PigAbilities team trains for Flying Pig Marathon

Elina Bishoyi | The Chronicle

Mallory Mecum, Tammy Ross and Kathy McVery (left to right) cheer on the Pigabilities student athletes as they near the finish line during training.

This year, MHS athletes will be walking, running and rolling across the Flying Pig finish line.

The Flying Pig Marathon, presented by P&G and Prysmian Group, is the biggest annual marathon in Cincinnati. Runners can compete in various events like the marathon, half-marathon, 10k, 5k, and more. This year, during the weekend of May 6 and 7, runners will come from all over to compete in the 25th Flying Pig Marathon. 

PigAbilities is a competition in which kids with disabilities and their supporters can choose to participate in a one mile event. Students at Mason High School (MHS) are helping these kids train for the event by coaching them during Connect time sessions and every Monday until the competition. 

Matt Hornung, a coach for the PigAbilities team at Mason, reintroduced the opportunity for high schoolers to participate as peer coaches. Hornung reached out to clubs, such as Students Involving and Befriending Students (SIBS) and MHS Key Club, to provide this service opportunity for students at MHS.

PigAbilities peer coaches help train the athletes at every session. Practices typically consist of a short warm up with various exercises and then a run/walk combination that adds up to one mile. The sessions end with the athletes recording the amount they ran on their “Hog Log” running tracker.

“It’s a great coaching experience,” Hornung said. “But I would like to continue and expand to allow more of our student body to participate in [these activities].”

Although Hornung has had numerous coaching experiences, he said the PigAbilities team is the most unique and inclusive for students with different physical needs. The PigAbilities race provides a pavement course for athletes who require physical accommodations.

“Being able to run or roll on the pavement is more accessible,” Hornung said. “Being in an event like the flying pig can be overwhelming, but at the same time, with different ways to shut down sensory input, the athletes will hopefully really enjoy it.”

Sophomore Mallory Mecum is a runner on the MHS cross country team and acts as a peer coach for the MHS PigAbilities team. Mecum said that coaching the team gave her a unique opportunity to meet new people from around the school.

“This is a different energy to running than I’m used to in cross country,” Mecum said. “It’s fun to make connections with people that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to make connections with otherwise.”

The team will go to downtown Cincinnati to race in the PigAbilities event in May with similar amenities as cross country and track meets. Horning said that he is looking forward to creating team events and traditions with the new PigAbilities team.

“The experience and the atmosphere is really powerful,” Hornung said. “[The team] will be putting on a Mason jersey, and we’re planning on having everything from a pasta party beforehand to an award ceremony afterwards.”

Sophomore Elena Tanghal is also a cross country runner who helps to peer coach the Pigabilities team. Tanghal said she enjoys the opportunity to continue her passion as a peer coach instead of a runner on a different team.

“The team as a whole is really encouraging,” Tanghal said. “Going from the perspective of a teammate and a runner to a coach who is helping them find their passion is exciting.”

As a peer coach for the PigAbilities team, Tanghal said she believes that the team provides a unique and inclusive option for students.

“We have our cross country team and our track team, [so] this is just another team that includes more people in it,” Tanghal said. “It’s so fun getting to see [the students] run and being a part of [a team].

Mecum said she has been to every practice and is excited to see the results in May. In addition to the team’s physical training, the coaches provide encouragement and tips about improving the athletes personal lives. 

“The team helps me have a new perspective on the world,” Mecum said. “I’m excited to watch from where they started and when they finish the race.”

Photo by Elina Bishoyi