Note: Let’s all pretend that I wrote this in May and not October, OK? Thank you kindly.
One of my most enjoyable races was only a fraction of a race, hosted by a city that knows how to put on a race and also really knows how to have fun with it.
My brother, Doug, lives in the Cincinnati area, which is Flying Pig country. For the uninitiated, the Flying Pig Marathon is a 15-year-old event that includes a 5k, a 10k, a half, a full and a full relay. This year, the long races went down May 5.
Doug called me a couple months out to say he wanted to run the relay with some co-workers, and he wanted me to join. The Pig had been on my radar, and although I hadn’t planned to do it so soon, I couldn’t pass up a chance to experience this with my little bro. I made arrangements to fly in for a four-day weekend.
My fondness for this race started in the airport and continued throughout town, where I was greeted by big pig sculptures all decked out for the main event. At the expo, I LOL’d at the Batman-inspired T-shirts that said GOTHAM—except GOT and HAM were in two different colors. Volunteers there and on the course wore shirts that said GRUNT.
With our packets picked up, our foursome settled on the relay legs. Doug, as the organizer, preferred to run last and cross the finish line. I thought it would be great to run leg 3 so I could hand off to him. I also decided I’d run the last leg with him, unofficially, to give him encouragement along the way.
The morning of the race, we drove to the start village and caught buses to our respective zones, rather than wait and drive to the zones directly. Doug braved the traffic (wasn’t too bad) to get there. Once we parked, I made my way to the buses for zone 3. As the last runner, Doug had more time to catch the zone 4 bus, so he wandered over to see the start. I’m glad he was able to do that.
The upside to busing to the relay transfer zone was knowing that once I was on the bus, I wouldn’t have to stress about time. The downside: having waaaay too much idle time. This was my view for nearly three hours:
Despite all the waiting, I really did enjoy my time at the transfer zone. I had good chats with some good people. Most fascinating was the chance to be a spectator for once and watch the marathoners pass. The anticipation of seeing the frontrunners! The disbelief of actually seeing them maintain this freakish pace and hardly breaking a sweat! They were machines, man!
Besides the machines, I saw all sorts of runners. I was floored by how many seemingly average runners were KILLING IT in this marathon. Pace group by pace group breezed by, comprised of all makes and models of people, all faster than I might ever go. It was inspirational, really.
My team had a high-tech-low-tech plan for letting each other know when we’d be coming. We started a group text and would give periodic updates. Problem was—at least for this perfectionist—was knowing when and in what form the texts would come. That led to the second problem: not really knowing when I should start my prerun routine. I made do with a lot of estimating and trying not to get too excited as I stood around.
Finally. My turn.
Have to say, the funnest part of my leg was cruising past all the other runners. Granted, I was on the course with the 5+ hour marathoners and the tail end of the relayers, so nobody was moving very fast. I was glad for the “RELAY” bib on my back, so everybody I passed knew I had fresh legs and hopefully not too many of them would shoot me dirty, weary looks.
As I neared the end of my 7.67-mile leg, I pulled out my phone and managed to tap out a text to my brother: “Very close.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t give him enough time.
At the transfer area, the marathoners stayed left and the relayers drifted right into the chute. I made it a point to applaud the marathoners, knowing they had a tough six miles to go. As I approached the relay chute, volunteers called out my bib number so Doug would know I was there.
I vividly recall looking for my brother in the crowd of runners gathered on the sidewalk. When I finally saw him, he had his face in his phone, probably to send an “I’m starting” text to the group. I shouted “DOUG!” and came to one of those cartoonish skidding stops. Doug holstered his phone and took my baton. We were off.
Leg 4 (6.55 miles) was rather enjoyable. I was rockin’ my runners high. We both had just enough wind to carry on some light conversation, and not quite enough wind to get into any serious family stuff.
For the final stretch, I had planned to tuck in behind Doug so he could experience crossing the finish line more or less by himself. I didn’t expect him to kick so hard. According to my Garmin, Doug was clocking about 6:20 miles for the last stretch to the finish swine. (Get it—the “finish swine”?)
In the end, I held up fairly well for running a half-marathon—14.22 miles, but who’s counting?—and not exactly training for it. My brother held up well, too. I’m proud of that guy!
Several 5ks and one 14k later, it’s safe to say Doug might have caught the running bug. In fact, he’s running his first half this weekend. Wish him well.