Determined running community stars at Flying Pig marathon

CINCINNATI – The word “defiant” was tossed out to Iris Simpson-Bush as a way to describe the more than 19,000 runners who had come out to the streets of Cincinnati Sunday morning. She didn’t disagree with the assessment but had a better vocabulary choice in mind.

“Determined, for sure,” said Simpson-Bush, the executive director and driving force behind the Flying Pig marathon. “Runners are determined, they’re hearty but they can also be emotional. I think this was their way of showing solidarity and support.”

Monday will be three weeks since the bombings at the 117th Boston Marathon. Sunday was the 15th anniversary of the Flying Pig, which has grown to such acclaim in its short life that nearly 34,000 people participated in Pig races this weekend. There were registrants from all 50 states and 16 different countries as the four main races – the 5K, the 10K, the half marathon and the full 26.2-mile event – sold out to capacity limits.

All of the runners had their own personal reasons for being at the Pig this weekend. Boston is something that tied them together.

The running community, no matter the skill level, is tight knit. People who don’t run look at those who do and ask: ‘Why?’ Running is what you had to do when you were being punished for screwing up a practice drill in football or basketball. Jump offside or false start, go run a lap. If the kicker can make the field goal at the end of practice, no running drills. Make the free throws at end of practice, no running. No one in their right mind wanted to run.

Running is not a team-oriented sport but there is no larger team in any sporting endeavor.

Sergio Reyes of Palmdale, Calif., won his second consecutive and third overall men’s title, crossing the finish line in two hours, 21 minutes and 49 seconds. Rebecca Walter, an assistant track and field coach at Indiana University, won the women’s race in her first marathon attempt in 2:53:56.

The Pig is much deeper than the individual winners. Unlike many marathons, there is no prize money at the Pig, no appearance fees paid to runners. The event has grown by word of mouth as much as anything else.

“I had talked to a few people from home who said the Flying Pig was the most fun,” said Walter.

Alison Delgado is well-known in Cincinnati running circles. She was part of the Colerain cross country program that won four straight Division I state titles from 1997-2000. Her recovery and return to running from a horrific accident in October 2010 when she was hit by a car while riding her bike has made her a pseudo ambassador for the sport.
Delgado ran Boston and finished 155th out of all female competitors in 3:01:22. Her time Sunday at the Pig was understandably slower (3:11:49) but she placed 12th overall in the women’s race. Three weeks in between marathons isn’t much recovery time. Delgado trained for Boston and always kind of planned on running the Pig. The bombings reaffirmed that she would be running in Cincinnati.
“I’m just so impressed that so many people went out there and signed up for any of the races whether it was the 5K or 10K in support of Boston,” said Delgado. “Shortly after (Boston) I heard that people in London had a sign saying ‘Run if you can, walk if you must but finish for Boston.’ It almost brought tears to my eyes. I thought that no matter what, I need to finish this race.”

There was increased security all along the routes of the Pig on Sunday. It was a response to Boston. There were also the thousands of spectators lining the streets. There were still the volunteers who help give the Pig its uniqueness. There were still those dressed in Pig costumes urging runners throughout the race. They don’t have an official name but the “Squealers” stay as active and motivated to move as the Saint Joseph’s University hawk mascot does during a basketball game.
Commemorative tee-shirts and wrist bands were sold with proceeds set to go to Boston’s One Fund. There was a moment of silence, a bag pipe serenade and the playing of Boston’s unofficial theme song “Sweet Caroline” as race began at 6:30 a.m.

“Everybody has been so positive and cooperative about how to pull it all together, how to have the additional safety measures, without interfering with the experience and with what the race is really all about,” said Simpson-Bush. “I feel great that they were able to come out for whatever their personal motivational reason might be, come join us and have a great time.”