This gave me a chance to run the Flying Pig Marathon. This is a very well put on marathon. The experience was a blast. The course, however, is, uh, challenging.
Before I went, I looked at its topographical map. It looks like a giant anaconda which has just swallowed a bus. Steady as she goes til MP 6, then a hellacious climb to MP 8, then down the other side and out. Sort of like National, with its climb and descent in the early mid-part of the marathon, before fatigue turns inclines into hills and hills become mountains. Very doable, on paper.
Still, one of Cincinnati's several nicknames is The City of Seven Hills. I no longer wonder why.
My training was abbreviated because I didn't know I was running this May marathon until sometime in April, when I was offered the opportunity to go to Cincinnati. I went out and was able to finish a 20-miler so I figured I could do the Pig. The next week I ran a 15-miler, the week after that a 16-miler and the week before the marathon I did a 10-miler. Then I lined up at 6:30 am on Sunday with the 3:40 pace group, "ready" to go. I had ankle and hamstring issues, but they wouldn't delay the start til I got 100%. Go figure.
They did delay the start, however, for a fire on the course. This caused a course alteration which lengthened the course. But unlike at Army in 2005, this did NOT turn the marathon into a Cincinnati Fun Run. They adjusted appropriately on the fly. (Are you listening, Chicago?)
By the time the starting cannon was fired, however, I was really ready to go, if you know what I mean. A quarter mile down the course I was relieved to find a handy bush along the Ohio. I never saw the 3:40 group again. Left to my own resources, I soon settled into a steady pace.
A jog by the Great American Ballpark (Reds) took us onto the Taylor Bridge into Kentucky. Two miles later we were back in Ohio running through downtown Cincinnati. We ran by the sports bar where I ate dinner and hydrated the two prior nights. Tragically, this was where I watched live on TV while Kentucky Derby runnerup Eight Belles was put to death the night before. Horse racing has a real problem.
Soon we surmounted what I thought was the climb of the race. It wasn't too bad and now I was literally at the top of the world. Up there I could see the Ohio far below, glinting in the morning sun. Downtown Cincinnati and its bridges were visible behind me, and stretching out in front was the great bend of the river.
But soon I discovered that the hills were far from done. Still ahead were lots more rolling hills, inclines, and, worst of all, short, sharp hills. Little ten and twenty-yard rollers that lifted up and down like a crazy roller coaster track. Major combat wasn't over. Well, bring 'em on.
The halfway mark came and went. We toured the Cincinnati suburbs to the NE. Suburbs are suburbs but the crowd support was great. We ran down some bike paths, which I always find interesting in marathons (where does this one go? Does it go all the way to downtown?).
We were actually detouring around the early-morning conflagration and the course was being stretched out thereby but hey, we all ran the same distance. Nobody made it "unofficial" thereby. (Cincinnati did a great job. This is a great marathon.)
We ran over a controlled-access four-lane divided highway where we got the shoulder and one lane, while the cars got the other lane. A line of orange plastic cones protected us dead-tired runners from them. Do you think the cars slowed down? (This is the midwest. Actually, many did.)
And then we were on the home stretch! A large sign announced the last mile. I tried to pick it up but the last mile was long, I tell ya. I finished in under four hours on all registers, the gun time, the chip time and the adjusted time due to the course lengthening. I loved this marathon. What more can I say?