CINCINNATI – Tens of thousands of runners from near and far will converge upon greater Cincinnati this weekend for the return of the running of the Flying Pig Marathon.

What You Need To Know

  • Flying Pig Marathon weekend attracts 30,000 people to downtown Cincinnati each spring

  • The defending men's and women's marathon champions will not run in the event this year, but there are several big names watch for on race day

  • Flying Pig weekend has a $14 million annual economic impact

  • There are several traffic and parking restrictions in place to accommodate the event

Since debuting in 1999, the Flying Pig has become a destination for serious runners (casual joggers) from across the country and beyond. While most participants hail from Cincinnati or the broader region, organizers expect racers from all 50 states and 15 countries this year. So far they’ve confirmed runners from 47 states but expect that number to climb closer to race day.

Flying Pig Marathon participants pose at the finish line after completing the race.
Flying Pig Marathon participants pose at the finish line after completing the race.

Over the past two years, runners haven’t had the typical springtime event because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers held the event fully virtually in 2020. Last year’s races got postponed until last October when it took place alongside the Queen Bee Half Marathon.

But that changes this weekend with a full slate of in-person events from Friday, April. 29 through Sunday, May 1. The signature 26.2-mile marathon starts Sunday at 6:30 a.m.

“We are thrilled to be back in person for the Flying Pig Marathon always held on the first Sunday in May,” said Iris Simpson Bush, the president and CEO of Pig Works, the parent organization of the Marathon. “More than 30,000 participants are expected to compete in the Flying Pig Marathon weekend and we are rolling out the hospitality ‘pink’ carpet for all.”

In-person registration opens for all events Friday at noon. That will take place at the Duke Energy Convention Center, home of the Flying Pig P&G Health and Fitness Expo. Racers can pick up their race-day packet and gear as well.

Online registration closes Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. Several of the side events have already sold out.

From cocktail napkin to breathtaking 26.2-mile course

The Flying Pig Marathon has come a long way since its first year in 1999. And it’s hard to believe it all started on a cocktail napkin.

As legend has it, Paycor CEO Bob Coughlin and other runners stopped for refreshments at O’Bryon’s Bar and Grill on Madison Road after a training run and came up with the proposed course.

The Flying Pig Marathon course takes runners to both sides of the Ohio River and through various communities in both Kentucky and Ohio. (Photo courtesy Flying Pig Marathon)
The Flying Pig Marathon course takes runners to both sides of the Ohio River and through various communities in both Kentucky and Ohio. (Photo courtesy Flying Pig Marathon)

Today, the course “flies” along 26.2 miles of streets in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky

The race starts outside Smale Riverfront Park in downtown Cincinnati before turning south toward Northern Kentucky and winding through parts of Covington and Newport.

Runners then dart back across the Ohio River and head through Mariemont, Fairfax and Columbia Township before returning to cutting across several Cincinnati neighborhoods and finishing back downtown.

The course presents what organizers call a “well-balanced, diverse tour of some of the best neighborhoods in the area.”

The miles-long race track will feature live entertainment and themed fluid and food stations.

Those interested in watching or cheering on racers can find route locations and parking information on the Flying Pig website. They also list related road closures.

Runners to watch

There are several familiar faces in this year’s Flying Pig, but there won’t be a repeat champion in the marathon in either the men’s or women’s races.

Cincinnati resident Alex Gold won’t defend his crown in the men’s race this weekend. Samuel Montclair, who won the 2021 men’s champion in the Paycor Half Marathon, will not take part in that event this year either.

The reigning women’s marathon champ, Caitlin Keen, will compete in the half marathon instead. She’ll go head-to-head with the reigning champ in the 13.1-mile distance, Daniella Townsend, of Cincinnati.

Last year’s second- and third-place finishers in the women’s marathon — Christine Frederick, of Columbus, Ohio, and Katarina Smilijanec, of Covington, Ky. — will race well.

2005 Flying Pig Marathon champion Alison Bedingfield Delgado will compete in the Toyota 10K and Tri State Running Company 5K.

Other names to watch for include:

Grace McCarron, 34, Loveland, Ohio (women’s marathon)

McCarrons spent last April 23 running to a win in the women’s division of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio, with a time of 2:46:24. Her mile pace was 6:21. She finished third in 2017 at the Akron Marathon; her sister, Emma, won.

Melissa Surman, 43, Cincinnati (women’s marathon)

Surman, who is primarily a trail runner, finished as the top female in the Mohican 100 Mile Trail Run in 2020. She also placed as the top female runner at The Falls 100 in Kentucky (2019) and the Strolling Jim 40 miler (2021).

Marina Martino, 31, Dallas, Pa. (women’s marathon)

In 2019, Martino set a course record during the sixth annual Wyoming Valley Striders 20K Run at Lehigh Gorge State Park. At the Kinzua Half Marathon in Mount Jewett, Pa., she won the women’s division in a time of 1:34:29.

April Woo, 43, Louisville, Ky. (women’s marathon)

Woo just recently completed the 2022 Boston Marathon in 3:11:06. Last year, she finished second at the MO’ Cowbell Marathon with a time of 3:14:49. She finished second at the Carmel Marathon (3:03:33) in 2019.

Zac Holtkamp, 29, Alexandria, Ky. (men’s marathon)

Holtkamp won this year’s Heart Half Marathon in 1:10:44. At this year’s Mesa Marathon, he finished in second place with a time of 2:22:29, his personal best. 

Tim Kaiser, 38, Union, Ky. (men’s marathon)

Kaiser finished second in the 2018 and 2019 Flying Pig Marathons. In 2018, he won the Heart Mini Marathon in a time of 1:12:35. 

Jeremy Wysocki, 37, Miamisburg, Ohio (men’s marathon)

In 2020, Wysocki ran 1:10:10 at the Greenville Half Marathon and in 2016 ran a 2:51:49 at the Columbus Marathon.

Lucas Huber, 23, Anna, Ohio (men’s marathon)

Huber set new career-best marks in the 5,000 meter run (15:26.56), 3,000 meter run (8:52.21) and the mile run (4:23.12) to start his 2019 indoor season while in college at Malone University in Canton, Ohio. In 2020, Huber ran his best time of the season at the Tiffleberg Invitational/G-MAC Preview with a time of 26:23.0. He finished seventh in the race. At the G-MAC Championships, Huber placed 34th with a 26:55.1.

William Cadwell, 24, Covington, Ky. (men’s marathon)

In last October’s Fall Flying Pig weekend, Cadwell won the Toyota 10K in 34:07. He also won the FCC 3 last July. He won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon in 2021, his first marathon win, in a time of 2:26:34.

In case you were wondering, the course records are:

Men: Cecil Franke, 2:20:25 (2006)

Women: Tatyana Pozdnyakova, 2:34:35 (2002)

More than just a foot race 

What started as a race to highlight some of the region’s fastest racers has blossomed over the years into a showcase of Cincinnati.

In a non-pandemic year, the event attracts 30,000 participants or more over the course of the weekend, including about 16,000 from out of town. It adds about $14 million to the local economy each year, according to a study by Xavier University.

“Those people need somewhere to stay, somewhere to eat. They need to stay in restaurants. They eat and shop when they travel here,” said Jackie Reau, who does media work for the Flying Pig.

This year has the added benefit of attracting the National Black Marathoners Association to Cincinnati for its annual convention. Some 300 members of the organization will travel to Cincinnati over the marathon weekend for the 2022 National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame and Achievement Awards Program. 

The event will take place at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s Harriet Tubman Auditorium on Saturday, April 30 at 5:30 p.m. The documentary “Breaking Three Hours: Trailblazing African American Women Marathoners” will premier that night.

“We believe that tourism empowers communities and this week, we will certainly be ready to help amplify that message,” said Jason Dunn, Sr., who leads diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for the organization Visit Cincy. 

The Flying Pig Marathon, a nonprofit itself, will help raise more than $1 million this year to benefit 300 charities.

Friday, April 29

  • P&G Health and Fitness Expo, 12 to 7 p.m.

Duke Energy Convention Center – Halls A-C

  • Fifty West Mile, second leg of the TQL Beer Series, 7 p.m.

Finish on Mehring Way at Smale Riverfront Park

Saturday, April 30

  • Toyota 10K, 7 a.m.

Smale Riverfront Park

  • Family Fun Festival, 7:30 a.m to 2 p.m.

Smale Riverfront Park

  • TriState Running Company 5K,  9 a.m.

Mehring Way

  • P&G Health and Fitness Expo, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Duke Energy Convention Center (Halls A-C)

  • Mascot Parade followed by Flying Piglet Kids’ Fun Run, 10 a.m.

Smale Riverfront Park                                                                    

  • Cincinnati Children’s 26th Mile, 11 a.m.

Freedom Way

  • PigAbilities, noon           

Freedom Way

  • Flying Fur Race, 1 p.m. 

Mehring Way

Sunday, May 1

  • Opening ceremonies, 6:15 a.m.

Start line: Elm Street at Freedom Way

  • Flying Pig Marathon, powered by P&G, 6:30 a.m.

Also, Paycor Half Marathon and City Dash 4-Person Relay

  • Michelob Ultra Victory Party, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Smale Riverfront Park