If you are looking for a well-oiled, race machine, mark the Cincinnati, OH Flying Pig Marathon Weekend on your calendar for next year. I originally ran this half marathon race 4 years ago, and was very impressed by the expo size, vendors, swag, and organization. The size of this race definitely brings out a great crowd of spectators and course support, pacers, and cheerleaders. Last year, a group of my friends ran the relay and had a blast, so this year I made it a must on my race list again.
The Flying Pig is not just a Sunday-load of various marathon distance events! It is a 3 day, 6 event weekend series. The party starts Friday night with the 1 miler. Saturday’s events include a 10k, then 5k, and Sunday has a half marathon, the full marathon, and a 4-leg relay. They offer the 3-way (10k, 5k, half marathon) 4-way (10k, 5k, full marathon) and you can add “with cheese” by doing the 1 miler Friday night. The 3 way, 4 way, and 3 and 4 way with extra cheese all come with extra shirts and extra medals. If you are looking for a MUCH cheaper “Dopey Challenge” and don’t care about the Disney part, do it all here in Cincinnati Ohio!
So first, the hotel. This was a travel race for me, so we stayed at the Hilton Netherlands. Great service, late checkout option, clean, pre-race pasta buffet at their restaurant, and walking distance to all events. My room faced out towards the river, so I was able to watch some of the 10k right from my room which was pretty cool.
I love expos and all the swag, newest gear, free stuff, and picking up all the cool registration goodies. We grabbed our race packets, then headed through the enormous expo. Tons of vendors, and if you don’t care for the official race gear, you can have a shirt or bag custom designed with one of the Flying Pig’s designs right there while you wait. P&G is a big sponsor, so you can pick up a free bag full of their product samples. I ended up with a new Flipbelt since it was 30% off, a new medal/bib holder, and quarter zip (Expo pricing is the best!) Once we got around to the back to pick up our cute male/female specific race tech shirts (shirt exchange available!!), I was excited to see that our registration also included a pretty good quality backpack and a fun poster! The entire place was decorated with balloons that looked like flying pigs and a lot of picture opportunities with backgrounds and countdown timing clocks. All the information desks and volunteers were very friendly and quick to answer questions. 5 Stars for sure!
My first event was the Moerlien Beer Mile. I have never done a 1 miler, so automatic PR! I hit the party tent for packet pick-up, but no gear check. I went alone so I ended up with my bib and wrapping my new t-shirt around my Flipbelt. It was pouring rain, so that was a bummer. We all took shuttles (brand new and very clean school busses) to the start line with plenty more porta potties. Each corral had an ‘elite’ pro in the group (Some were local news people and such) which I thought was a fun idea. My elite was the most recent Badwater Champ. The Anthem was played, and off we went down the street for a half mile, left turn, then straight to the finish line in a pretty flat course. THEN it was party time. Giant tent, live music, 2 free beers of the official Strawberry Cream race beer, and a Skyline Chili Coney Cheese Dog all included along the beautiful Riverfront of bridges and colorfully lit fountains.
End result 6:13, 12th overall female, 2nd in my age group. Not bad. Then I met up with my friends and hit up a bar called O’Malley’s in the Alley where I got carded; I’ll call that a win; plus great DJ!
The 10k was the first event 8 a.m. Saturday. I did not run this one, but looks like it ran the first half over the bridge of the Ohio River into Kentucky, then back into Cinci. I noticed the last few 10k mile markers while running the 5k, so I am kind of glad I did not pay to basically run the same 5k race 2x. Both races have the same start and finish (and same finish as the Sunday events). The 5k started at 10 a.m. with the Anthem kick off. It had its fair share of hills for sure, but if it went up, it went right back down, so a good quick race. I planned to save most of my energy for a fast relay Sunday, so I tried to take this race a little slower, then I got competitive and sped up…so goes my life. Finished 22:56, placed 3rd in my age group, so I am looking forward to some age group award in the mail-and the swag collection continues! Post-race had a good selection of food, not just bananas and water, but fruit cups and chips, granola bars and very friendly volunteers!
I try to make an effort to support local whenever I travel and discover new places. We really enjoyed Maplewood as a great farm fresh restaurant recommended to us by the concierge desk. Definitely did not disappoint! The inside was decorated very Joanna Gaines chic which I loved. That afternoon we got our nails done at Elite Nails in the skywalk area of the Hilton Hotel. They were extremely friendly and accommodating to our group of 9 girls booking for same day appointments and pricing was great! For dinner Saturday night, we made reservations at Rock Bottom Brewery. My food was just okay since I was trying to eat light, but the other girls raved about their choices and they really enjoyed the beer selection. I will also say the service was absolutely on point.
Since the Cap City Half Marathon was cancelled mid-race due to storms the previous weekend, a few of my friends were looking for redemption and signed up for the Flying Pig half very last minute. Since we already signed up for the relay, they ran the first leg, did the hand-off, then continued on to finish the half. 2 races down in 1 day and they did great! The first leg went straight down to the start line for a 6:30 a.m. start. The rest of us relayers were shuttled down to our starts. The confusing part of this was that each leg’s shuttle left from a different location. The morning was cold, the busses were nice and warm, and the drop off location was stocked with porta potties, cups of water, food, and mylar blankets. Announcements started after the race officially kicked off.
GUYS!!! 2nd leg is where it is at if you want to see the most breathtaking views over this massive hill. I caught my breath, then continued onward and upward. Before you take on this beast, check out the elevation, and be ready for HILLS!!! (I live in a pretty flat area).
My favorite part was all the “Unofficial Race Stops” from the houses along the course. Their signs said:
….It’s the little things that keep me motivated, like cool people on the course with a sense of humor.
“MIMOSAS HERE!!!” If I wasn’t going for speed, I would have enjoyed myself a nice breakfast time beverage 😉
I busted the best I could and ended my leg on a fabulous downhill. My watch said 7:18 pace and I don’t think I had 1 second more left in me. I baby-deer legged myself to the little refresher station of water, Gatorade and snacks, and met up with my 3rd leg friends waiting for their exchanges with my bag. Visited, took their pics of course, then headed to bus to get back to the finish.
Once the bus filled up, we shuttled back to the finish line with an entrance specifically for the relay to collect our medal and ‘pig out’ on the MASSIVE food selection. Thank goodness I had my gear check bag from my leg 3 girls so I had a place to put all of it. Never ending tables of chips, bananas, M&Ms, skittles, starburst, pretzels, fruit cups, granola bars, pizza, bottles of water.
Official Finisher pics next, then they funnel you through to keep the line moving, and then they have quite a few more volunteers with ‘INFO’ signs. I raced back up to the finish line shoot to see my team’s final leg come through, then headed back down to meet them. I want to mention, they keep the half marathoners and the full separated by gates all the way to the finish so if you are running the full, you NEVER have to compete to weave through the half marathoners to get to the finish. (This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when they merge long races into shorter distances near the finish line. The merging pace differences can really destroy someone’s goal in those last tenths of a mile, so I was very happy to see the separation). There was a whole festival along the river of food trucks, vendor tents, porta potties, and all the leftover official race gear from the expo for 50% off!
My team, ‘My Mom is Faster Than Yours’ took 1st place in the female relay division 3:02:54. We had a total of 7 teams drive down for the relay, so we hung out and waited for all our final legs to come through, take group pictures and congratulate each other. We all met through the Columbus MRTT (Moms Run This Town-ladies, it’s a FREE nationwide running club, check Facebook for your local chapter). We met a lot of new ladies this weekend from the Cincinnati Chapter. We were approached by a local newspaper for our picture so that was extra exciting!
Another point of this race that I really want to mention is their recycling and compost program. They empty all the water bottles before recycling, separate bins for mylar blankets, separate places for food trash and so on. These big events leave a massive footprint on the local area, and I very much appreciate them taking the extra effort minimize the effect. If you love big races and swag, this is for you. This race has been going on for 19 years and they have really taken care of every detail to make a fantastic weekend for everyone, spectators included. If you can handle the hills of the 1st half, you can do this race and I would rank it as a MUST!
The Flying Pig Marathon weekend takes place the first weekend of May of each year.