Wednesday, April 13, 2016

V. 1 #11 How Did the Actual Flying Pig Race Go?

The previous blog covered the origins of the Flying Pig Marathon. What happened on the day of the race?

V. 1  #11  How Did the Actual Flying Pig Race Go?
by Bob Roncker

Folks wonder what influence the name of the marathon has had on its popularity. Bob Coughlin, founder of the Pig, was ask if it were called the Queen City Marathon would it have been as successful.

His response, “Not a chance. I think the symbol of the Pig just took off. We were worried about. We said we would drop it after the first year if it didn't work. The Optimum Group came up with symbol. It's a sleek and friendly pig. It was cute and cuddly, like a Beanie Baby. I don't know how these things work. But there's no doubt that we were able to get off to a quick start because of the little pink pig.

Bob Coughlin during the Celebrity Torch Relay in 1998

A year prior to the actual start of the race a publicity push started with a Friday press conference at Union Terminal and a Saturday Celebrity Torch Run along the course.
The celebrity race was a relay the public could join for a block or a mile at a 9:30 minute per mile pace. It began at 9:00 a.m. at Fountain Square and ended at 1:20 p.m. at Union Terminal on the date that marks a year before the actual marathon.

Why the name “Flying Pig”?

Bob was also asked to comment on the wildest thing that happened in the first year?
That happened the evening before when registration was winding down. Bob said that the sign up period closed at 9 o'clock. Elly Rono shows up at 9:02. Mike Boylan, the Executive Director, says "Sorry, we're closed.' I had to talk Mike into letting him in. Rono then ends up winning the race.”

Who is Elly Rono?

Elly Rono is a pretty decent runner in his native Kenya, but here he kicks butt. Elly came to the U.S. to study and compete at Southern Indiana University. He graduated on the day before the Pig with a degree in mathematics. Elly was a NCAA Division II champion in cross-country and track.  His best marathon time is 2:16 and he finished 37th in the Kenyan Olympic Trials.  Rono barely got into the race, as he did not arrive to register until late Saturday night. He was motivated to enter because of the first place prize of $1500.
He claimed the money with a winning time of 2: 21:15.

Elly Rono - the Inaugural Flying Pig Winner

Elly Rono

Race Day
As Sunday, May 9, 1999 dawned, 6150 runners cleared the starting line, the second largest field ever for a first time us marathon.  More than 60% of the runners were running their first marathon. 

Race Director Rich Williams standing before the runners prior to the start.

George Hersh, the publisher of Runner’s World, was in the studio serving is a commentator for Channel 9. He mentioned that, while it was comfortable for spectators, the sunny conditions with only a few clouds and a temperature that rose to about 73° made it too hot for the runners to have peak performances.

Just beyond mile two, while running south on Linn Street toward the river, runners could hear the sound of drummers. Rather than a band, it was a dozen young boys from the neighborhood, performing precision routines on old buckets and recycling bins. The participants welcomed their enthusiasm and skill.

Ultimately, more than 100 people were treated in the medical tent near the finish. A few were taken to a local hospital, primarily for heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Sommer Settell, a 22 year old Summit H.S. graduate and University of Cincinnati senior was the female winner.  Her time was 2:58:10.

Female winner Sommer Settell with Race Director Rich Williams.

Sommer said she felt good all the way. “I kept holding back. I was afraid to pass people because I didn’t want to bonk at the end.”

Settell played basketball and field hockey at Summit Country Day. She also ran track but only as a sprinter. She started running for exercise when she entered the University of Cincinnati. Her personal best, at Chicago in 1998, was 2:56.

Settell cruising to victory.  Behind her right shoulder is Rob Slater.

The first male Cincinnatian was Andy Jones, 2:30:53. Prior to the start of the race Andy was considered the race favorite. This was before late entries by a couple of out of town foreign runners moved him down. Jones place fourth and Tim Menoher of Ft. Wright was third in 2:28:59.

Andy Jones finishing 4th

Phil Helbig started running in order to train for boxing. Because he continued breaking his nose, he left the fight game in 1984 to concentrate on running.  Phil placed 6th with a time of 2:35:48.

Phil Helbig

51 years old Janice Kreuz was 5th among women with a time of 3:14:36.

Janice Kreuz and Bob Stewart

Executive Director Mike Boylan at the finish.

1999 was the only year that the marathon ended at the Museum Center. The final portion of the course had the participants heading west on Ezzard Charles Drive. They had a spectacular view while they were approaching the Museum Center building. Then, they made a 180 degree turn to enter and come back and finish on the south parking lot. Home has been near the river every year since.

Finish line view

The Flying Pig Greeters
From left – Barbara Aras, Erica Heskamp, and Sarah Schoolfield

Each year the Pigs at the finish line are a welcome sight

When the event concluded, the first year the Flying Pig was a $750,000 project and the consensus opinion was that a future icon for the area was born.

Lead Male Results

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