I joggled the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon last Sunday. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience and while I didn’t set a marathon PR, I did accomplish a number of things including…
1. Fastest marathon as a 44 year old
2. Beat my last Flying Pig marathon time by 39 minutes
3. Finished my 34th marathon
4. Completed my 32nd joggling marathon
5. My 24th sub-4 hour marathon (7th in a row)
Cincinnati is 300 miles from Chicago and takes approximately 5 hours to get there by car. Flying is only a little faster when you consider the time required to get to the airport and go through security. Also, it’s significantly cheaper for two people. Shannon and I left early Saturday morning and were in Cincinnati by 2pm. The drive wasn’t bad but the stretch between Merrillville and Indianapolis where you lose NPR is pretty tough. I also had to get stop at the rest areas to stretch my legs a bit. You don’t want stiff legs the day before a marathon.
I was impressed with the size of the Flying Pig expo. It was held downtown at the Duke Energy Center and they had dozens of vendor booths. The place easily accommodated the thousands of runners. One annoying thing was the way they herded everyone through the expo so you had to pass every booth in order to pick up your t-shirt. I understand how that benefits the sponsors but I was in a bit of a hurry because I still had to get my run in to continue the joggling streak.
After getting my packet, we walked around downtown Cincinnati. It’s a nice place. Small, but still with a big city feel. I was particularly impressed with the improvements they made on the riverfront since the last time I had visited. The people who live there clearly care about making it a better place.
For my pre-marathon workout, I joggled over the river from Camden, Kentucky into Cincinnati and around the riverfront area. I got lots of smiles. It felt pretty good even if it was just a couple miles. My wife and I had dinner at a place in Kentucky. I had short ribs, some potato product and an excellent bowl of vanilla ice cream. A couple of beers also helped me relax. Even though I’ve done many marathons I still get a little nervous the night before.
We stayed across the river in Covington, so I had to walk about a mile and a half to get to the start line. I never really mind a walk like this to a marathon. It helps stretch the legs and calms the nerves. The hotel must’ve had a lot of runners because they set up a special table with bananas and water for runner. I liked that. The race started early…6:30am! Fortunately, I’m used to waking up early so it didn’t bother me so much. But 6:30am is early for any race. The sun was just coming up when we started.
At the start line I easily found my stating corral. Kudos to the organizers. Unfortunately, I couldn’t easily find the gear check and one of the “information” people sent me the wrong direction. While this was a bit frustrating, it all worked out fine and I lined up with plenty of time to spare. I chatted with a few of the runners around me, then got ready to race. I was going to make a final pit stop but the bathroom lines were super long so I decided that the feeling with either go away or I’d stop somewhere along the course. I did the latter around mile 2.
The crowd at the start was excellent, cheering loudly as I joggled by. I know joggling is still an anomaly because the look of surprise and delight on the spectators is as intense as ever. It’s one of my favorite parts of joggling. My start was strong with the sound of Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band bouncing around in my head. I felt great with the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I had no goal in mind for the marathon and figured I would run however fast I could easily run. I had limited interest in causing myself too much pain. A PR was not in the cards for this race.
The first couple miles took us over the bridges into Kentucky. I appreciated the fact that we did this first instead of at the end like the last time I did this run. It was a much better idea. Around mile three I saw Shannon cheering from the sidelines. It was impressive that she was able to get up early enough to see me run by. I always appreciate that. She’s great.
We next ran back into Cincinnati then through the downtown area. This place was packed with spectators and I did trick after trick, smiling and waving at the wildly cheering crowd. It reminded me of running in downtown Chicago during the marathon. A few less people, sure, but great energy!
The rest of this quarter is when we started to climb some significant elevation. The climb from mile 5 to mile 6 was particularly steep. But hills in the beginning of a marathon are much preferred to ones at the end. I also looked at the elevation map and remembered that mile 6 was the maximum peak. This tricked me into thinking it was all down hill from there. I was wrong.
In the second quarter of the race, the feel good chemicals started to wear off and the crowds started to drop off. There were definitely people all along the way, but nothing like the downtown crowd. This part of the course featured lots of nature and some rolling hills. There were definitely some steep declines and inclines. Since I had done the race before I wasn’t completely surprised, but it did remind me of something…hills are tough!
At around mile 8 the marathoners split off from the people who were running the half marathon. This thinned out the crowd but it also made for fewer people for me to pass. Since I started out rather slowly I was catching and passing people most of the first 20 miles. It’s much more fun to be in a race where you are passing people than being passed. Just a tip for all you jogglers out there.
The first half of the marathon flew by. I wasn’t going particularly fast (1:48 half split) but the crowd was great and I felt excellent. I had my first drop when I attempted a high throw, high five trick with a little kid who was holding out her hand. I hadn’t thrown the Gballz quite far enough ahead of me and when it came down it hit me in the chest. I nearly recovered but alas, I dropped it. My one other drop was when I grabbed a piece of licorice that someone was handing out and I momentarily forgot that I was juggling. Oops!
The other notable thing about this part of the race was that there were lots and lots of rolling hills. Quite possibly the toughest part of the whole course.
Early in the race, I didn’t look at my times much. Instead I did tricks for the crowds, smiled brightly, and generally made a spectacle of myself when given the chance. When you don’t expect to PR you start to do things that ensure you won’t. Typically, during marathons I check every mile marker and do some mental math to figure out what my likely finishing time much. Not this one. At least, not until the last quarter of it.
At this point in the race the skies greyed and it started to drizzle. Not exactly bad running weather but when my clothes got drenched, I started to noticeably slow. Of course, the excruciating pain I began feeling in my muscles and joints also probably had something to do with my slow down. At mile twenty, I checked the clock and said to myself “only a 10K left. You can do that in less than 50 minutes.” Then when mile twenty two rolled around I thought, “Four miles to go. You run that distance all the time. You should be done in half an hour.” And on it went at mile 23, 24, and 25, each time getting slower. I really do not do well with running in pain.
I can admit it. I didn’t finish particularly strong. The 3:45 marathon pace group who I was ahead of for 24 miles passed me and pulled away. I could not muster the energy to catch up to them. But when I saw the finish line, I did manage to speed up a bit and catch a few runners here and there. The stabbing pains in my upper thighs made this difficult but there were at least a couple marathoners who can say they got passed by a juggler.
As I crossed the finish line, they called my name and I did my standard trick where I threw the bean bag over the banner. Unfortunately, it glanced off my hand on the other side and I dropped it. Sigh. I almost never drop that trick.
But it felt good to be done. My 3:46:34 time was respectable and right around what I figured I would do. I shaved nearly 40 minutes off my previous Flying Pig marathon time and I was flying high from the chemicals coursing through my blood.
It started to rain a little harder so I quickly (as quick as I could) got my food, drinks, and gear. I met up with my wife and after I changed my clothes, we walked the 1.5 miles back to our hotel. It was painful but I was happy to be doing anything other than running.
Of course, the 5 hour drive back to Chicago was uncomfortable but I was happy when I returned home.
Marathon 34 is in the books. Now, who’s going to be number 35?