Sunday, May 11, 2014

Keeping Those Pigs Flying

Yes, it is confirmed once again.  Pigs really do know how to fly.  38,000 runners confirmed it this past weekend.  20,000 of those runners participated in the Marathon/Half Marathon on Sunday and I was one of those runners.

Driving home from Cincinnati after the race, I tried to think how I would put into words what exactly it is that keeps me coming back to this race.  This was my 4th running of this half marathon, and this time I actually got a little emotional in the first couple of miles.  I am just so impressed with how well-organized this event is, and how much attention is put into making this a memorable experience for every runner, including the mundane, non-elite runner like me.

And now, 1,000 highway miles of pondering, I'm still at a loss for the right words to describe how well this event is managed and staged, how incredibly supportive the entire city of Cincinnati is, how not one tiny detail is overlooked in making this the "total package."

Up at 5 AM race day morning, I had breakfast of Cheerios and a banana in my room then got ready for the race.  Everything was laid out the night before, a necessary step in my old age to make sure I don't forget anything.   The sky was just starting to lighten as I walked the several blocks down to the riverfront next to the football stadium where I found my race corral - corral G - and waited for the race to start and then for the 8 corrals ahead of us to move through the start gate.

A giant jumbo-tron screen gave us a view of the proceedings pre-race and of the runners as they flowed across the start line.  This is truly a nice touch for those of us so far back in the pack and another good example of all the attention to detail to make this a great experience for us runners.  Then with a big cheer, our corral was released and we moved quickly toward the start line.  And we were off and running!

The race route:
My Garmin GPS tracks
The very first time I ran this race - in 2010 - I was ignorant to what was in store for me, so I just barreled along, keeping a good pace, not thinking about conserving energy for any hills that may be ahead on the course.  Hills?  What?  So that's how I ran a P.R. after years of running half marathons!  The next year I was a one year veteran of this route and much the wiser.

It is a beautiful route, with plenty of variety and thousands of spectators.  Lots of street entertainers and plenty of funny signs being held by those spectators to keep us chuckling as we run along.  It's hard to run more than 20-30 feet and not have a spectator cheering us on!  The first 6 miles of this race go very quickly because of all of that variety and all of those spectators!  It's a wonderful distraction.  Then at mile 6.5 begins the "big climb."  Two miles of climb - between miles 6.5 and 8.3 but we're rewarded with a fabulous view of the river down below us.  And Elvis crooning to us and cheering us on.

At the overview park - mile 8.

Miles 10-12 are a long downhill stretch and I try to make up for the walking in miles 6-8 by letting it rip down those hills.  Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line.  I knew I'd kept a very good pace.  And I did!  It was my second best time in this race, beating out my 2011 time by several seconds!  Not bad, considering I'm now 3 years older and fractionally more decrepit.

The finisher medal:

I came in 13th out of 65 in my age group.  

After crossing the finish line, I walked back to the hotel, but not before stopping at the hotel lobby Starbucks for a cappuccino to bring back to my room and sip on while I showered and dressed.

I found myself at the Skyline Chili restaurant in Ft. Wright KY about 1/2 hour early, waiting for several friends to arrive and join me for a post-race celebratory lunch.  Of course the cupcakes came with me as part of that shared celebration!  Soon Larry and his wife Sally arrived,coming all the way from the Detroit area, followed by Pam and Bob from Louisville, Don from Dayton, Frank from right there in Cincinnati, and Mark, also from the Louisville area.  A couple of women I've met on the Half Fanatics Facebook page also joined me and it was a real treat to meet them and get to know them better.  We hope our paths cross again at another marathon somewhere in the U.S.!

The Skyline Chili "three-way."  Perfect post-race food!  
Then it was on the road to Bowling Green KY, where I planned to spend the night.  Another group of friends met me there for dinner at The Olive Garden:  Greg and Pat, Jeremy, Jerry, and Lynne.  

Post-race dinner at Olive Garden in Bowling Green

It has been a very special and enjoyable day.....but a long one.  My 5 AM EDT wake-up translates to a 4 AM CDT start of the day and after running 13 miles then driving over 300 miles, I was pooped by the time I walked back to the hotel!  Three of us sat in the lobby and chatted for a while longer, but then I simply had to call it a night.

By 8 AM the next morning I was on the road, heading for home.

Next up in my travels:  Portland OR and Coeur d'Alene ID for two more races later this month.

1 comment:

  1. Love the balloon pig. A great touch.

    The race route looks nice except for that 2 mile uphill section.