CINCINNATI — Flying Pig's first race of the weekend started Friday night, with participants from near and far going to Duke Energy Convention Center to register for this year's events.
After the pandemic forced the marathon to go virtual in 2020, the excitement surrounding the 23rd running of Flying Pig was palpable — from mascots giving participants flying hugs to the race's first ever registered runner returning.
"I'm the fastest to the mailbox," said Bob Platt, the first runner to register for the inaugural Flying Pig. "This is like a big family. Every year, I meet some people from like Florida every year they come up."
The runners are not the only ones excited to be back. Doug Olbeding, a Pig Works board member, is still stepping after learning he had a brain tumor in 2019.
"It was chemotherapy and COVID at the same time," Olbeding said.
Olbeding did not let his tumor stop him; as soon as the Flying Pig was back on, so was he.
"I got to take a time out while the world took a timeout, and now we're back running races and it's awesome," Olbeding said.
Pig Works CEO and President Iris Simpson Bush said she is happy to be back after an unprecedented year full of cancellations and postponements.
"It's been a long wait to come back'" Simpson Bush said. "Our participants, I feel they deserve such kudos. They have stayed healthy, stayed fit throughout the pandemic they are now back and ready to enjoy one another's camaraderie and motivation."
Pig Works is expecting more than 20,000 participants in the 2021 races, but while Sunday's full marathon is sold out, the number is not nearly what it has been in the past.
"Our switch from spring to fall may have had an effect," Simpson Bush said. "We acknowledge that some people are not entirely comfortable major events yet."
Whatever the reason, Simpson Bush said Pig Works believes the future of Flying Pig is bright.
"Running is still alive and well," Simpson Bush said.