CINCINNATI -- Thousands of runners will take part in the Flying Pig full and half marathons on Sunday, but you can join the festivities even if you aren't one of them.
Whether you know someone participating or not, know this: Runners will need your support on the course as they strive for personal glory. (Full disclosure: I will be one of them!)
The start gun will go off at 6:30 a.m. Sunday near Paul Brown Stadium. Runners will either cover 13.1 or 26.2 miles of the Queen City before crossing the "Finish Swine," located just west of the John A. Roebling Bridge on Mehring Way this year.
Here are nine of the best spots to hold signs, scream, cheer and give sweaty high-fives to those running in the 20th annual Flying Pig Marathon.
Panorama Apartments, 111 Brent Spence Square, Covington: The address may not say it, but the apartments are located on Fourth Street, shortly before runners cross the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge back into Ohio. I love the crowd support here, especially the signs from the residents of the senior living facility. This is a great spot to cheer both full and half marathon runners early in the race. It's also an easy spot to get in and out of if you plan to cheer from multiple locations along the course.
Seventh and Sycamore streets, Downtown: Back in Cincinnati, Seventh Street is a little more than four miles into both races. There is a water station at the corner of Sycamore and Seventh streets, which makes it easier to spot specific runners as they slow down to rehydrate before heading up Gilbert Avenue. Park north of Seventh Street to make a quick exit if you plan to cheer somewhere further up the course.
WCPO 9 On Your Side, 1720 Gilbert Ave., Mount Adams: Cheer runners on as they begin their ascent up the most technically challenging section of the full and half marathon course. You won't be alone, either: Multiple WCPO anchors and reporters also will be outside the TV station to cheer for runners as they pass by. You may need to walk and park a bit to get here, but you'll be rewarded by getting to cheer on half marathon runners as they come back down Gilbert to race to the finish line. There is also a pedestrian bridge at Gilbert Avenue and East Court Street near Jack Casino that offers a nice bird's-eye view of runners from a few directions.
Woodburn Avenue and Madison Road, East Walnut Hills: At the eight-mile marker, this is where the full and half marathon runners part ways. Those running the half turn left and those committed to the full turn right. After a more-than-two-mile climb uphill, this is a great place to lift spirits, especially those of full marathon runners facing the long road ahead.
Central Parkway and Walnut Street, Downtown: This is the turnaround point for half-marathon runners before they make their way down Eggleston Avenue. You also can make a quick jaunt to Mehring Way and cheer them on as they cross the finish line near the Christian Moerlein Lager House.
Hyde Park Square, 2700 Erie Ave., Hyde Park: This is always a popular spot for crowds to cheer on full marathon runners along the route. The nice part about the square is that there is plenty of nearby parking, and you can walk quite a way in either direction of Erie Avenue to pick a watch spot.
The Frisch's Mainliner, 4504 Wooster Pike, Fairfax: Grab breakfast before you wait to cheer on runners as they approach the final stretch of the full marathon. Those runners probably will be feeling the miles by this point as they approach a desolated stretch of road along Columbia Parkway.
Friendship Park, River Road, Downtown: Any place along the riverfront park system is a good place to cheer. What makes standing along Friendship Park so nice is that runners are digging deep to keep running (or start running again) and finish strong. If you stand at the corner of Pete Rose Way and Eggleston Avenue a little further up the road, you also can watch both full and half marathon runners converge toward the finish.
The Roebling Suspension Bridge, Downtown: The best part about the changes to the Flying Pig Marathon and Half Marathon routes this year is that the "Finish Swine" is just west of the Roebling Bridge. In years past, the bridge is where the race started and gave crowds a great vantage point to cheer runners while they were fresh. With the bridge at the end this year, your cheers will help inspire tired runners to finish strong.