Mean girl couldn’t stop this runner’s spirit

Cincinnati, OH (WCPO) — Caitlin Keen had never been a winner.

She said she wasn’t all that great on her cross country team.

When she was 12 years old, Keen saw her first Flying Pig Marathon. Her family had just moved to Hyde Park from California, and she watched the runners along Erie Avenue.

Then and there, she decided she’d win the Flying Pig one day.

“And I remember this one girl, who was not very nice, was like ‘No you won’t,’” Keen said.

That mean girl didn’t stop her. Neither did the fact that she never won a state championship at her high school in Texas. Or that she was never an all-American at Southern Methodist University.

GALLERY: The best photos of the 2018 Flying Pig Marathon

Keen never stopped pushing herself until she finally reached her goal Sunday, taking first place among women with a time of 2:46:41. She finished 12th overall.

She broke the tape for the first time. She cried.

It had been 13 years since that mean girl tried to tell Keen what she could or couldn’t do. She thought about it as she passed that spot on Erie Avenue, where she’d made a promise to her younger self. In fact, she thought about it all 26.2 miles.

“I think I had to believe in myself more than anybody else did — that if you have any doubt that you’re going to do this, then you’ve already lost. … No one can pull you to the finish line. You have to pull yourself there. I just had to believe in it, and I had to believe I could do it,” she said.

At the finish line, where she was overcome with the emotion of the moment, Keen waited for her mother to finish the half marathon.

Then she placed her medal around her mom’s neck.

Sunday’s race, the 20th Flying Pig since it began in 1999, saw 6,546 people registered for the full marathon and 13,420 for the half marathon. More than 43,000 people registered to take part in at least one event over the Pig’s three days.

Participants came from all 50 states and 22 countries.

Aaron Viet, a physics professor from Wisconsin, took first place overall with a time of 2:29:36. Viet spread the winnings, too: He promised his students extra credit if he won.

Kerry Lee, a math teacher and cross country coach at Anderson High School, placed second among women and 20th overall. She won the women’s division last year and has placed in the top three since 2011.

Jack Butler, from Loveland, Ohio, won the half-marathon with a time of 1:10:39. Molly Trachtenberg, of Boston, Massachusetts, was the female winner and 16th overall, finishing the half in 1:22:19.

The 21st running of the Flying Pig Marathon will be held May 3-5, 2019.