it seemed to be a great choice.  I registered not knowing that two months later, I would get in to the Canyonlands Half Marathon in March 2012.  I really only planned to do one half marathon, maybe two, if I included Springfield's.  Turns out I was doing three of them that spring...the Flying Pig being the last of the three.

In the time between when I registered for the Flying Pig and a few weeks before the race, a couple of things changed.  First, a mom (Claire) who originally laughed off the idea of being able to run a half marathon when we started talking about it decided the Flying Pig would be her first half.  Then the other mom (Amanda) I was originally planning to run with suffered a stress fracture in her leg and was told to lay of the running for a while.  So, it is just going to be Claire and me.  Claire's husband is registering as well.  Shane is not registering.  He is still trying to get over the plantar fasciitis.  It's such a stubborn injury!

The morning of the race came REALLY early.  Considering that the race start is 6:00 a.m., Ohio is one hour earlier due to the timezone for us (so 5:00 a.m.), and we had to get up, drive downtown, find a place to park and get to the starting line, we have to get up at 3:30 a.m. central time.  Ugh.  After hitting the snooze on my phone (I wasn't sleeping all that well in the first place), I decide to get moving.

Shane is going with me to cheer me on and possibly join up with us for a little while along the course.  No, he's not banditing the race--I call it mobile cheering.  He will take no running resources from the course and sue no one if anything bad happens.

We arrive downtown and it's still dark.  Traffic isn't as bad as I imagined for 33,000 racers plus supporters, and finding parking isn't bad either.  Now, the tough part--to try to find Claire and her husband Matt.  I told Claire that I would run the race with her.  It would be great to support and pace someone through their first half.  I have already run two halfs {or is it halves?} this year, and this one is so hilly so I'm not getting any type of PR anyways. My goal was to have a fun race experience and get state #3 in my quest for half marathons in as many states possible. 

It's getting closer to race time and we do not see Claire and Matt at the general meeting area we picked {later to find out we were ON the bridge, they were UNDER the bridge}, so we give up and head toward the starting corrals.  At that moment, I almost feel relief.  My competitive nature kicks in and I suddenly want to run my own race.  I battle the need to attempt a PR with every race.  I hate that my brain operates that way, almost selfishly, and I just can't truly enjoy the experience.

Just as we are reaching the starting corral area, Claire and Matt find us in the crowd.  I'm happy to see them in spite of the thoughts I just had.  We head back to the starting corral and shove through the crowd waiting for everything to start.  Shane gives me a good luck kiss and we separate.  I don't know when I'll see him turn up on the course, but I'm thinking it will be around mile six.

There are so many people here!  As far as you can see--people.  I can't even figure out how far back we are from the starting line.  After the national anthem, we get ready to start.  Matt is a fast runner, and prior to a recent injury, he had his sights on competing to win.  His starting corral was A.  We're now back in E.  Initially, he wants to hit start on his GPS and get running, forgetting that there's about 15,000 people between us and the starting line.  It's kind of funny.  The crowd surges forward.  We stop.  Slowly forward again.  Then stop.  Eventually we get moving at a consistent walking pace.  It takes us nearly seven minutes from the start of the race to cross the starting line.

As we start off, we have to get into a reasonable pace in this crowd.  We are going a little fast for what Claire has been training for, so we attempt to get it under control.  It's crowded at every turn, but also pretty awesome to be running with a group this large.  Crossing over the first bridge into Kentucky is something I will never forget.  We are in a sea of runners as far as you can see.  Just amazing.

We wind back and forth across the river.  At one point, someone breaks into a verse Doo Wah Diddy, "There she was just a walkin' down the street..." and everyone around us is singing together...{doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo!}.  This is so funny, and probably a first for Matt.  I'm sure he has not been in a race where the runners all around him broke out into song.  It has to be such a wildly different experience than he's used to considering he would normally be running alone or nearly alone with the lead runners. 

After crossing back into Ohio, I hear someone yelling my name in the crowd.  I look over and see my aunt and cousin cheering me on!  That's so cool that I'm hundreds of miles away from home, yet this is the first time I have had family cheering for me on the side of the road at a half marathon. 

Around mile six as I predicted, I see Shane on the side of the road.  He jumps in with us and joins our group conversations.  It's awesome to have people to talk to during the half.  All the previous ones I've done, I've been alone with my thoughts and/or music for two hours.  This one is just flying by!  It's like I'm catching up with an old friend over lunch or something. 

It is about here that we start the ascent that the Flying Pig is famous for.  We will be gaining nearly 400 feet in elevation in just over three miles.  Claire is pushing through quite well even though she is having a little rougher go of it up the hills.  We get through a couple miles and are rewarded by an amazing view of the river valley at the top of a hill.  There's one more hill after this and then we begin the descent back to the river.  As we reach the final peak and head back down, I am careful to not let my knees take the full impact.  We will be going downhill for several miles and it's fairly steep.  This is rough on the knees and hips.

The course support in this race is amazing.  There are bands and musical acts, people in costumes, clowns, Elvises {or is it Elvi?}, lots of people along the course and lots of signs.  My favorite sign reads: "You have been training for this longer than Kim Kardashian was married!"  I had to laugh--as sad as it was true.

As we near the finish line, Claire is really giving it her all.  She's tired, but still doing wonderfully!  In the last mile, Shane peels off as to not get caught up in the finisher's area.  The crowds are growing thicker and louder as we approach the river.  At each turn, I look for the finish line, but not seeing it yet.  My GPS passed 13.1 already, but I'm sure we didn't run the tangents very well today.

Finally, we are next to the river and the finish line is in sight.  One final push and we all cross the finish line together!  I am so happy for Claire, and so thrilled to be a part of her first half marathon!  It's almost as if I get to experience my first over again--just through her eyes.  If I hadn't found them in the huge crowd of people that morning, I would be standing here alone without anyone to celebrate with.  Running with someone really changed my whole experience.  It may have been slower than my normal half marathon, but this was by far the most fun racing experience I have ever had.  Usually, I'm praying for it to be over.  Today, I just got to enjoy myself, the scenery and the company.  It was a great day!

Official Time:  2:13.42

This was a very cool experience.  What this race taught me is destinations races are so much more fun when you are not "racing" them.  In Moab, I was worried about this arbitrary pace that I did not properly train for that I made myself miserable, hating nearly every second of that race.  Yes, the race ended up being a PR for me (for three weeks), but I spent nearly the whole race wishing it was over.  I enjoyed some aspects of it, but nothing like this.  I finished 13 minutes slower than my Moab half, and I regret nothing of that.  Time and PRs are not everything.  Sometimes you just have to relax and enjoy!  From now on, destination half marathons are for enjoyment, not PRs.  This makes me want to run half marathons again and again. 

And I think I will.  Which state is next??


  1. Love love love this :) and I loved running with you! You were such great support, and Shane and Matt too. I'll never forget my first half marathon. This gave me goosebumps all over again. :0)

    1. Thank you for the inspiration Claire! You accomplished something you didn't think possible, and you made my race truly enjoyable because of that! :)