Monday, May 07, 2001

Crowd cheers on racers

They also serve who only stand and watch - or hand out water cups

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        At mile 13.5 along Eastern Avenue, The Crossroads Church Choir belted out gospel songs as Flying Pig Marathon runners waved their arms skyward in praise. Four-tenths of a mile west, runners pumped their fists to the heavy metal strains of the Fetish Band. It's that kind of colorful contrast that has become the hallmark of the marathon, now in its third year.

        Runners paced their way through some of Cincinnati's poorest and wealthiest neighborhoods on Sunday morning, finding support along the 26.2-mile course from thou sands of people of all colors and ages.

        The Flying Pig Marathon has become so much more than a sporting event..

        Nativity Church of Pleasant Ridge manned water tables last year, and organizer Bill Hagerty had no trouble finding volunteers again.

        “There's a camaraderie that happens out there, and you get to be associated with what has become a premier event in Cincinnati,” Mr. Hagerty said.

        Rudolf Jun and Rebecca Gallaher successfully defended their 2000 championships Sunday, winning the Flying Pig in two hours

        28 minutes and two hours and 50 minutes, respectively.

Festive air

        At Hyde Park Square, people came clutching Starbucks cups, lugging large handmade signs, leading dogs and pushing babies in upscale strollers.

        Several hundred Flying Pig fans were already in place when the first wheelchair racer sped down Erie Avenue toward the tree-lined square at 7:11 a.m. But the crowd had grown fourfold by 7:29, when marathon front-runners Mr. Jun, Marc Lawson and Scott LeCates arrived in a tight trio.

        Karen Weingartner and Suzie Ferris, who were on the leading edge of the crowd near Zumstein and Erie, propped their Go Jeanine signs so they could clap and cheer for the men.

        The Colerain Township women came to support their high-school friend, Jeanine Elsener, who in December completed a round of chemotherapy for breast cancer. She was doing the Flying Pig Sunday to raise money for breast- cancer research; Ms. Weingartner and Ms. Ferris were among her sponsors.

        In time, the 45-year-old Ms. Elsener came into view wearing a pink hat and smiling broadly when she saw her friends waving their signs.

        The square, which was just short of the marathon's 10-mile marker, is a favorite for runners and fans alike.

        In the 60-degree coolness of the morning, Vineyard Cafe employees sold danishfor $1.50 and coffee for a buck. Balloons in several shades of pink were tied to parking meters, and the Mix 94.1 FM van blasted Melt with You by Modern English into the square.

        As marathon runners grew in number, the noisy crowd closed in on the running path near Michigan and Erie.

        Among them was Vivek Correa, 40, of Blue Ash, who ran the Flying Pig last year in 4:19, raising $1,026 for multiple sclerosis research.

        This year, he didn't have time to train, so Mr. Correa was watching and clapping at 8 a.m. as a runner dressed as a shark passed by.

        “You really learn a lot about your body” running distances like these, Mr. Correa mused, bouncing lightly in Adidas Super Nova running shoes.

        And, he plans to do it again.

Medics at the ready

        At 6:30 a.m., neighborhoods at about the half-way point between miles 12 and 14 were still sleepy.

        At Delta and Eastern avenues, paramedics Ervin Mitchell and Bennyce Hamilton sat in an ambulance eating what they called their “Breakfast of Champions” — spicy Doritos, orange Slice, coffee and bananas. More than an hour later, they'd stand at curbside cheering the first wave of runners.

        The paramedics were poised to answer calls for blisters, heat exhaustion and heat cramps. That would come, they said, when runners get to about mile 17.

        “You can tell the contenders from the pretenders,” Mr. Mitchell said.

        They'd eventually be dispatched to the finish line, where most of the casualties would be.

        At mile 12, in the 500 block of Delta Avenue, 40 volunteers from Nativity Church rushed to fill hundreds of cups with water and Gatorade stacked on 13 tables. They mixed powdered Gatorade with water in a blue garbage can, stirring it with a long wooden pole.

        Mr. Hagerty ran the race, and turned the tables over to his brother, Steve, for the day. Steve demonstrated to the kids how to pinch the edge of a cup and hold it out for runners to grab for a drink or to splash themselves.

        “I sort of like it because I can see who's in the lead and hand out water to people,” said 9-year-old Brittany Krekeler, who later cheered her dad, David, and other runners with, “Way to go!”

"You can do it'

        Eryn Robinson, 5 1/4, of Anderson Township, dressed in a Cincinnati Reds cheerleading outfit, stood at curbside waving red pompoms to cheer on her godmother, Cheryl McKettrick of Mason.

        Her mothers, Teresa Robinson and Kelly Robinson, ran last fall's Chicago Marathon. “It's addicting,” Teresa said. “I see why people run all of the time.”

        “When you're a runner, the crowd can really get you through it,” she said. “We wear our names on our shirts. Just when you're at your weakest point, someone says, "Teresa, you can do it,' and you say to yourself, "Yeah, I can do it.' It helps so much.”

        All along the route, there were signs: “Go, Jeff, I (heart) You.” “You are an Inspiration. Thanks.” “Go, Mom.” “Go Aunt Susan.” “Orange slices ahead.”

        Sure enough, women and men from Linwood Baptist Church, 4808 Eastern Ave., held trays stacked with orange slices for marathoners to eat on the run. Some volunteers, including the Rev. Dianne Steelman, wore wings and pig noses. On Saturday, they cut up 700 oranges into about about 6,000 slices.

        “We did this last year,” said Diane Kleinfelter. “It's a lot of fun. It helps the runners out. We're just trying to be good neighbors in the community.”

        As runners turned onto Eastern Avenue, the crowds thinned.

        Karen Evans sat in a director's chair outside her home in the 3200 block, feeding 8-month-old John Christian a baby bottle. Six-year-old Angel Sade played with a ball. “I'm up early because of my kids, so I might as well come out and support them.”

        Across from East End Community Heritage School, 55-year-old Ruth Coon stood clapping for every runner. “Way to go! Welcome to the East End.”

        The community organizer and volunteer coordinator for Heritage, a charter school, is thrilled the marathon course takes runners on Eastern Avenue so they can learn about the neighborhood.

        “We're not the perception people have of us. From outside, we've been known as a neighborhood dependent on welfare, but people are starting to see us as a working class neighborhood, and there's new houses.”

        Even as Ms. Coon talked, she didn't miss welcoming one runner.

        Annie Laurie-Blair and Tom O'Neill of the Enquirer staff contributed.

Flying Pig results, photos, stories

Sports Stories
Flying Pig winners repeat
Third race gets high marks
Jun makes a long drive for long run
Gallaher misses $5G by 78 seconds
New marathoners take local spotlight
Wheelchair, 5-mile champions
Cincinnati wins city challenge
DAUGHERTY: Big 5-1-2 carried this Everyman
Final finisher's story a triumph of spirit
- Crowd cheers on racers
Lots of inspiration along the course
Riot-torn neighborhoods show support
Withrow coach eyes Seton Hall job
Kentucky outrider dies of heart attack
Cincinnati high school results
N.Ky. high school results

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More roster moves in offing
Griffey rehabbing in pool
Larkin returns - briefly
Reds-Diamondbacks Scouting Report
Reds box, runs
Bengals lose starting FB
Bengals' QB race off and running
Jackson 'welcomes' Smith to NFL
Xavier aide Schmidt gets Robert Morris job
Xavier's Phillips cut by WNBA team