CINCINNATI — The Flying Pig is grounded. Race officials made the announcement Friday — the 2020 run has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, and the city of Cincinnati is missing out on an opportunity to bring millions of dollars into the local economy.
Fleet Feet running store owner Frank DeJulius said the times before the Flying Pig are some of the busiest he sees all year. His store is the official retail partner of the Flying Pig, and they operate the official training program of the race.
“Imagine spending a year every year planning a party, and then last minute realize you can’t have it,” DeJulius said.
Earlier retail closures due to COVID-19 took a heavy toll on the store. Fleet Feet closed for 56 days and DeJulius had to furlough 42 employees. He said the sales for the Flying Pig are the biggest of the year for them.
“It’s the thing we look forward to the first weekend in May,” DeJulius said. “We plan for it every year. It’s really the crescendo of our year.”
DeJulius said it’s not just the business that he’ll be missing out on — it’s the people, too. Both he and his wife have run the full and the half Flying Pig marathons
“There’s a lot of miles we didn’t get to run together,” DeJulius said. “There’s a thousand people I didn’t get to see this spring.”
For many people, the cancellation of the race means much more than missing out on a marathon.
“What we’ll miss most is likely what you’ll miss most,” said Flying Pig race director John Capella. “The excitement, energy and anxiety at the start line. The spectators and volunteers that make our course come alive, and the emotional finish line filled with hugs and high fives."
The runners will miss it, too.
“Running a marathon, half-marathon is hard,” DeJulius said. “It’s a grueling thing to do. People miss that because you put the training in. What most people miss is just the opportunity to have a good time for a weekend. Get out with people. Run around the city. Literally 26 miles of Cincinnati roads are lined with people cheering for you.”
Even though the race was canceled, there’s still an opportunity for some good to come out of this situation.
“Maybe the gut reaction is to send an email Monday — ask for a refund, get your money back,” DeJulius said. “Look. I know money is as tight as it is for anyone. If at all possible, defer to next year. Allow them to put that money to work.”
Pig Works, the non-profit leg of the event, donates money from each runner’s entry fee toward local charity organizations that support juvenile diabetes, cystic fibrosis and more than 300 other causes.
“They do a lot of good with it,” DeJulius said. “We’re missing out on a run. That will come back. All of the charities, they need the help right now.”
Besides, DeJulius said, this gives him and other marathoners 133 more days to train until next year’s race.