Race Report: The 2024 Flying Pig Half-Marathon 🏃‍♂️

Despite writing in December about the mismatch between half marathon prep and my available free time, I decided in February to start training. I work well with a goal and a plan, and I prefer long races. A Half Marathon offers that. With my wife’s blessing and support, I signed up for The Flying Pig and got to work.


Based on the guidance in fellrnr’s guide to training programs, Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 Plan seemed like a fit for me. I’m a slow runner, but I can run a 10K with relative ease, and it seemed like the half marathon would just be more of that. Higdon’s plan seemed doable. What I failed to account for, however, is that February, March, and April are the cruelest months in the academic year. They’re a mix of admissions season, graduation, end-of-academic year meetings, assessment, and fatigue—not to mention the general lack of daylight in the early months. Because of this, much of my training was, well, inconsistent. I was able to run the Tues/Thurs 5Ks most weeks, and I ran the long run each week, but the Wednesday runs and Sunday cross trainings were mostly missing.

I did work on my nutrition (incorporating an Untapped Maple Syrup packet into the back half of my long runs), and I battled some blisters and fatigue once the runs got to the 10+ mile distance. Still, I went into week 12 confident of my prep. I ran my best long run at a pace of 10:49, and two others at 11:04 and 11:17. Only one of those left me feeling gassed, so I was optimistic that I could finish the half marathon at 2:30—and maybe even creep closer to 2:25. I’d like to work on speed this summer (I have to get faster if I have any hope of getting through a marathon training plan), and a 2:30 Half Marathon finish time would give me a benchmark from which to build.

Race Day

I woke at 4am, drank a cup of coffee, ate a banana and a bowl of Cheerios, and was heading downtown by 5:05am. Thanks to recommendations from local runners, I skipped the riverfront garages and parked in a Covington lot. I ate four graham crackers, drank a bit of water, and walked across the Roebling bridge with a crowd of runners. This was the first time I realized just how many people run The Flying Pig. The second was when I waited in a 20 minute line for the portable bathroom. After the requisite pre-race pee, I was in my corral by 6:20. The corral was absolutely jam packed with people, but I quickly found the 2:30 Half Marathon pacer, and I made my mental note to follow him at all costs. My race strategy was to hang with the 2:30 pacer until mile eight or so and then slowly increase my pace during the back half of the race. I tried this in my final long runs, and I had no problem with negative splits in the final miles. Enjoy the race, follow the pacer, and then empty the tank at the end. Easy enough, right?

There were a few troubling variables, however. First, the hills. I knew the course was hilly, and I hadn’t trained on hills, but my long run path is relatively hilly and didn’t cause many problems. I was optimistic. Next, the heat and humidity. There were storms the day before, and it felt like all of the storm moisture was still in the air. Not good. I didn’t bring my hydration vest to the race, and hadn’t planned on taking any fluid until later in the race (I didn’t need any fluid during my training runs), but I quickly realized I would need to reevaluate that plan. Problems aside, the crowd was swarming and electric and I was ready to run. After 20 minutes of waiting for the faster corrals to empty, my group finally made its way to the starting line, where Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” was playing at deafening levels, drowning out the first song in my carefully curated playlist (The National’s “You Had Your Soul With You"). Ah well, I thought, let’s lean into the race spirit. I turned down the volume in my headphones until Miley was out of earshot, and the race was on.

Miles 1–3

About 20,000 people run the Flying Pig Half & Full Marathons, and I felt like I saw each of them in the early miles. The course was absolutely packed. I know not to weave through the crowd (it adds more distance to an already long race), but it was difficult to deal with so many runners moving at different paces—and a surprising amount of walkers in the middle of the road. To add to the difficulty, I quickly realized that my chosen 2:30 pacer was going to follow a Galloway run/walk method. I thought: should I just run/walk with him? I’m not opposed to the Galloway method, but I hadn’t practiced it during my training, so trying it on race day seemed like a bad idea. Instead, I found the 5:00 full marathon pacer and decided to keep with him until the two races split at mile eight.

The first four miles of the race cross the Ohio River, run through Covington Kentucky, and then come back across the Ohio River into Cincinnati. Downtown Covington gave me a first experience of the Flying Pig spectator support, which is simply awesome. There were people on the sides of the road holding signs, there were people handing out paper towels and candy, but there were also people just going about their Sunday morning—sitting outside of coffee shops or walking with a stroller—cheering for the passing runners. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there were spectators on nearly every stretch of the half marathon course.

The mile three bridge back into Cincinnati also gave a first taste of the course’s inclines, but I managed that better than I thought I would and benefitted from the crowd thinning a bit. I was holding an 11:13 pace over the first three miles, which was just a bit faster than planned but felt totally manageable.

Miles 4–8

Mile four found us turning on 7th street into downtown Cincy, and it also found me worrying about my heart rate. I was holding a good time, and I felt like I had plenty of energy, but my heart rate was solidly in zone four. I suspected a mix of the heat and the sweat and the incline was to blame, and on a training day I would back off a bit, but this was a race. Time to push. The hills into Eden Park on mile six were tough, but I was still with my pacer. I could, however, feel a bit of dehydration beginning to kick in. I ate a maple syrup pack at mile six and grabbed water at each station. By mile, eight, however, the fatigue was growing.

Miles 9–13.1

I was holding a good pace (11:11) at mile nine after the half and full marathons split, but I’d lost my pacer. I also had very real concerns about heat stroke and dehydration. I had been heavily sweating through the whole race, and I hadn’t replenished the lost or water or salt. I could feel my body pushing back. I’m stubborn, and my impulse is to push through, but I saw people on the sides of the course stretching strained muscles and wiping their brows, and I looked again at my slowing pace and high heart rate. This was the point where I should be pushing for a negative split—something I had done in practice the weeks before. But it wasn’t in me. I was fading. The first goal, I thought, is to finish. Don’t compromise that.

At mile ten or so, a community group was handing out Twizzlers. I gratefully took two, hoping they might replenish lost energy. But after taking the first bite, I realized just how dehydrated I was. I could barely produce enough saliva to swallow the candy. I struggled through the Twizzlers for the next mile, taking extra water at the next station. I had slowed considerably by mile eleven (running at an 11:44 pace), but Libby was at one of the spectator stations, and her cheering gave me a lift. I took two full water cups at mile twelve, but at that point the heat and fatigue had done their work. My pace had dropped to 12:38, and I was focused only on finishing the race.

The end of the race is a blur. I had filled my playlist with upbeat celebratory songs, but I remember none of them. I know there were considerably more spectators, and I’m grateful for the woman who was screaming “don’t you dare walk now!”, but beyond that my home stretch was lackluster. I made it across the finish line, quickly ate a banana, grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of pretzels, and sat—tired and sore and dehydrated—on a bench on the riverfront.

Lessons Learned

My official finish time was 2:34:02. That’s slower than I wanted but not nearly as bad as I expected. I ran the first half of the race in 1:13:16, which is aligned with my plan, but also shows that I was pushing too hard given the heat and humidity. I should’ve slowed more, but my training (much of which had taken place in cooler months) hadn’t accounted for that. I also suspect that the missed cross-training sessions would’ve helped with my aerobic base and thus my too high heartrate.

I also ended the race with a mess of blisters. This started occurring during the 10+ mile training runs, but I didn’t take it too seriously. The blisters were minor, and I was wearing good socks and good shoes. On race day, with the extra distance and extra sweat, the blisters were much worse. I need to better assess what’s happening in training and solve those problems when they first appear. There were other assorted post-race aches and pains that signaled a need for better prep and training.

Crossing the finish line was surprisingly anticlimactic. I ran a half marathon! But also: the process of training for a half marathon was over. The morning runs, the long runs, the tempo workouts, the speed days—I’d found a lot of joy in the work. And moving across the finish line meant that section of the work was now complete. I was proud of the accomplishment but also mourning its end.

In the days since, however, I’ve found more joy in the whole of it. And I’ve made a plan for what’s next. A 10K in the fall to practice speed at a longer distance. Then some fall training and maybe a 5K before starting next year’s half marathon planning.

I’ve registered for the 2025 Flying Pig, and I’m ready to start again.

Tim Lockridge @timlockridge