This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Tennessee was my 27th state.
Who knew Knoxville, Tennessee was so hilly? Certainly not me when I signed up for the Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon. Typically I tend to steer away from a course that’s full of hills, although some hills are fine. I just feel that running a half marathon is hard enough without having to climb up and down hills as well. It’s kind of funny I even ran this race at all. For years I always thought I would run the St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis for my Tennessee race. Somehow that wasn’t happening; the timing was never right, and I really needed a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break in April, and this Knoxville race fit the bill.
The marathon and half marathon courses both go through World’s Fair Park and finish at University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium but in-between are many, many hills. Here’s a question take from the race website FAQ page about hills that I find interesting. Pay attention to that last part of the last sentence- “there are not very many miles that are just flat.”
Q. Is the course very hilly?
A. The course has some hills, particularly in the first half of the marathon. It is not terribly hilly though. You can see a course profile in the race information page. The total elevation change is not dramatic, but there are not very many miles that are just flat.
Translation: there’s not more than 25 feet of flat land on this course, so just realize pretty much the entire course is on rolling hills. Yes, of course it’s hilly.
Both the marathon and half marathon start at 7:30 am which helps to get you off the course before it gets too hot. Knoxville typically has great weather in early April so heat shouldn’t be a factor at this race, however.
Knoxville is the third largest city in Tennessee and is full of things to do including Market Square with restaurants and shops, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Knoxville Museum of Art, World’s Fair Site, and much more. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a little over an hour away and is one of the few national parks with no admission fee. Oak Ridge is a unique area close by with its claim to fame being part of the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb. You can tour the American Museum of Science and Energy to learn all about this and more. One could easily spend 3-4 days in Knoxville and extend that time further if you went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Nashville International Airport is the closest major airport to Knoxville, at roughly a 2 1/2 hour drive. Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is about 3 1/2 hours away by car, as is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia. You definitely want to get a rental car for Knoxville unless you don’t plan on spending any time before or after the race or checking out the area.
Would I recommend this race? Probably not. It was insanely hilly and just not scenic enough to justify all of those hills.
From my post-race notes: “One of if not the hilliest course I’ve ever ran. Was scenic-ran through nice neighborhoods with huge houses and nice lawns, ran past the water some, ran along a greenway, finished on the 50 yard line of the University of Tennessee Volunteers football field at Neyland Stadium, which was fun. Nice medals and tech short sleeve shirt. I skipped the post-race party because I was too tired but it looked like fun. There were some bands playing along the course. Aid stations were good. Finished in 2:07, which was good considering the hills. Great weather helped!”