- Freezing rain
CINCINNATI - Marty Hovey jokes about how he will mark this year's Flying Pig Marathon.
"I mentioned to a friend that actually this year I might wear all 15 of my bibs," Hovey said, with a laugh. "They said, 'ah, you'd just be showing off.'"
Hovey is one of 102 people signed up to run their 15th consecutive Pig. Collectively, he is part of a group simply known as the "Streakers" who have run in the Pig since its inception in 1999. Back then, there were only 6,200 participants, compared to this year's 33,000 registrants for the May 3-5 full weekend of Pig activity.
In 1999, Hovey's wife Denise responded to a classified advertisement placed by the Flying Pig organization looking for volunteers. She signed up to help and suggested he run the Pig.
Hovey, 51 at the time, ran in a few 5Ks and 10K races, but never had any interest in distance running.
"I read stories about marathons about people falling across the finish line. I was really apprehensive about it," Hovey said.
But after sticking to a training plan he found and finishing that first Pig, Hovey said, "it went pretty smoothly." Since then he has run in every one of his hometown races, never really making it a conscious goal to participate each year.
"I think [the organizers] recognized people who had done five; that's when I thought I better stick around and do as many as I can," Hovey said.
That first race also sparked other not-so-subtle changes for Hovey and his family. His wife became one of the first paid employees of the Flying Pig organization, he took over management of the Pig's website, and at 65, Hovey will also run his 50th overall marathon at this year's Pig.
"I've never done less than two a year. There was a year or two years were I did six. I get a lot of opportunity because the Flying Pig goes to a lot of other marathons [to promote the race at expo booths]," Hovey said.
Hovey has also participated in runs with his wife and two children , Eric and Alison, and made a host of friends.
"I run with groups. You just develop a family relationship with people," he said.
Always Running For A Cause
Billie Jo Mendoza
Another Streaker, Billie Jo Mendoza, understands the strength of bonds created after running 14 Pigs as well.
In 1999, Mendoza signed up through her work for Team In Training, a fundraising organization for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with three friends. The friends dropped out of the challenge.
"And so I signed up and it was just me," Mendoza said. "I decided the next year to do it with a friend who chose to walk it. After the third one, I just kept going. It was just part of my yearly schedule. All the things I've gone through, marriage, divorce, a new job, a parent who passed; it's one of those things that's become a part of my life."
And Mendoza, who was 34 when she started running the Pig, stuck with Team in Training as well.
"I have so many friends and family who support me every year. If I don't get letters out at a specific time they are calling or emailing me," Mendoza said.
To date, Mendoza has raised more than $25,000 for charity.
"It really isn't difficult. So many donate," she noted.
Mendoza also started a business as a result of her running habit. She currently employs four people who run dogs in the Kings Mills, Hyde Park and Montgomery areas as part of Paw Joggers. The business is currently planning to expand.
Another Notch On The Belt
Another Streaker, Craig Kelly of Alabama, agrees that endurance running is a transformative experience. After starting to run marathons at 33 years old, the 64-year-old Streaker has run in 127 marathons.
"I keep asking myself, why I do I do this, and then when I finish it I feel like I accomplished something," Kelly said. "As long as I'm able, I think I should try to do it."
Kelly ran the first Pig at the recommendation of a friend who lived in Covington at the time. Since then he's had a flying pig tattooed on his leg, and went so far as to run the course with the assistance of a leg scooter last year after tearing his Achilles tendon in training.
"I wanted to run that race," Kelly said. "I got permission from the race coordinator. The director said I had to finish it in seven hours. I finished in 6:54. It was quite a challenge."
One Constant In 15 Races
All three Streakers have plenty of Pig stories over the years, from route changes to unexpected events, to an increase in spectators. Each agreed one thing has remained the same for each year: It's a well-organized event.
"It was well run from the very first year," Mendoza said. "It is spectacular. It is fun. Every year they take feedback and they apply it."
Particularly, Mendoza was happy when changes in the course put Cincinnati's hills at the front of the course instead of the end.
Hovey added he was happy when the end of the course moved from Union Terminal in 1999 to where it is today. Though scenic, Hovey said, the lack of trees at the end made for some warm running the first year.
And advice for those running their first marathon at the Flying Pig's 15th?
"There's more entertainment each year. There is constant distraction. You see someone you know, make sure you acknowledge them," Hovey said.
"For first-timers, you should go out and just have fun because you know you're probably not going to win," Hovey added with a smile.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
A man pleaded guilty to stalking a Flying Pig official and carrying a concealed weapon during this year's marathon.
How do Tri-State runners train to win and work to live?
A man accused of stalking the executive director of the Flying Pig and bringing a gun to the race has been indicted.
A man has been accused of stalking a Flying Pig official and carrying a concealed weapon during this past Sunday's marathon.
The Flying Pig Marathon kicked off in the early hours Sunday with more than 30,000 runners participating in the events.
Organizers credit pre-planning for a safe, secure and successful Flying Pig Marathon on Sunday.
Cincinnati's annual Flying Pig Marathon kicks off Sunday, May 5!
The Flying Pig Marathon took place in Cincinnati Sunday.
Applause echoed in the race recovery area as Joe Schmithorst got on his knee and pulled out a small white box with a diamond ring inside,…
A runner from Kenya preparing to compete in his first United States marathon at the Flying Pig on Sunday took first place in the Toyota 10K…