Sunday, April 25, 2004

More runner-friendly course awaiting increased Pig field


Flying Pig Marathon

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

There's no finer time for swine than next Sunday when the Flying Pig Marathon overruns Porkopolis, but there are a few big surprises in store for those awaiting the sixth annual hog-heaven extravaganza.

From a freshly tweaked course to a new 5K race, the Pig has something for everyone, executive director Iris Simpson-Bush said. Entrant numbers are up 17 percent, a tribute to a national interest in fitness, and perhaps one other thing.

"The medal," Simpson-Bush said. "Truthfully, it's one of the reasons people run the marathon. Some people have said it's the coolest in the industry."

A week before go-time, neither of the defending marathon winners, John Aerni and Lisa Veneziano, had entered. The marathon registration is at 4,500, with unprecedented growth among relay racers and marathon walkers, and features runners from eight countries and every state but North Dakota.

The relays are closed, but those interested in running other races can register at the Bob Roncker's Running Spot Health and Fitness Expo at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center on Friday and Saturday.

Runners old and new will have something to squeal about when they travel the improved Pig course. Race director Don Connolly said there are three main changes to the route: Entrants will run across bridges into Kentucky first, the area has expanded to Fairfax and Mariemont, and the first time runners return to the city is for the race's finish.

The course has undergone facelifts every year since its inception, but Connolly anticipates these as the best yet. A runner-based advisory committee, which included Heart Mini-Marathon winner John Sence, tweaked the course. The marathon starts on Mehring Way and winds through Northern Kentucky. It turns toward Eden Park, Hyde Park and Mariemont before returning on Eastern Avenue and ending at Sawyer Point.

"A lot of the hill-work is done early, so it's going to be different psychologically," Connolly said.

For those who would prefer a 3-mile jaunt instead, the Pig has unveiled a Saturday Flying Pig 5K. Sponsored by girls!CAN, the mini-run is not divided into age groups and is a very casual affair. Six-hundred runners will run the course from Pete Rose Way to Yeatman's Cove.

Although walkers were always welcome, this year there has been a push to make it a marathon event of its own. More than 450 walkers have registered, eclipsing the 100 who participated last year. Connolly said the pace for walkers is an aggressive 17 minutes a mile and Pig officials encouraged walkers to join training programs to prepare. Walkers begin at 5 a.m. Sunday, 90 minutes before the marathon and relay-runners.

The marathon will be lined with 52 entertainment zones featuring bands and cheer groups, and more than 3,000 volunteers will be on hand to make sure runners and walkers have a great time, whether it's their first Pig or their sixth.

Simpson-Bush said charities could bring home the bacon to the tune of $1 million - an all-time high for the Pig. New "street squealers," or flashy medallion necklaces, will be available all weekend and their proceeds will benefit charities.

Beyond the charged atmosphere the Pig brings every year, Connolly and Simpson-Bush are excited for reasons of their own. Simpson-Bush planned to complete her first marathon Saturday when she ran a sneak preview of the course.

Connolly is anticipating his Pig race director debut. The retired teacher has been directing races in Cincinnati for 37 years, and manages 40 races a year with his wife of 35 years, Carol.

"We want this marathon to be a positive experience for everyone," Connolly said. "We want everyone to leave smiling."

Flying Pig Marathon schedule of events

Friday

Bob Roncker's Running Spot Health and Fitness Expo/Packet Pick-up at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday

Kahn's Flying Piglet Kids' Fun Run at Sawyer Point, 9 a.m.

Bob Roncker's Running Spot Health and Fitness Expo/Packet Pick-up at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Flying Pig 5K & Fun Festival presented by girls!CAN at Sawyer Point, 11 a.m.

Flying Pig Pasta Dinner at Atrium II, 221 E. Fourth St., 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.

Sunday

(All events begin at Paul Brown Stadium and end at Sawyer Point)

Flying Pig Walking Division start, 5 a.m.

Flying Pig Wheelchair Event start, 6:28 a.m.

Flying Pig Marathon start, 6:30 a.m.

Flying Pig Relay Events (Outback 2-person relay, Ernst & Young 4-person relay, Corporate Express Corporate Challenge Relay), 6:30 a.m.

Flying Pig Papa John's 10K start, 6:50 a.m.

Michelob Ultra Victory Party at Sawyer Point, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Visit www.flyingpigmarathon.com for more details.

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E-mail srussell@enquirer.com




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