Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Are Pigs Still Flying in Cincinnati?

The Flying Pig race weekend in Cincinnati is beyond is superb! No other city and no other race in the country give so much to its runners. Where to start to describe it?

First, the "lay of the land." This city has a nice cosmopolitan feel and it's right on the riverfront. A good-sized convention center easily holds the giant fitness expo leading up to the race. Several top-notch hotels within a 2-3 block radius of the convention center and the start/finish lines down by the riverfront stadiums easily host the thousands of runners and their families.

This event is just non-stop running fun. The weekend kicks off with a Friday night Beer Mile race. On Saturday morning the 10K race followed two hours later by the 5K race. Doing the 10K, 5K, and either half or full on Sunday gets the participant a 3-Way medal in addition to the individual finisher medals. Doing the beer mile Friday night in addition is called the "3-Way with cheese." Just like at Skyline Chili, the corporate sponsor for the "challenge" medals.

All day Friday and Saturday is the massive fitness expo with lots of vendors, including the large corporate sponsors Proctor & Gamble, Walmart, Skyline Chili, Subway, and others, all with massive amounts of freebies and giveaways. P&G in particular always gives away full-size products, not just small samples.

Flying Pig holds a "pump and run" event during the Expo hours, where participants can compete in a weight lifting circuit and earn a combo medal for doing both the weightlifting and running the half or full marathon the next day.

Saturday afternoon is the "26th mile" event, a one mile race for school children who have been participating in the 26 mile challenge during the year. It's a great program to get children outdoors and active. They do their last mile in this event and receive their finisher medal. Then there is the Diaper Dash, the Tots Dash, and finally the Flying Fur Run, where runners and their dogs compete in a fun race. Something running-related was happening every minute of the day on Saturday! And then there are the Full and half marathons on Sunday.

My original plan was to drive to Cincinnati, do the 5K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday, then spend the week in the IN/OH area before arriving in Indianapolis to run the Indy Mini the following Saturday. But after returning from my trip to Italy, I was having second thoughts about again being gone for so long. I hashed and re-hashed all my options. I definitely wanted to do this really great Flying Pig race again, but I also had heard so many good things about the Indianapolis race, having never done it before. I decided I definitely wanted to do the Flying Pig race.

Then, a week before the race, I had an "aha" moment! I realized that my trip to Italy had just dumped a huge load of frequent flyer miles into my United Premier account. Bingo! I can fly to Cincinnati using some of my miles. All of the non-stop flight choices were on small regional jets, which cost fewer miles to book. I also had plenty of points saved up in my frequent parking account at The Spot airport parking, so my parking was going to be free. Flying to Cincinnati, not driving, will save me $200 in gas, probably $100 in additional meals, and the cost of two more nights' hotel room on the road - probably a total savings of close to $600 for the weekend by flying instead of driving, which doesn't even consider the wear and tear of 2,000 miles on the car. This plan made the most sense. At this point, I had pretty much decided to cancel my Indianapolis race, save it for another year, if at all.

So I made my plans, packed my bag, checked the weather, and then awoke at 4:30 AM Friday morning before race day, drove to the airport, and caught my flight to Cincinnati. I'd been upgraded to first class on the Embraer-175, a sign that this was meant to happen.

Next: Race weekend in Cincinnati...are pigs still flying??

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