Flying Pig Says “Thanks” to Denise Hovey

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By Betsy Ross, Contributing Writer

When Denise Hovey first joined the Flying Pig Marathon, it was a new event in need of volunteers. Now, 21 years and hundreds of thousands of participants later, Denise will retire after the 2019 event having held a number of positions with the Pig, including serving as the founder and coordinator of the event’s environmental program.

“I saw an article in the paper that there was going to be a marathon,” Denise said. “I thought it sounded like an exciting event and I wanted to be part of it. 

“I contacted Michael Boylan (the executive director) about volunteering and he asked me to be the registrar. At that time, I was an instructor assistant at Sands Montessori School, not far from the Flying Pig office. After school was out, I would go to the Pig office and work a couple of hours on registration.”

Shortly after, Denise became an official member of the Flying Pig staff. “When I joined the staff side, we were a staff of three. I was office manager, bookkeeper, registrar, and in charge of the health and fitness expo,” she said. “I was excited to move my volunteer office from the closet to a room with a window!

“At that time, there was no online registration, so I personally touched and entered all 6,000+ entry forms. Many times, letters or notes were included with the registrations, and I felt I knew many of the participants. Some were surprised when they came to packet pickup and I recognized their names and stories.”

A little more than 10 years ago, Denise saw the need for the Flying Pig to take a more active role in being more environmentally responsive, especially as the event grew. “When my son was in the sixth grade, he had a homework assignment to take a bag of trash from home and divide it into items that could be recycled, composted or trashed. When we saw how much we could divert from the landfill, we started composting and recycling at home.

“It wasn’t until I had been involved with the Flying Pig for 10 years, when I was in the finish area of the race and saw how many water bottles were being trashed, that we decided to start recycling at the event.”

The first year that the Pig launched its “Greening of the Pig” initiative, in 2009, the event recycled close to a ton of water bottles. Two years later the Flying Pig was certified as a Green Event by the Council for Responsible Sport and had almost doubled its recycling.

“Our Greening of the Pig continues to find more resources to divert waste from the landfill,” said Denise. “In 2018, 37% of our recycling was through outlets other than our local recycler, Rumpke. Now there are more options for composters, helping us keep close to one ton from the landfill.”

Denise has worn many hats in her 21 years with the Pig, but she says the “green” hat she wears now is probably her most rewarding. “It’s a physically demanding job, but having the participants thank you for recycling and seeing how much is diverted from the landfill makes it worthwhile. I like the challenge of finding ways to recycle or reuse difficult to recycle items.

“Also, being invited to be an Inspire Gold Level marathon, being recognized for Excellence in Public Recycling and being awarded the Green Business Award for Green Practices are icing on the cake.”

And while Denise may be retiring from the Flying Pig, that doesn’t mean she and her husband, Marty (a Flying Pig Streaker), will be leaving the Pig entirely. “The next three years will be busy with traveling to places like Alaska and Hawaii so Marty can complete the seven marathons he needs to run a marathon in all 50 states. And in between the volunteering and running, we will travel to the East Coast to visit children and grandchildren.

“After more than 20 years, it’s hard to walk away, so you might still see me behind the scenes as a volunteer!”

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