CINCINNATI -- It is hard to imagine because the weather is more conducive to ice fishing than running, but we are four months away from the 19th Annual Flying Pig Marathon.
The race is part of the fabric of the Tri-State.
It starts with the marathon expo to the 5K,10k, half marathon and full marathon. There is a family run and now even a furry run for pets. It offers something for everyone.
Last year was the biggest pig ever. The 18th annual event included 39,692 participants. People from all 50 states and 17 countries ran or walked the route.
That means nearly 40,000 different stories about why, how and who took part that first weekend in May.
Personally, I am not a runner but more of a “challenge accepted” kind of guy. While any marathon is a physical challenge, somehow the Flying Pig is different.
My goal over the next four months is to tell the stories of those running the Pig this year.
I think the Flying Pig is about community and this is a place for that community.
But first comes the preparation. And that’s just part of the journey.
Right now there are hundreds of area runners starting that journey to the finish line in May.
Training through winter is part of the Pig. The empowerment of tackling a long run through snow, ice and cold helps you get to the starting line with confidence.
Running clubs and stores offer training programs like the Running Spot, Fleet Feet, House of Run & Tri, Tri-State Running Company and Buckeye Running club. They offer fully supported group runs and training programs.
Most of the clubs and running store teams started training this week. Saturday long runs -- ranging in length from six to 20 miles -- start tomorrow from the West Side to Blue Ash.
Joe Fung owns the House of Run and Tri along Eastern Avenue in Columbia-Tusculum.His store began a four-month training program this week.
“We have about 200 runners training with us this year,” Fung said. “The benefits of a group training means you always have someone to train with you.”
Those groups also help keep runners moving forward, said Lisa Korody, the head training coach for Fleet Feet in Blue Ash. The running store will train about 450 runners this year.
“We give you the training program, but the people around you help keep you motivated," Korody said.
“We have folks that are just getting off the couch,” Korody said. “We also have runners that have participated in marathons for years.”
The journey is also about forging friendships as you grind through training.
“You get to know someone through four months of training,” Fung said. “Then become lifetime friends afterward.”
Race Navigator ranks the Flying Pig as one of the toughest marathons in the Midwest.
The course features more than 350 feet of elevation gain. Most of that comes in the first seven miles. The rest of the race seems to be a rolling hill sufferfest.
“To just run the Flying Pig is really fun,” said ultra marathoner Kate Rewwer from Harrison. “To race the pig or go for a personal best time is really tough.”
Rewwer has run 15 marathons -- four Pigs. She also completed a 100-mile ultra-marathon and has been a pace runner for the Western States 100, the oldest and largest 100-mile race in the U.S.
“If you are having a bad day,” said the working mother of four who is training for her fifth Flying Pig. “The hills can take it out of you mentally. It takes a lot of guts to finish.”
The buzz surrounding the route starts in Covington at the Panorama Apartments with the signs from the senior citizen residents and then flows straight to 7th street.
Then there is Elvis in Eden Park, high-fives in East Walnuts Hills, the Nuns of Hyde Park all the way to Mariemont.
Here is the story I shot along the course last May.
Luckily, the course features plenty of crowd support.
“People smiling and cheering for you,” said Korody, who ran the Pig in 2016. “They might not know you, but they want you to do well.”
What's your story?
I hear all the time Cincinnati is a great running town. It’s a great running town because it is full of great people.
Two years ago while training for the pig. I met Doctors fighting disease to patients that beat disease. I met students, homemakers and those running from addiction.
I represented the overweight, mid-life father of three simply trying to recapture my youth while loving every minute – challenge accepted.
I wonder as training begins in January what the marathon stories will be this year?
What motivates you? Why are you running the Flying Pig? Are you on a health quest? Trying to beat your personal best? Where are you from? Why now?
Do you want to see what you are made of at mile 2 or 22? Or is it simply a challenge accepted?
Here is my direct line at the office (513) 852-1334.
This will be part video, written word, TV news story and pictures.
I will ask for help from my co-workers. WCPO.com entertainment reporter Brain Mains has run 12 marathons, including six Pigs. He even has a Flying Pig tattoo, so he has to be qualified.
WCPO.com Editor Mike Canan runs like he stole something every day. The dude is fast, quietly competitive and super running-knowledgeable.
9 On Your Side News Director Chip Mahaney knocks out half marathons like I eat donuts (that’s a lot).
Staffers Griffin Frank, Austin Fast, Libby Cunningham, Meghan Wesley all run, so I guess I just made this a team project.
Until next week -- happy training.