How to Have a Pig-tastic Time at the Flying Pig Marathon

The start of the Flying Pig Marathon.

Each May, the city of Cincinnati and its surrounding neighborhoods are overcome with Pig fever. It’s the Flying Pig Marathon weekend! This quirky-themed race is one of the largest in the Midwest, and it offers plenty of options for runners looking to participate.

The Fifty West Mile kicks off the festivities on Friday night. On Saturday, the 5K, 10K, Flying Fur dog race, Piglet kid’s Race and PigAbilities Mile, a mile race designed for all abilities, are held. The grand finale is the half marathon and full marathon, held on Sunday.

If you were one of the lucky pigs who signed up for this year’s race, read on to learn how to make the most of your Flying Pig Marathon Weekend.

1. Get to the expo early

Caroline at the Flying Pig Marathon expo.

The Flying Pig Marathon expo, held at the Duke Energy Convention Center, is filled with every single pig-themed item you can imagine. Pig statues, pig posters, you name it. When I ran this race in 2021, there was a pink Toyota Camry with a pig nose attached at the front, a pig tail on the back and all the participant’s names wrapped on the vehicle.

ASICS is the footwear and apparel sponsor, and they create a lot of fun, pig-focused designs for the gear—meaning it sells out pretty quickly, especially in smaller sizes. I recommend getting to the expo as soon as you arrive in town, and be sure to keep an eye out for the ample samples given away by the race’s sponsor, P&G.

2. Spectate (or run) the Fifty West Mile Race

The Fleet Feet team at the Flying Pig Marathon.

The Fifty West Mile kicks off the Flying Pig Marathon Weekend on Friday evening. Both runners and walkers are welcome to register.

“One of the most fun parts of this race is that they have the masses run first and then the top runners who are competing for the cash prize run later,” says Heather Fencik, Fleet Feet Running Club member and 6-time Flying Pig Marathon finisher. “This means most of us are standing around at the finish with a beer in hand to cheer on Cincy’s fastest runners.”

Even if you’re not running, it’s an electric atmosphere as excitement for the upcoming weekend begins to brew. Speaking of brewing, this race is the second leg of the TQL Beer Series, three races that pay homage to Cincinnati’s rich brewing history.

“The atmosphere and party at the Fifty West Mile is awesome,” says Frank DeJulius, owner of Fleet Feet Cincinnati, who is a sponsor of the Flying Pig Marathon. “It’s one of my favorite times of the whole weekend.”

3. Prepare for warm and possibly wet weather

Because the race is held on the first weekend of May, it’s typically warm and can even be quite rainy, as was the case the last couple of years.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and come prepared with a visor or hat to keep the rain out of your eyes, a poncho or garbage bag to stay dry while you wait in your corral and plenty of Body Glide or Squirrel’s Nut Butter to keep the chafing at bay.

The medals at the Flying Pig Marathon.

4. Save the Cincinnati chili for after the race

This is pretty self explanatory, but you may want to hold off on chowing down on the famed local fare, Cincinnati chili. It’s a dish with spaghetti noodles chili and cheese. Needless to say, it’s probably not the best pre-race fuel (minus the spaghetti) but it can make an excellent post-race treat. Locals tout Blue Ash Chili and Pleasant Ridge Chili as two of the best spots, as well as Skyline Chili, a sponsor of the race.

Runners competing in the 5K, 10K and half marathon earn a “3-way” medal, while 5K, 10K and full marathon runners earn a “4-way” medal–named after Skyline’s famous chili and spaghetti dishes.

5. Mind your Pig Pen

As you may be aware, race organizers really lean into the pig theme. The corrals, aptly named Pig Pens, are strictly enforced. You’ll need to show the race volunteers your bib number in order to gain access to your assigned corral.

Once you’re in your corral, you can chat with other runners and try to find your pace group. The Flying Pig Marathon offers pace groups for the full and half–check out their website for a complete list of pace groups.

6. Know the course

While the Flying Pig Marathon sounds like a cutesy name for a fun race, the course is challenging. The toughest section is between miles 6 and 9, which is a constant gradual uphill towards Eden Park and the Overlook at Krohn’s Conservatory. During this part of the course, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for an Elvis impersonator serenading runners. He’s in the same spot every year.

An Elvis impersonator poses with a runner at the Flying Pig Marathon.

“This section of the course typically has incredible crowd support and energy,” says DeJulius. “Take it easy up the hill and let the crowd’s energy carry you up. Enjoy the incredible view from the Overlook and settle back into a nice pace once you’re at the top. It's a tough part of the course, but it can also be the most fun if you let it.”

Once you see the gargoyles at Eden Park, you’ve made it through the worst and you’ll have a one-mile stretch of downhill to recover.

Caroline smiles as she crosses the finish line of the 2021 Flying Pig Marathon.

7. Smile at the Finish Swine

Remember when I said that race organizers don’t shy away from the Pig theme? That remains true all the way to the Finish Swine.

If the giant “Finish Swine” banner doesn’t put a smile across your face, think of the race photographers who will be snapping your photo. Try to smile (or grimace) and throw your hands in the air. You did it!

8. Stick around for the pig-themed afterparty

The Flying Pig Marathon afterparty is the best post-race celebration I’ve been to (and I’ve run seven marathons). The festivities take place at the Smale Riverfront Park, a perfect place to lay out your space blanket and plop down. You can enjoy views of the Ohio River while munching on complimentary pizza from LaRosa’s Pizzeria. Festive music is playing, delirious runners are grinning and, if you’re lucky, the sun is shining.

The pig theme continues here with multiple photo ops and even a giant inflatable pig. Be sure to get a photo of yourself with your medal in front of the river!

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