Does a sunrise run in the peaceful Smoky Mountains sound like your idea of heaven? Come visit the only FREE national park in the country! While the Great Smoky Mountains make a beautiful running backdrop any time of year, once a year an amazing event takes place on the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies.” The Vacation Races Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K takes place in Townsend each year. This year, the race takes place on Saturday, September 7th. The 5K and fun run is on Friday night, September 6th. If a visit to the National Park is on your agenda this year, see why we think you need to visit and run this great race.
Point-to-Point races are never dull! In fact, some of the most famous marathons in the world, like the Boston Marathon, are point-to-point. Running a course which starts and ends at different locations means you won’t be passing the same point twice. You’re more likely to encounter a variety of scenery. The Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K is no different! Soak in the beautiful views of the Tennessee countryside while you run. This well-marked, easy to follow course is open to traffic.
For a race in the southeast, the course of the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K is relatively gentle. While the race does have a slight uphill grade the entire way, you only gain 728 feet of elevation over 13.1 miles. There are even a few downhills along the way. If you aren’t a strong or fast runner, have no worries. The course has a generous 4-hour cut off and is very walker friendly! Faster runners have an incentive as well. Setting a course record means you get free entry every year your record stands.
What would a destination race be without the proof you participated? The Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K has some great incentives to participate. Every finisher of each event will receive a tech tee and a finisher’s medal specific to the event. But, if you choose to run both races and register as a Black Bear Double completer, you’ll get a special medal and an additional swag item (possibly a hat, t-shirt, or sweatshirt). Show off to all your friends on social media using the tag #GSMHalf.
Even MORE Swag
If you are coming to run, of course you’ll want to see the crown jewel of the national park system! To earn some extra special swag, Vacation Races encourages all runners to spend some time inside the park. They offer three “Hike Clubs”. Bring your race bib and finisher’s medal to Charlie’s Bunion, the top of Mt. LeConte, or Chimney Tops Trail. Take a photo with these items and submit them within 72 hours of the race for a commemorative medallion. If these hikes are a bit beyond your comfort zone after running a race or two – Vacation Races also offers “The Trifecta”. Visit Cades Cove, Laurel Falls, and Clingman’s Dome within 72 hours of the race for a commemorative pin. Before you hit up the trails, make sure you’re prepared!
Like many races these days, the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K is going green. The race is now a cup-less event. This means no additional litter will be created at the six aid stations along the course. Upon registering, each runner is given the opportunity to select a HydraPouch to refill along the way. The race expo is also bagless, meaning no additional plastic waste is created at the event. Each participant is encouraged to bring their own bag from home to help out.
Booking Your Stay
The parking lot at the finish line of the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K opens at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. An early race start, at 7 a.m., means getting to the race extra early is a must! Book yourself a getaway at one of our amazing Wears Valley Area cabins so you can be close to the action. By booking a cabin, you’ll ensure a peaceful night’s sleep before AND after the race. You’ll be ready to take on the course or the National Park after a great night in a secluded mountain cabin.
Register for the Race
Sold on running the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K (and maybe even joining the “Hike Club”, too?!) Be sure to sign up soon! This amazing race sells out quickly every year. Vacation Races hosts events in and near national parks all around the country. They invite you to come – not to achieve your personal best time, but to have the best time of your life. We hope to see you on race day!
If you won’t be in town during this amazing race, don’t worry! There are still plenty of places to run in the area. Check out our post on great places you can take a run in the Smoky Mountains during your vacation.