Mean girl couldn't stop this runner's spirit

Here's who won Flying Pig Marathon, Half Marathon

WATCH Caitlin Keen's tearful, joyful interview in the video player above.

CINCINNATI -- Caitlin Keen said she had never been a winner. As a high school and college runner, she had never broken the tape. Never been a champion. Until Sunday.

When she was 12 years old, Keen saw her first Flying Pig Marathon. Her family had just moved from California to Hyde Park. She went to St. Mary School, and she watched the runners go past her school on Erie Avenue.

Then and there, she decided she'd win the Flying Pig one day.

"And I remember this one girl, who was not very nice, was like, ‘No you won’t,’" Keen said.

Keen said she was all set to go to McNicholas High School after eighth grade, and then her family moved to Texas. But she never lost her determination to win the Flying Pig and she never forgot what that girl said.

She just used it as motivation.

GALLERY: The best photos of the 2018 Flying Pig Marathon

Keen never stopped pushing herself until she finally reached her goal Sunday, breaking the tape and winning the women's division in 2:46:41. She finished 12th overall.

Afterward, in an emotional interview, she cried, she laughed, and she cried some more.

It wasn't easy to become a champion.

"I've never broken a tape in my life," Keen said. "I was an OK high school runner. I never won a state championship. I walked on at a Division I school, Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I ended up getting a full ride my senior year. I never was a winner. Never was an all-American."

That changed in two hours, 46 minutes and 41 seconds. Now she's ready to pursue her next dream - making the 2020 Olympic team.

"I'm so close to qualifying for the (Olympic team) trials, it's unbelievable," she said through tears. "I'm so happy. It means everything."

Keen missed the trials qualifying time of 2:45 by less than two minutes Sunday, but she has until Jan. 19, 2020 to meet it.

At the finish line, where she was overcome with the emotion of the moment, Keen waited for her mother to finish the half marathon.

Then she placed her medal around her mom's neck.

It had been 13 years since that mean girl tried to tell Keen what she couldn't do. Keen said she thought about it as she ran past that spot on Erie Avenue, where she'd made a promise to her younger self. In fact, she thought about it all 26.2 miles.

"I’ve never let that go in 13 years. Now I can," she said afterward.

 "I think I had to believe in myself more than anybody else did -- that if you have any doubt that you’re going to do this, then you’ve already lost. ... No one can pull you to the finish line. You have to pull yourself there. I just had to believe in it, and I had to believe I could do it," Keen said.

WATCH WCPO anchor team cheer runners in front of 9 On Your Side studios:

 

Sunday's race, the 20th Flying Pig since it began in 1999, saw 6,546 people registered for the full marathon and 13,420 for the half marathon. More than 43,000 people registered to take part in at least one event over the Pig's three days.

Participants came from all 50 states and 22 countries.

Aaron Viets, a physics professor from Wisconsin, took first place overall with a time of 2:29:36. Viets spread the winnings, too: He promised his students extra credit if he won.

Kerry Lee, a math teacher and cross country coach at Anderson High School, placed second among women and 20th overall. She won the women's division last year and has placed in the top three since 2011.

Jack Butler, from Loveland, Ohio, won the half-marathon with a time of 1:10:39. Molly Trachtenberg, of Boston, Massachusetts, was the female winner and 16th overall, finishing the half in 1:22:19.

The 21st running of the Flying Pig Marathon will be held May 3-5, 2019.

WATCH Jake Ryle's inside look at the Flying Pig:

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