Monday, May 06, 2002

The sky's the limit

Flying Pig race officials thinking bigger next year

By Michael Perry,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Near-ideal weather, a record-breaking victory and thousands of people running, working, cheering and celebrating.

        If that's not perfect, the fourth Flying Pig Marathon on Sunday was pretty close.

        “It's been amazing,” race director Rich Williams said. “It's an event. It's a running event, but you come down and look around at everything that's going on, and it's bigger than that. It's a festival. There are thousands and thousands of people. There is a tremendous amount of emotion that's gotten involved.”

        The Flying Pig is growing. There were 7,230 people registered for the relays and marathon Saturday night — 1,000 more than in 1999, when the Pig was born.

        With the Papa John's 5-Mile Run and Kids Fun Run, almost 9,000 people participated in Saturday's and Sunday's events.

        The women's winner, Tatyana Pozdnyakova, shattered the course record by close to 15 minutes and earned the $10,000 Waffle House bonus. The native of Russia finished in 2:34:35 and was fifth overall.

        The men's winner, Cornelio Velasco, did not register for the event until Saturday — the same day he ran a half marathon in Indianapolis. The native of Mexico ran the 26.2-mile course in 2:31:13.

        It is the first year both winners were born outside the United States.

        Thousands of people — runners, family members, spectators — attended the postrace victory party at Yeatman's Cove.

        Sandy Zanchi of Louisville stopped a race official Sunday just to say how much she enjoys running in the Flying Pig. She has participated in all four.

        “They just do it first-class all the way through,” she said. “That was clear in its first year. This is my 81st marathon. I've run them in every state. I really do think this one is second only to Boston.”

        Scott Young, a native Cincinnatian who lives in Arizona, has run marathons in Boston; Cleveland; San Francisco; Big Sur in Carmel, Calif.; Columbus, and Tucson, Ariz.

        He ran the Flying Pig Marathon for the first time Sunday and finished third.

        “Usually in most marathons there are a ton of people at the start and a bunch of people at the finish and a crowd of people at certain spots ... Here there was always somebody out there watching and cheering almost the entire way.”

        Said Isaac Barnes, who finished second Sunday: “In this country, running isn't a limelight sport, and here it really makes you a celebrity.”

        John Sence, one of the area's best-known marathon runners, ran the Flying Pig course for the first time Sunday as part of Cincinnati's winning City Challenge relay team.

        He can't say enough about the organization of the event and how it has brought an awareness about running to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky year-round. For the Flying Pig to take the next step, he said, it needs to draw faster runners from other U.S. cities and countries.

        The first three years, the race offered prize money for the top finishers. This year, it offered $10,000 if the male or female winner broke the course record — and that was only announced about 6 1/2 weeks before the race.

        By that time, Sence said, some top runners already had made arrangements to run in Nashville or Pittsburgh.

        What will help the Flying Pig in the future is offering prize money and a bonus for the course record, and getting that word out in advance when the elite marathoners are plotting their schedules.

        That goal, as well as a new and more wide-open starting line, are just a few of the changes being considered.

        “This race has established a reputation of giving everything to the runners that they should get with a very safe race at the same time,” Williams said. “That's one thing we always have to maintain.

        “People say, "What are you going to do next year?' I say, "Well, let's get through this one.'”



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