half marathons running traveling

18/50: Ohio — Flying Pig (Half) Marathon

Guys! I’m back from Iceland and Ohio! Both trips were amazing (each in their own way, of course). Will write more about Iceland in another post. For now, I’m going to tell you all about Ohio.

Personally, I think it’s an underrated state. We had a great time there. We visited Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Sandusky — all in three days. Pretty crazy. I’m still amazed we were able to pull it off.

There were many highlights of the trip, but the most noteworthy for this blog is… setting a new PR in the Flying Pig (half) and finishing strong!

It was completely unexpected. Unexpected for a couple of reasons: (1) the course is described as hilly and challenging (and it was!), and (2) I got only three hours of sleep the night before!

But somehow, things seemed to have worked out in my favor that day. No complaints here!

It was a great race — definitely in my top 10 favorites!

Friday: The drive to Ohio  

Our Ohio adventure began at 8 a.m. on Friday. We left the DC area in our rented maroon Kia, and took the scenic route through West Virginia — lots of trees and rolling hills. My travel buddy is from California, so he enjoyed seeing all of the greenery. About 8 hours later (with a couple of bathroom stops and a quick visit to Sonic for lunch), we arrived in beautiful, rainy Cincinnati.

Hello, Cincinnati
Hello, Cincinnati

Our first stop: Duke Energy Center for the race expo.

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The expo was huge! Not surprising, since the race itself is huge — it ranks in the top ten for biggest races in America, with over 36,000 participants.

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It was a typical big race expo, with tons of vendors, race apparel, shoes, etc. I loved all the pig statues and pig balloons adorning the room.

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One thing I didn’t like about the expo was the layout. You pick up your bib near the front of the room. But your shirt and rest of your swag is located at the back the room, meaning you’re forced to weave your way through all of the vendors in between to get the rest of your stuff.

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I realize this layout is by design as a effort to get people to buy stuff. But it’s kind of annoying.

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Once I collected my goods, we were off to find dinner.

The big question: where to get dinner? Which city to eat in? Should we stay in Cincinnati? Or have dinner in Sandusky, which was about three hours away and where our hotel was for the night. The reason we were staying in Sandusky that night was because we had tickets for Cedar Point (located in Sandusky) the next day.

We decided on Columbus — the halfway point between Cincinnati and Sandusky. It was Cinco de Mayo so we found a taco restaurant called Condado, which was packed. Our wait was 45 minutes, so we killed time at the bar. Margaritas and Mexicans beers ftw!

“Taco delicioso” sign at Condado’s bar — and the tacos were indeed delicioso!

The wait was worth it. The place allows you to build your own tacos. You get to pick your tortilla, protein, toppings, sauce, etc. Or, for the non-creative or “don’t-want-to-think” types, there are some pre-made options. And the tacos are cheap. Only $3 each! And a good size. I was full after two (could barely finish the second). Travel buddy had three, and he said he was stuffed, too.

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The drive to Sandusky wasn’t too bad. Well, it wasn’t bad for me because I wasn’t driving. Lol. I may have rested my eyes for a bit. 🙂  It was late when we arrived at our hotel, so we didn’t do much else that night. It was off to bed for an early start the next day.

Saturday: Roller Coasters at Cedar Point

Our plan for the day: ride roller coasters ALL DAY LONG until we passed out. And I was so excited!

After breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and drove 15 minutes to the “roller coaster capital of the world,” Cedar Point.

Do you like roller coasters? If so, Cedar Point is a must if you ever visit Ohio. The park is located on a peninsula next to Lake Eerie, which is cool because when you look out from your ride, you see beautiful views of the water.

It is the second-oldest amusement park in the U.S. and has 71 rides and 16 roller coasters.

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Since it was opening weekend, the travel buddy got us the Fast Lane passes, figuring the lines would be long. The Fast Lane passes allowed us to bypass the regular (long) lines and go into the Fast Lane lines. The awesome thing was, there was hardly anyone in any of the Fast Lane lines, so we basically didn’t have to wait to ride any of the rides. It was great. There were some rides we went on multiple times because we didn’t have to wait in line.

His favorite was the Top Thrill Dragster — a ride that went O – 120 mph in less than 4 seconds. We rode this twice in a row.

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photo credit: travel buddy

My favorite was the Maverick. We rode this twice, too (though not in a row).

We spent about 9 hours riding roller coasters that day (we arrived around 10 a.m. and left around 7 p.m). It was SO fun.

Not going to lie though, I was was pretty exhausted by the time we got back to the car. And also a little cold, as the temps dropped a bit.

Since the race was the next day, we were staying in Cincinnati, at the Millennium Hotel that night — the hotel that partnered with the race.  So, it was another 3-hour drive to our next destination.

We decided to break up the drive halfway again and stop in Columbus for dinner.

And also to see Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yep, Arnold. Or rather a statue of Arnold — an 8-foot tall bronze sculpture that commemorates Schwarzenegger’s 1970 Mr. World title.

Did you know that there was a statue of Arnold in Columbus? I didn’t. But the travel buddy did, and he wanted to see it, so we found it and took some photos.


And then we went to dinner.

I found this cute pizza restaurant called Harvest Pizzeria. We ordered a couple of different pies: the Yuma pizza (gouda, Havarti, mozzarella, chorizo, jalapeño, corn, roasted red pepper, and a chipotle-spiked tomato sauce) and the Pineapple (mozzarella, provolone, Canadian bacon, and jalapeño).

And since it was late, we got them to go, and ate them on the rest of the drive to Cincinnati. It would have been nice to have dinner there, but I needed sleep since the race was only hours away.

Guys. The pizza was so good. SO good, we considered going back the next day (but didn’t because of time). Maybe we’ll go back on another visit. Highly recommend if you’re ever in that area.

We got to the hotel around midnight, and I passed out around 1 a.m.

Wakeup time: 4 a.m. (holy crap)

Sunday: Flying Pig, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, and the drive back home 

The start time for the race was 6:30 a.m., so I set my alarm for 4 a.m.

Even though I only got about 3 hours of sleep, I was feeling pretty good when I woke up.

I did my usual race morning routine:
– drank coffee
– washed and dressed
– ate protein bar and drank water
– stretched
– and went to the bathroom before heading out the door

I walked down to the lobby at 6 a.m. and saw a TON of other runners. Shouldn’t have been surprised, since we were in the hotel that partnered with the race.

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There was a coffee station and a table selling breakfast snacks. Runners were stretching all over the room, and a bunch were lined up outside the bathrooms. It was a lively atmosphere — nice way to get pumped up for the race.

I waited until about 6:15 before walking over to the start line next to the Cincinnati Reds stadium. It was cold out, so I didn’t want to walk over too early and have to wait.

And since there were so many participants, I knew I wasn’t going to actually cross the start line until closer to 7 a.m.

Since the course was described as hilly and challenging, I told my travel buddy I’d probably finish in around 2.5 hours, which would mean I’d be done close to 9:30 a.m., in case he wanted to meet me at the finish line.

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Gorgeous sunrise on the walk over to the start line.
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Love this photo of runners in front of the city.

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About to start!

I got off to a slow start: (1) I got stuck in a corral that was one pace group slower than mine, and (2) about a fourth of the way into the first mile, I had to pee. I didn’t want to stop, but knew I would be uncomfortable the rest of the race if I didn’t.  So I found a porta-potty and did my thing as quickly as I could.

After that, the rest of the race was smooth.

The course went through downtown Cincinnati and Newport and Covington, Kentucky. The hilliest parts were in the first nine miles. A couple of those inclines were when we were crossing the bridge into Kentucky and back.

I was maintaining a pretty good pace during the first half of the race, and ended up going even faster during the second half. Negative splits!

At the 6.8 mile mark, I had an average pace of 10:19. I finished with an average pace of 9:58.

I don’t keep a record of my splits for races (although I should!), but for the last few miles, I was running around 8:30-8:45.  This was mainly because the course was sloping downhill for the second half of the race. It was pretty awesome.

My finish time was 2:10:22. A PR by 6 minutes!

According to the race results, the average finish time for the half marathoners was 2:29:04.  So, I beat the average! 🙂

After I got my medal (and grabbed some bananas and cookies in the post-race area), I looked at my watch, and it was only 9 a.m. Travel buddy wasn’t expecting me to cross the line for another half an hour.  I texted him and told him I was done, and would meet him at the hotel instead.

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Flying Pig (half) medal!
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View from the top of a bride: some of the runners about to cross the finish line.
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Took this photo as I walking back to the hotel: runners about to cross the finish!

After I showered and dressed, we checked out of the hotel, and drove an hour to Dayton, Ohio.

What’s in Dayton?

The National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The travel buddy wanted to check it out. He likes airplanes and used to work on them and shuttles, so we went.

But first we got a quick bite to eat at the Cracker Barrel about 5 minutes away from the museum. We went there because I wanted a plate a bacon to photograph with my Flying Pig medal. 🙂


The Museum of the USAF is pretty neat and worth a visit if you’re ever in Dayton or nearby. Seeing the older planes was cool. My favorite exhibit was the Presidential Gallery, where we got to walk through some of the aircraft used by Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. I liked going inside the Air Force One that JKF had during his time in office; it was the same plane that held his casket after he was assassinated.

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We stayed until about 5 p.m.

After that, we started the long drive home.

We didn’t stop much except for a quick dinner at Wendy’s (he had never been!).

I think we got back around midnight, and then pretty much passed out.

And those were our three days in Ohio. It was a great time! Would definitely return for more roller coaster rides and pizza. 🙂

I’m heading to Boston tomorrow morning for half marathon #19! The race is called A Run to Remember. It honors the city’s fallen law enforcement officers.

I’m looking forward to the trip!

What are your plans for Memorial Day weekend?  Are you doing any running?

Race Details

Name: Flying Pig (half)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Registration cost: $85
Race day weather: Cool, low-40s
Race start time: 6:30 a.m. ET
Course description: Through the city, rolling hills for the first half, fast and downhill for the end
Race organization: Very organized
Finish time: 2:10:22 (9:58 pace)

Car rental: $160 / 2 = $80
Gas: about $60 / 2 = $30 (our rented Kia made it all the way to Ohio on one tank of gas!)
Airfare: n/a
Hotel: $178 (for just Cincinnati – travel buddy got the other hotel)
Food/drinks: about $60 (for just myself for three days)

Total: $433


  1. Wow! You went to Cedar Point all day the day before running a half marathon? You’re either much younger or have way more energy than I do! Glad you had a good time and your race went well.Congrats!

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