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Catching up with five-time Flying Pig Marathon champion Sergio Reyes

Reigning winner isn't running 2017 race
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Posted at 12:34 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 12:34:57-04

CINCINNATI -- Five-time Flying Pig Marathon winner Sergio Reyes hinted last year that the 2016 race may be his last in Cincinnati, and indeed the 35-year-old Californian will sit out Sunday’s 26.2-mile run.

Reached this week, Reyes stopped short of saying he has permanently retired from the marathon. 

“It’s probably too soon to say. It just so happened this year, there are still several marathons on my bucket list that I want to get done,” said Reyes, a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base.

Sergio Reyes is crowned with the laurel wreath after winning the 2012 Flying Pig Marathon.

He’s prepping instead for his debut run in Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota in June. Reyes said Grandma’s is known for its fast course and competitive field, and he’s aiming for a solid time because he’s “starting to be too far removed” from his faster marathon finishes.

RELATED: The 2017 Flying Pig by the numbers

“Cincinnati, while exciting and fun and I’m always thrilled to run there, isn’t really conducive to an extremely fast marathon,” Reyes said.

Last year Reyes made history by becoming the first five-time Pig champ. He entered the marathon with health concerns due to previous cases of Achilles tendonitis in both feet and surgery on his right foot. Despite those challenges and the Pig’s challenging course, he took control after Mile 7 and won in 2:26:03.

Reyes is back to full health now. He has devoted his time lately to training runs and, for a change of pace, hopped in the San Luis Obispo (SLO) Marathon last weekend during a visit to his parents’ home.

What Reyes didn’t mention was that he won the marathon in 2:21:42 -- and shattered the course record. He simply said he was happy with his time. 

“That went surprisingly well for a training run. I actually ended up surprising myself, coming in to a very comfortable 2:21. That was a lot better than doing it by myself,” Reyes said, laughing.

Reyes claimed the race’s $600 victory purse and an additional $250 for breaking the course record.

The Pig hasn’t offered prize money since its first couple editions, but money was never the reason Reyes competed in the marathon. He attended Cedarville University and always enjoyed trips back to Ohio to visit old schoolmates and family that resided in Dayton.

Those family members moved to Idaho last year.

“They were basically holding onto their place the last couple of weeks right around the time of the Pig. It was pretty much an empty house at that point. They stuck around long enough for me to come and visit them and spend the weekend together and everything, and then they made the move. Not having family there changes things a little bit,” Reyes said.

Reyes, who has been running professionally since 2003, averages about one race per month. He said running now versus earlier in his career poses challenges, like greater recovery time, but he has adapted his training and mentality to remain competitive without sacrificing speed. 

His 2016 Pig time in fact was faster than his 2014 title-winning finish. 

Eventually Reyes would love to run the Chicago Marathon a second time and the New York City Marathon a first time. He was set to run New York in 2012 but the race was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy.

Asked to dispense advice to those competing this year for the Pig’s crown of laurels, Reyes said for runners to avoid placing high expectations on themselves in terms of time and performance. 

“Really, you want to just soak up the atmosphere. Enjoy all the scenery that the route takes you through and love the support and folks that come out and cheer you along the way,” Reyes said.

Whether he returns to the Pig or not, Reyes said it’s a race he’ll never forget.

“It’s always been a special place for me because I’ve had family and even college friends out there every year, carving out time from their Sunday mornings to come out and meet me on the course,” Reyes said. “Hopefully everybody else can enjoy that same type of encouragement and support out there as well.”