Teacher, ultra-marathon runner helps SCPA students train for Flying Pig Marathon

CINCINNATI -- Harvey Lewis has run in races from the streets of Over-The-Rhine to the Gobi Desert. He has paced himself up the mountains of Europe and through Death Valley, California.

But the Flying Pig is his favorite.

“It’s my favorite race, period.” Lewis said during a training run in Washington Park. “It means a lot to our community in terms of all the different charities the weekend benefits. It also has gotten so many more people active in our city.”

Lewis is a Flying Pig Streaker. That means he has participated in the Cincinnati marathon every year it has been around.

This will be his 19th Flying Pig with the goal of his personal best marathon time -- something faster than 2:46:40.

“This will be my 26th year of running some type of marathon,” Lewis said. “I thought, this is a great year to go for my personal best.”

Lewis’ running story is like no other. He runs to and from work every day, rain or shine. He trains for the Badwater 135 ultra-marathon through the streets of Over-The-Rhine.

During the summer months, he wears winter hats with multiple sweat suits to recreate the stifling heat of Death Valley. It is nothing to see him planking while waiting on a stop light during a run.

Lewis even ran to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, with luggage, to catch a flight. He was traveling to a marathon by the way.

Harvey once admitted: “OK, I’ve got a running problem.”

Several years ago, co-worker Brian Mainsand I noticed Lewis running down Gilbert Avenue at the same time each morning.

He was running to his teaching job at the School of Creative and Performing Arts. He likes to refer to it as “commuting with human power.”

He became appointment viewing for us, then a WCPO story. We followed him for weeks ahead of the Badwater ultra-marathon.

I have never seen Harvey without a smile. He is one of the most positive and inclusive people I have met. He has the wonderment about the world with an awe-shucks attitude.

Which is why it did not surprise me when I learned he has started a running club at SCPA.

“We focus on the arts and really don’t have sports teams,” Lewis explained. “I wanted to get kids involved in sports with more active things for their lifestyle.”

The SCPA running club started about five years ago. The group of students are training for an event during the Flying Pig Marathon weekend.

“Typically we train for the 5k or 10k,” Lewis said. “This year we have some students that will run the half marathon.”

SCPA Junior Logan Gardener is one of the students training for the half marathon.

“I was hesitant to join the group last year,” Gardener said from Washington Park. “But this year I knew I wanted to join the group and train.”

Gardener has adopted Lewis’ habit of running or biking to school. The Clifton resident rarely misses a day of training.

“I just don’t feel as good if I miss a day on the bike or running,” Gardener said.

The group typically meets every day after school for about an hour.

“This is not high-pressure,” said Lewis. “It’s great just to get them out and do something positive outdoors.”

Lewis admits he rarely mentions his running feats to his students.

“They know a little,” he laughed “But I don’t really talk much about it.”

Megan Grafe is a junior who focusing on art at SCPA. She joined the running group to clear her mind.

“I have a lot of projects going on at once,” said. “When I get a hard critique, I come out here and run it out.”

Grafe is one of the students who knows little about Lewis the athlete.

“He is this government teacher that runs all the time,” She smiled. “Might as well join the group for free training.”

Stage production student Youssef Reed has been in the group for two years. His goal this year is to tackle the 10k.

Reed learned of Lewis’ running in class. “He mentioned he runs ultra marathons and stuff,” Reed said. “Honestly, I can’t imagine running that far.”

A little more than a month from now, the SCPA Running club will join thousands of others at the start line.

Lewis will run to beat a time, but perhaps his biggest accomplishment is being an ambassador to the event and willing to teach others about a healthy lifestyle.

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