Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Flying Pig Marathon 2017 - Back of the Pack Recap

Before I signed up for The Pig I did my research. I wanted to do a marathon that was back of the pack friendly. The course limit for the full for the Flying Pig is seven hours, which is great. After I found that out, I started to look for blog posts from people about the marathon.

Most of the stuff I found was written by either faster people or about the half marathon. I found a couple that seemed to be closer to my pace and I read what I could.

This post is for anyone who does what I do and next year, when they are looking for a marathon, does a little google search to see what the course was like for those of us who don't finish marathons under four hours.

A lot happened over the weekend that was un-marathon related (yes I did that, shut your mouth) but this is just about the actual race.

Packet Pick-up
I got into Cincinnati at around 5PM Friday. After checking into the hotel, my friend and I walked over to the expo center which was across the street from the hotel. The expo was HUGE. We had plans to check it out the next day, so on Friday I just got my bib and my shirt and we left. Packet pick-up was super easy.
Pros: Very, very, very well organized.
Cons: Look, I love a tech shirt as much as the next person, but the 5Kers (and maybe the 10K I don't know) got t-shirts instead of tech shirts and they were awesome. It was like a souvenir concert t-shirt. I was very jealous of that. I love to wear cotton race shirts, especially cute ones, after the fact. I rarely wear race tech shirts because they never fit me right.

We went to the expo on Saturday after the 5K. We still had someone who needed to pick up their bib for the marathon on Sunday. The expo was gigantic, like I said. Not really my thing. I did end up with a coffee mug of the race. You know what I really wanted? A 26.2 sticker for the back of my car. You know what they had? ALL MAGNETS. Hmmm...
If you are into giant expos and shopping, then this is for you. If not, you can still pass through the expo quickly to get your packet, etc, so you can be in and out without a fuss.

Race Prep
The night before the race I laid out all my equipment to make sure I had everything.
Pictured: Shoes, shirt, capris, socks, sunscreen, water bottle, fuel, Flip Belt, and awesome Run Detroit hat because gotta represent my city!

I also had my friend write my manta on my arm.
I set my alarm for 5:02AM and tried to sleep. Somehow my alarm got screwed up and I didn't wake up until 5:25. We had planned to meet in the lobby with our other friends at 5:30!

Nothing like rushing around your room like crazy right before a marathon. Thankfully, everything worked out and I got to the corral with plenty of time.

The corrals were all fenced off with a very handsome man in a military uniform checking people's bibs as they entered to make sure they were racers. Once in the corral, my friends went on their way to watch our faster friend start and I waited for the corral to start.

The Race
We started about 20 minutes after the first corral. I had a fleece on because it was cold at the start, not even in the forties and there was a brisk wind coming off the river.  I didn't take any pictures during the run because my phone was tucked into my flip belt and I didn't want to deal with it. Any pictures of me were taken by my awesome friends because they are awesome. The end. Also, I was running so my exact course descriptions are also a little off. But, the basic gist of it is there.

Miles 1-4
We started out on the Ohio side and ran around until we crossed a bridge up and over into Kentucky. I have run the Detroit half marathon before and this bridge was honestly not as bad as that one. My goal was to walk up bridges and run down them, regardless of what my run/walk interval was. The first half of this race is HILLY and I didn't want to burn out my legs before it was even half over.
Because I started at the back of the pack, I was running with the half marathon walkers, which was fine. I didn't really have to dodge around anyone, and most people kept to the course requirement of no more than two people walking abreast. I kept to my 25 second run and 30 second walk when I wasn't going up hills.
We crossed one bridge in Kentucky, then crossed another bridge from Kentucky back into Ohio. That made me laugh, as we came over the second bridge I heard a woman say to the man with her, "Are you sure this one goes into Ohio? Because you said the last one didn't and you were wrong." Walk up the bridges, then run down them. Lather, rinse, repeat. I started fueling at Mile 3. And felt great. My pace was right on a 15 minute mile.

Miles 5-9
And then we started to go up hill. Again, I did my walk up the hills, keep to my run/walk on any flat parts. The climb up to this park, which was where the hill topped out, wasn't THAT bad. I expected it to be much worse. I just kept on with my plan and before I knew it we were at this lovely lookout over the city.
Freezing cold support crew
Running away from them.
At that point, we split off from the half marathoners and suddenly it was just me and like, four other people. Ah yes, the dreaded Back of the Pack. I still felt great at this point, my legs were fine, my breathing was good, I had my playlist bumping. I give the Flying Pig credit, even with the much, much smaller crowds on the road, the people manning the water stations were still cheering and screaming as if we were all the first runners they saw all day.

Miles 10-14
The course at this point wound through the neighborhoods of Cincy. It was nice to check out the houses and enjoy the scenery. Nothing too crazy. There were some hills and the sun was out in full force, but temps were in the 50's so we were still good. I passed my friends at Mile 14. They had signs and were just genuinely awesome crowd support.

 A few of them headed to the finish to see our other much faster friend finish, but two stayed behind to meet me at Mile 17, which was just a hop from Mile 14.
Seriously, best cheering sections I have seen on a race cours!
The signs made me laugh!

My fuel was good, my legs were good, I was still at my awesome 15 minute pace. This race was great!

Miles 15-20
We went through a neighborhood, Mariemont, and the crowd support was just awesome. People out cheering on their lawns, neighbors having race parties. It was so cool. Again, I was at the back of the pack, so you know they had people passing them by for hours and still they cheered. We were on a bike path for a little bit. I saw my friends again, and they promised to meet me at the finish. Everything was awesome!

Miles 20-26
At around Mile 20, we started through a less than desirable part of the city. There were other runners around me so I wasn't overly concerned, but it wasn't good viewing to distract me. There was a full blown argument between a woman and a man in front of their house that included screaming and threats. I didn't know what I should do, if I should call someone on my phone or what. I just kept running.
Then at Mile 23, disaster struck. Disaster in the form of stomach issues. You guys. It was AWFUL. I spent way too much time in a port-a-john (you're welcome for the overshare). I was close enough to the point where I thought I would have to pull myself off the course. I started to walk. And cry. You know what doesn't go well with any form of exercise? Crying. I was almost hyperventilating and thought for sure if a course official saw me they would pull me thinking I was having a heart attack.
We also started down the loneliest stretch of the course, the Columbia Parkway. It was just a long, closed road with nothing to look at, no shade, and nothing but cement for what felt like ages. So here I am, feeling like I'm gonna vomit, crying, not being able to breath, and I still have THREE MILES TO GO. Three terrible, awful miles.
Thankfully, I spotted a guy I had passed a few times throughout the course while we both ran the Galloway method. He passed me while I was stopped in the port-a-john. I caught up with him and basically said, "Hi, I'm Meg, can I walk with you?" His name was Randy and honestly, Randy, I would not have survived the rest of this race without you. We didn't really talk, but just having a human being by me was enough.
I sent a text to the support crew, who knew I was struggling based on my times that posted at each mile marker. The text was basically one f-bomb. They recognized the desperation. At Mile 25 ( I think?) there they were. My friends PLUS the one who already ran a marathon. I got a much needed boost from that. One friend kept walking with me and I passed off my water bottle to her as we approached the finish.

Mile 26.2
With the disastrous last three mile walk, I ended up adding quite a bit of time to my run. Again, I was just in it to finish strong, so I'm not upset about that, other than, come on I was doing SO GOOD!! Eh, enough of that, I can't change it. I rounded the corner for the finish line and just chugged along. The rest of the group was there to cheer me on as I crossed the finish. It was brutal and I was exhausted, but my legs, bless their hearts still felt great.

Here's where being a back of packer sucks. For earlier finishers, there are awesome birds-eye photos of their finish. The photographers who took those were gone by the time I finished. Other photographers did get some of me running it in, but not many. And when I crossed the finish line, got my medal and blanket, there was one person with a camera to take a photo with my medal. She said, "They keep telling me to pack up, but I know there are people on the course, so I won't. Not yet." Thank you, lady!
Everything was getting broken down and taken apart, but I got bottled water and was directed to some food which I did not want. I walked around until I could meet up with the rest of the group.
This guy ran a marathon, and then walked back on the course a mile to cheer me on. Losing My Puppy has found herself a keeper. Which is good, because SHE is a keeper.
After the race, my stomach was still jacked up. We all rested at the hotel, then went out to dinner at Molly Malone's. I highly, highly recommend that place. It's on the Covington side and was awesome. Good food, decent service and not crowded at all.

Then we took an Uber to get ice cream, as you should.
Hot fudge sundae
My stomach was still anti-sugar at this point, so I didn't eat much of it. Boo. Then back to the hotel and sleep.

A few of us were still around on Monday, so we got breakfast at Maplewood Kitchen (I also highly recommend this place).
Goat cheese and ricotta toast

Avocado toast with pisatchios and honey
And then I drove home.

I would recommend this race to anyone. The course is challenging, but if you go into with a plan and train for it, you can do it. Without the stomach issues, this race would have been PERFECT. Very, very back of the pack friendly.
My only suggestion, should you go and want to stay in one of the race recommended hotels, DO NOT stay at the Millennium Hotel. It was terrible.


  1. Love, love, love. You made me cry. It was an incredible weekend. Sorry I missed Monday breakfast looks divine.

  2. Words can't express how immensely proud I am of you. Your planning and training clearly showed, and stomach issues aside, you ran an amazing race. And meeting with you wonderful women in person was the highlight. Congratulations marathoner!!

  3. Aww that breakfast looks great! I love everything about this post. As the others have said, we are SO proud of you. There was never a doubt in my mind that you would rock this and you did despite the tummy issues.

  4. You are awesome, Meg!! You did so good. That really sucks about the tummy issues.
    I ran the half, and didn't think the hills were all that bad. There's a couple races I've done here in KY, which seem worse!
    I'm considering signing up again next year, and my friend and I talked about staying at the Millennium. Why was it bad?
    Congrats again!!

  5. Your awesome legs and amazing heart carried you through, just like I knew they would. :)

  6. Ok so I just cried at your perseverance at the end of your marathon....and your incredible friends (go Gary...right?). But really, You are amazing!!!!!!!! Congrats for your successful finish!!!

  7. Ohio!!!!

    Also, spectating is hard. And you are amazing.

  8. I have been trying to get to this for weeks and today I finally had a chance. I am SO PROUD of your awesome self!! You totally and completely rock!! Marathoner Meg!! Xoxo!!!

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