2017 Santa Hustle

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.


  • 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!

    Who wore it better folks?

  • 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.

    Funny signage all throughout the course.

  • 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.”

    Two very BLINGY ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Thinking about sticking around for a day or two? You might want to consider:

  • Foodies spotsGrape 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!

    Top left: chunks of ahi tuna. Top right: lobster bisque. Bottom left: Sirloin steak with horseradish dipping sauce. Bottom right: filet mignon with crusted horseradish sauce.

  • 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 Showwith 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.

    Christmas lights as for as your eyes can see!

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.

R4P, the GF and #SirMaxell wrapping up a year together of 10 half marathons in 10 different states.

2017 Rock ‘Roll Savannah Half Marathon

Racing through Cobblestone Streets and Mossy-Laden Oaks

Race #9- 10 for 10 Challenge: 10 Half Marathons in 10 Different States

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The Rock ‘N Roll Savannah Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah has charmed thousands of runners with its picturesque course and Southern hospitality. Today’s race brought more than 14,000 runners and walkers to the streets of the city. This city was immortalized in John Berendt’s 1994 classic, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s exactly that Southern charm and romance that runners will sense during the 7th Annual Rock ‘N Roll Savannah races in Georgia.

This race began at the corner of Bull and Bay Streets in the city’s downtown historic district, known for its plentiful hotels, shops, restaurants and bars that are filled to the rafters every St. Patrick’s Day. After the start, the historic district lies just a stone’s throw from the Savannah riverfront and walk — the race heads west along Bay Street and out of downtown, into some pretty nondescript areas. The course spends the next few miles heading mostly outside the city, through more industrial-warehouse-commercial district areas.

Tons of people were out on the sidewalks as runners raced past moss-covered trees lined with historic homes. For runners looking to set new personal record times or for runners trying their first marathon or half marathon — this course is pretty much tailor-made for someone who’s a first-timer, as it really is one of those few race courses that’s almost completely flat for the entire 13.1 miles.

Always a treat to have my two favorite supporters: The GF & #SirMaxwell

Takeaways from this race:

  • Average temperature – while the weather tends to be milder during late fall, the average low is 50ºF and the average high is 73ºF. However, during this race, temperatures rose to an extreme high (low 90s) with humidity; sweat was pouring down my face two miles in.
  • 5 different race options and time limits:
    • Marathon: 7 hours
    • Marathon Relay: Times subject to change
    • Half-Marathon: 4 hours
    • 5K: 1 hour
    • 1 Miler – the quick 1 Mile fun run is open to all ages and each runner will earn their own personal finisher medal
  • Flat course, but plain views – for people looking to PR, this might be the course for you; however, I was not impressed with the overall visuals from the half marathon. There were plenty of areas that felt remote and disconnected from the city. This finally changed around Miles 6-9 when I was able to run through the historic district which showcased Savannah’s famous mossy-laden oak trees. Sadly, this experience felt  few and far between over this 13.1 mile course.On top of that, I found myself struggling to capture photos and captivating video footage along the way. Usually, I have too big a selection to cut down from and edit, but this was not the case for this race.
  • Forsyth Park  – this spot is home to the finish line for this race and so much more! Forsyth Park is also one of the most photographed spots in all of Savannah. There is something always going on here, from the open air concerts, to a farmer’s market that’s open every Saturday.

    The huge, gorgeous fountain is totally Instagram-worthy.

  • The Bling – The Rock ‘N Roll bling always delivers and I have rarely heard a complaint from runners participating in any of their races.

    Happy to add this puppy to the collection!

If you have spare time to walk around the city, I highly recommend:

  • City Market – Easily within reach of all your sightseeing in Savannah, the City Market is four blocks of open air shopping, all surrounded by restored warehouses with tons of cute extra shopping, plus dining and art. There are plenty of open air concerts in the square as well, and it can be a great stop for just sitting and people watching.
  • The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist – Called the most impressive building in all of Savannah, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist certainly will make your jaw drop.

    The towering spires and stained glass take your breath away.

  • Wormsloe Historic Site -If your’e looking for that quintessential Southern photo with the mossy oak trees hanging over a beautiful lane, this is where you’ll find it. This walkway leads right up to the ruins of Wormsloe, a colonial estate which is the oldest standing structure in Savannah at this point.

    This historic site includes a beautiful avenue with all the oaks and Spanish moss you could want.

  • Hitch Restaurant – one of the best eating and drinking spots in all the city. Full disclosure: my good friend Rick and his partner own both Hitch and Treylor Park, but I never share recommendations to foodie spots unless they are absolutely worth stopping in, and this place is one of them. Check out their menu, walk-in and be treated to first-class customer service and decor. IF you don’t have an excellent experience, hit me up and we can call the owners together!

From a 30,000 foot level, the city of Savannah oozes with charm, is pedestrian-friendly, and one that can be a little more affordable than Charleston, and a little tamer than New Orleans. As for the race itself, take my advice with a grain of salt and  make your own decision.