Standing at the Start Line, I wondered if I was ready, wished I had more time to train, and above all, desperately hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself. After a count of 10 by a man who is way too peppy for this early in the morning, the gun goes off.
Last year when my Mom sent out a group message to our family, asking if anyone wanted to run the 2018 Flying Pig with her, I checked with my athlete/physical therapist brother to see what he thought I would be able to successfully train for, and then promptly signed up for the 1-mi, 5K, and 10K races, opting to leave out the half and full marathon distances (my Aunt K- and her friend C- also signed up, but included the half marathon). I then started working on running training plans and cross-training to get ready. All the training in the world, however, couldn’t prepare me for the enormity of this race.
We arrived in Cincinnati around lunchtime on Friday and made the requisite pilgrimage to Skyline Chili, which I heartily recommend to anyone traveling to the area. I’m the first to admit that spaghetti, chili, cheese, and oyster crackers don’t necessarily sound like the best combination, but trust me – it’s freakin’ delicious.
After lunch, we went to the race expo – for all of my non-runners, it’s the place where you pick up your packet with the race bibs and t-shirts, as well as check out the vendors giving out free samples and selling their running-related wares. I’ve been to a few expos now, both as a runner and as a guest of my mother, but nothing compared to that of the Flying Pig in terms of sheer size and scope. It took up several giant halls in the Duke Energy Convention Center downtown and we literally spent close to two hours there after packet pick-up, browsing all the booths.
The first race of the weekend, the Little Kings Mile, was that night, so we checked into our hotel and got ready. The sky looked ominous and it did pour rain for a bit, but thankfully the heavens cleared before we had to go line up at the Start. Mom chose to run the mile with me, which made me super nervous since she’s much faster than I am and I was paranoid that something would go wrong, making her disappointed in my performance. Thankfully, once the race started and our corral group made it to the Start Line, the mile went well. I felt a touch sluggish, but I blame that on travelling all morning and our abnormally heavy lunch. Finish time was 13.31 min, which made me really happy – I’m just never going to be the fastest, so for right now, I’m thrilled with anything under a 14 min/mile.
Day #2 of the racing weekend began very early. The 10K started at 8am, but considering that thousands of people were signed up to race, we needed to be there 1.5-2 hours early. Add to that the fact that I needed to eat some breakfast early enough to digest before running, meant I was up around 4:30am. Despite the freakishly early start to the morning, there were still already a ton of people at the start line when we arrived. I was incredibly nervous, this being my first 10K ever, and worked on calming my nerves while stretching, waiting for the 8am starting pistol. Unlike the Little Kings Mile the night before, I ran the 10K solo – Mom, Aunt K-, and C- are all much faster than me and there was no sense in slowing any of them down. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t an easy race for me and there were several places where I had to stop and walk, like the giant steep (at least to me) bridge we ran over to cross from Cincinnati to Covington, KY. Despite the occasional need to walk, I was determined to run as much as possible, because my final race, the 5K, was scheduled to start at 10am, and I wanted as much time as possible between races to recover.
The crowds at the Flying Pig are the best I’ve ever seen come out for a race. When you’re running a new distance for the first time, it can easily feel like the course is lasting forever. I counted every bridge we crossed. I knew exactly at what mile markers all of the aid stations were located and was counting down to them. When we crossed back over to Cincinnati from KY I could see the finish line to my left, yet the course veered right, and I swear I think all of us slightly deflated. And yet the crowd is what kept us going. Spectators cheered, rang cowbells, and held up funny, encouraging signs. Outside of official aid stations, people were handing out Kleenex and water. Every time someone made me smile or laugh, it was just a bit of extra motivation to keep up the pace and finish strong.
I ended up finishing the 10K an hour and a half after the official 8am start time with a pace of 14:37 min/mi. I wish I could have finished faster, but I greatly appreciated the half hour between races to eat a banana, chug some water, and eat as much of a fruit cup as possible before having to take off again.
The 5K started promptly at 10am and Mom opted to run this one with me – even though she’s the Speedy Gonzales to my Slowpoke Rodriguez, she wasn’t in a massive hurry to push through this race since she still had to save some of her legs for the half marathon the next day.
I wish I could say that the 5K went as well as the previous two races, but sadly not so much. First of all, I had yet to run 15K in one day, so my legs were pretty spent. At one point we could see the finish line and Mom asked if I wanted to sprint to the end, but I told her I was literally going as fast as my body would allow at that point. Secondly, despite using my inhaler twice before the start of the 5K, I was wheezing and breathing like Darth Vader shortly into the race, most likely because the medicine didn’t get far enough down into my lungs (yay asthma). I had to use the inhaler twice more mid-race to keep my lungs from exploding. The exhaustion plus the inhaler problems really got my morale down and I was obsessed with worrying that Mom was disappointed in me and my performance, and that she regretted running with me. Thankfully, my mother is the Queen of Encouragement, and kept pointing out that this was the farthest I had ever run in one day, and even with the walking I was having to do periodically, we still had hundreds, if not thousands, of people behind us.
Crossing the finish line in 48:04 with a 14:59 min/mi pace was a massive relief. When I started running, I never imagined I would be able to go this far this fast with my asthmatic lungs, terrible feet, and overweight everything, but I did. There’s nothing quite like training for something you originally thought was beyond your physical limitations and then eventually succeeding. It gives you motivation to set your goals even further out, and the strength to train for those new goals, knowing you exceeded your expectations before.
After Mom and I finished the 5K, we met up with Aunt K- and C-, and went back to the hotel to shower before going out to lunch to consume all the carbs/protein (Spoiler Alert: shoveling all the carbs/protein was also the plan for dinner later on). Aunt K- and C- split off to meet up with some people, so Mom and I went back to the expo to check out new lower prices, and then walked around downtown Cincinnati for a bit to stretch our legs. We may or may not have made a stop at Graeter’s Ice Cream along the way 😉
Sunday, our final morning in Cincinnati, I wasn’t racing, but I still had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to get Mom, Aunt K-, and C- to the start line for their half marathon. After seeing them begin the race, I hauled ass to get to Mile 5 to see them again, which on my tired legs was a challenge. Knowing if I was ahead or behind them was at least made a touch easier with the tracker on the Flying Pig app – it didn’t send out any emails or push notifications about runners you were following, but if you had the app on, you could see where your runners were in real-time. Once they passed me at Mile 5, there was no other place I could see them and still get to the finish line in time, so I just went straight to the finish line (near the baseball and football stadiums) to cheer on other runners while waiting on mine. Mom finished first in 2:39:18, and while Aunt K- and C- finished in 2:39:45, they were in a different corral than she was (quite a bit further back), so she and I had some downtime after she crossed the finish line before we had to go find them.
The Flying Pig is definitely not for the casual runner or the faint of heart, but for anyone who wants to challenge themselves and test their limits, I would highly recommend it. I personally don’t plan on doing the Flying Pig next year because there are other races I want to spend my time and money on, but I’m not ruling it out for sometime in the future, especially I continue exploring running longer distances.
*Author’s Note: For anyone who’s familiar with or Googled this race, yes it took place in May 2018. I don’t know why this particular post has been so difficult for me to write, but it’s possible because the experience was so overwhelming that it took awhile to process everything and reflect. Thank you for your patience, and I’ll try to be more prompt with my race recaps in the future 🙂