It’s not just a race. It’s a magical experience.
Race #10- 10 for 10 Challenge: 10 Half Marathons in 10 Different States
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The Santa Hustle Smokies 5K & Half Marathon
Christmas came early this year in the racing world. More specifically, over 2,000 runners dressed up as Santa Claus to run through the streets of Sevierville, Tennessee, spreading the holiday spirit.
The race is modeled on the Santa Hustle 5K, which brings thousands of runners out onto the streets of Chicago each December, decked out in a red long-sleeve t-shirt designed to look like Santa’s coat, a Santa stocking cap (complete with puffy white ball at the end) and a white fluffy beard to wear throughout the race.
Runners and walkers start both the half marathon and the 5K on the grounds of the Wilderness at the Smokies Hotel & Waterpark Resort. From there, the race follows basically a long out-and-back route down the Winfield Dunn Parkway and Highway 441, southward all the way down to the race turnaround point.
Once runners reach the turnaround — the mid-way point of the half marathon — they make the turn and head back northward along Highway 441, all the way back up to the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort for the race finish. All along the way, the race course features the green hills and smoky haze that gives the “Smoky Mountains” their name, as runners make their way along the river valley carved by the Little Pigeon River.
TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS RACE:
- Average temperature –low is 28°F and the high is 51°F. On this day, it was absolutely freezing with the temperature hovering in the mid 20’s. I sincerely regret not bringing gloves as my hands were down right numb until maybe miles five or six. I literally ran with my hands in my pockets for the better half of the first two miles.
- 4 different race options:
- Half Marathon Race start: 7:30 A.M., 3.5 hours
- 5k Race Start: Approx. 7:45 A.M, no time limit
- 1-Mile Kids Rudolph Run Race Start: 7:00 A.M.
- 100-Yard Santa Sprint Start: 7:15 A.M.
- Swag – all 5K and Half Marathon participants receive a Santa hat and beard, a Santa long sleeve shirt, candy cane socks and an impressive finisher medal. I am seriously considering wearing more types of costumes for future R4P races in 2018 and beyond!
- The course – as stated above, the course is pretty much a down and back on a highway. There isn’t much to see on the route with the exception of a few random architectural visuals (see video. Nevertheless, the signage at each and every mile was downright hysterical! For this reason alone, I kept looking forward to each mile marker, similar to the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon I ran earlier in the year.
- The bling – is downright impressive for both race categories and arguably more visually appealing than some of the marathons medals I received over the years. You will not go home thinking “Man, this race director was tight on his/her budget with the bling.”
Thinking about sticking around for a day or two? You might want to consider:
- Foodies spots – Grape Xpectations and the Chop House. Both are literally side-by-side each other and absolutely worth your time for a pit stop. The owners of Grape Xpectations are super friendly, inviting, and eager to allow you to sample anything first… or you could just get the wine flight and sample 3 at once, like we did! The Toasty Bites (we tried 4 of them) were amazing and complimented their wine offerings. I’d recommend the homemade spiced wine in the winter. As for the Chop House, how can you go wrong with this type of food!
- Dollywood Parade of Christmas Lights -the Parade of Many Colors includes vibrant floats, interactive characters and a number of other surprises sure to inspire guests with its heart-warming message.
- Smokey Mountain Winterfest Christmas Lights Show – with more than 15 million lights in a 25 mile stretch, cars literally lined up for tens of miles to take their family and friends through this show.
If you are a Christmas lover, enjoy overplayed holiday music, and devouring candy and cookies, then grab your favorite friends and family and head to the Volunteer state for an early Christmas treat from Santa and his elves.