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Community stages personal marathon for Lutz runner

Todd Ashcraft and friends do nine laps around Cheval’s neighborhood in the “COVID-Pig Marathon.”

Upon turning 50 last October, Todd Ashcraft put his mind to a marathon.

He found one a few months out, near his northern Kentucky hometown, and signed up for it. Then he started training, intensely. The IT worker and software designer logged hundreds of miles around his Cheval neighborhood in Lutz, meticulously documenting the distance he ran each time.

“He’s the motivated one,” said his 16-year-old son, Zach.

Todd Ashcraft, a longtime Cheval resident, has been training the past 4 months for his first marathon. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

He also competed in local events, working his way up from 5K and 10K races to the Gasparilla half-marathon. Four pairs of running shoes and 20 pounds later, Ashcraft was ready.

“He went above and beyond,” said his wife, Christy.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon ― originally set for this past Sunday ― was grounded until October. Exactly 811 miles of training would be tabled for five months. Christy and Zach couldn’t bear seeing all that sweat equity squandered.

So with the help of Christy’s Cheval-based triathlon club ― Triple Crown Racing ― they planned a personalized marathon for Ashcraft, to be run around the neighborhood. In lieu of the Flying Pig, they brought out the whole hog: a mapped-out course, water stations, motivational signs, racing T-shirts, even a few fellow runners.

A table setup at the Cheval athletic center is setup with food for the COVID Pig Marathon. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

On Saturday morning, Ashcraft ran the “COVID-Pig Marathon.” At least a handful of friends and neighbors ran with him on each of his nine, 2.9-mile laps. The homemade signs along his path included hashtags such as #RunningIsNotCanceled and #FlyingPig.

“This is his first-ever marathon,” Christy said moments before her husband completed his third lap.

“So when it was postponed due to the COVID, he was already so far into the training, the thought of not doing it ... that’s why everybody was, like, supporting him to go out. With the last loop he just did, we had probably five people running with him. He took up the whole road.”

A sign of encouragement hangs on a light pole for Todd Ashcraft. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

Ashcraft finished Saturday’s event in 5 hours, 24 minutes, 27 seconds, a hair under a 12-minute pace per mile. He still plans to go to Cincinnati ― less than 3 miles from his hometown of Dayton, Ky. ― in October to run the marathon for which he initially signed up.

But pigs will sprout propellers before it tops Saturday’s proceedings.

“I am overwhelmed by the amazing race my friends put together for me,” Ashcraft said Monday.

“This race was very special for me, but I think it was very special for my friends as well. By far I got the most out of it, but I feel that everyone took something special away from it, too. … I am blessed.”

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