Monday, May 07, 2001

Third race gets high marks

Flying Pig has largest field to date

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some of the novelty has worn off, but the third annual Flying Pig Marathon still received high marks Sunday from runners, fans and race organizers.

        This year, repeat winners Rudolf Jun (2:28:07) and Rebecca Gallaher (2:50:50) led the marathon's largest field yet, expected to break 6,500 once the numbers were all crunched by late Sunday night.

        The inaugural buzz of 1999 brought about 6,200 runners, but the field stayed about the same size in 2000.

        Jeff Galloway, a former Olympic runner and Runner's World columnist, said the Pig could be listed among the top 10 marathons in the country for overall quality.

        “You can really command the city's attention, unlike maybe an Atlanta or Chicago where it doesn't have the same magnitude throughout the area,” Galloway said. “The pockets of fans that come out and cheer ... that enhances it a lot for the runners. There's a lot of excitement around the race, which is important.”

        The course was altered slightly this year to put the bigger hills in the first five miles, and also to eliminate its far eastern section. The new course incorporated a stretch along Central Parkway and Spring Grove Avenue that runners seemed to like.

        The start was at 6:30 a.m. on Seventh Street, between Race and Elm Streets downtown. The finish was at Sawyer Point/Yeatman's Cove along the riverfront. Along the way were passes through Eden Park and Hyde Park Square, across the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge into Covington, past the World Peace Bell in Newport, then back across the Taylor- Southgate Bridge toward the finish.

        The crowds watching the race? Race director Rich Williams said there is no way to put an accurate count on that, since the fans are strewn over so many miles. But Williams' reports were glowing.

        “From what I understand, the crowds were stronger than the first two years,” Williams said. “For the people that run, they said the crowds were amazing out there.”

        Several downtown streets and access roads were blocked Sunday morning, causing grumbling among drivers who couldn't park near the finish area at Sawyer Point.

        Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco, the world record holder in the marathon (2:05:42), is impressed enough by the Pig that he visited - as a guest, not a runner - for a second straight year.

        Khannouchi, 30, said the Pig stands with all the marathons in Ohio's major cities.

        “The reason I came back is I had a great stay last year,” said Khannouchi, who was among panelists at a Runner's World clinic in Cincinnati this weekend.

        “We had the same winners this year but we had good races.

        “You had two people running shoulder to shoulder for most of the men's race (Jun and runner-up Mark Lawson), and Rebecca had people in front of her at the start of the women's race.”

        Williams said there were no major surprises, setbacks or serious injuries.

        Despite competition from last week's big-money Country Music Marathon in Nashville, the Pig field was larger this year. By comparison, the Columbus Marathon peaked at 6,500 runners in 1995 and dropped to around 4,000 last year.

        The maximum Pig field is 7,500, Williams said.

        Next year's marathon is May 5, again avoiding the Mother's Day weekend.

        Also new this year was the Papa John's Flying Pig 5-Mile race, which drew nearly 1,400 runners.

Flying Pig results, photos, stories

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