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Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati)

Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon: Hills, Hills and more damned Hills

Fallback Point[1]: Mile 4.5

The Skinny

This is a terrific, well-established, super fun race that the whole town supports. This is rare and exceptionally cool; most large cities hesitate to shut down the main thoroughfares for any reason, and you’ll get to explore Cincinnati on foot. I can’t say enough good things about this, plus the dynamics of race weekend.

That said, you should also know that this is a hilly course. I recommend doing this race for SO MANY REASONS….but a PR isn’t on the list. You will need to be very diligent about strength throughout the course of your training, as well as incorporating hills into all of your long runs. You need to eat hills for breakfast and have room to snack on them again when you are full and tired. You also need to be ready to run a smart race.

The Course

Miles 1-5: The Kentucky Loop

*Note for out-of-towners, this first section has all of the tourist attractions in it. GO SLOW. TAKE IT IN. LET THE CROWD GET AWAY FROM YOU. YES I AM YELLING.

You start in ‘pigpens’ by the Bengals Stadium then pass the Reds Stadium; the riverfront scenery in between is absolutely unforgettable. DO NOT GET CARRIED AWAY HERE. This is a big race, expect congestion and people around you running way too quickly attempting to get away from that congestion. Races thin out naturally, do not waste a lot of energy trying to keep up. Let people pull away from you, you’ll pass them in the next section.

You will cross a bridge into Kentucky, the Newport Aquarium will be on your left. Cross another bridge at mile 2, then dogleg right and cross another bridge back into Ohio.

When you pass St. Francis Xavier Church on your right around mile 4.8, the real work begins. You’ve been climbing gently since you crossed back into Ohio, but here the slope shifts drastically. Hold back on the uphill, recover on the downhill. DO NOT TRY TO MAKE UP TIME ON DOWNHILLS YET. SAVE YOUR ENERGY.

Miles 6-18 The Killer Climb

The next ten miles weave through various industrial and residential sections of town, with half marathoners splitting off around mile 9.

Mile 6 and we dogleg right through the Art Museum. Enjoy the views until you hit mile 7, when you enter a residential area. Be ready to hang out here for awhile, focus on your effort levels as the scenery shifts. My tip for mentally managing sections like this is to pretend that this isn’t a race, it’s just another long run. Lock in, hang on, the crowds will return.

Around mile 9, the halfers peel off and you will find yourself running downhill. Savor it use this time to recover because it won’t last very long.

Once you hit miles 11 and pass the observatory, hang on until 11.5 where you will get more sweet recovery for half a mile. Soft uphill from mile 12-12.6, then BIG downhill for one sweet mile as you pass the Hyde Park Country Club on your left.

Be prepared to climb again as you approach Red Bank Road, coast down Bramble towards the park.

Coast through Mariemont (miles 15-16) and Fairfax; wait for Wooster Pike/Columbia Parkway at mile 18. Lucky for you, Mariemont has THE most enthusiastic spectators on the course, their cheers will carry out to the highway. They also hand out free bacon in cups!

Miles 17-18 are generally considered to be the most unforgiving of the entire race, so know that the worst of the course is behind you now. Also know that you are far from finished.

Mile 18-20: The Highway

Take a minute to APPRECIATE the Parrot Heads Club manning the Mile 18 water stop. They do this every year and it is awesome!

You will coast downhill for two miles, cross to Eastern Avenue just before mile 20, small hill as you approach Alms Park, then you have much smaller, but incessant, rolling hills to the finish line.

Miles 21-26.2: The Home Stretch

Once you see the Ohio River on your left at the big bend in the road at Mile 21, you are nearly finished! Regardless of how much strength work you did during this marathon cycle, you will probably feel very tired. All of the little rollers from here to the finish will feel insulting. Hang on, don’t hurry, your last big hill is at mile 24.3, relax going up then once you pass the 25 Mile Marker, PUSH to the finish.

Side note about the finish area: it is rockin’. This is one of the best finish line parties I’ve ever seen. Take time to enjoy it!

[1] The “Fallback Point” is the point in the race when everyone who went out too fast starts walking. It feels like you are pulling away as the people you were running with start falling behind you. Generally speaking, if you run a smart race, this is the point past which no one will pass you. In fact you will start passing pretty much everyone. This is a mindgame- you will feel strong relative to their weakness and will be tempted to speed up and pick people off, RESIST THE URGE.

MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC where she trains runners for $29 per month and gives marathon plans away for free. Click here to download her most popular Marathon plan, Tenacious AF, free!

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