Rachel takes over the blog today for the second half of the Knoxville Half Marathon. Check out part one here!
After exploring Knoxville on Saturday, we got plenty of sleep in preparation for a 7:30 race start the next morning. Luckily, our hotel was a five-minute walk to the starting line, so we didn’t have to push ourselves to leave early. It was also fortunate that the nearby Knoxville Convention Center was open for runners, so we didn’t have to wait in the cold.
Having been born in Knoxville (I only lived there for about five months before we moved to Georgia), I was excited to see parts of the city I hadn’t seen before. When we visited the city growing up it was almost exclusively for football games, and we mostly stuck to the University of Tennessee campus, so I wasn’t familiar with the rest of the city.
The race started near the downtown area in the shadow of the Sunsphere (or there would’ve been a shadow if it had been sunny…). We meandered through the campus a bit, before running along the Tennessee River. As Allen commented, there wasn’t much crowd support during this part of the race, but that was coming!
We then ran on Kingston Pike, which is the like the Peachtree (pick your street name) of Knoxville. It also felt like church row – there were tons along this part of the route. We then turned into the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood, where we were for the next several miles.
Not only was there more crowd support in this part of the course, but there were more hills than I’ve ever encountered during a race. (As you’ll see, the theme of this race is Hills.) It was actually very distracting to have some crowds, signs, costumes, and beautiful homes along this part of the course, so it wasn’t quite as painful as it could’ve been.
One of the unique things about this particular race is that there were musical acts around each mile marker during the race. I wasn’t particularly impressed with these interludes, but I could see its merits. (I also don’t love country music, so that could be a contributing factor.) My advice to future musical acts is to play either crowd pleasers or more upbeat songs – runners appreciate some motivation!
After we left Sequoyah Hills (see? Hills again), we actually ran through a wooded area, which was nice but not especially exciting. As it had rained the night before, it was also quite wet and muddy (and hilly, let us not forget). I think I would’ve preferred running in a more exciting area, but props to them for mixing it up.
At one point, after we left the more secluded path, we passed the hospital where I was born – and where my dad was born 71 years ago! Obviously we had to document this part of the race, since I hadn’t been there in almost 33 years.
Toward the end of the race, we made it back onto campus, and it was fun to see some of the areas I remembered visiting as a kid. Let me tell you, these students must get a workout every time they go to class! (Hills, y’all.) Actually, at one point we reached a hill that I finally had to walk – I was exhausted from running up all of the hills to that point.
Finally, we turned a corner and saw Neyland Stadium – the finish line was on the 50-yard line. As soon as we ran into the chute, we saw Smokey – and I had to get a photo, of course. It was fun to run through a stadium where I had spent a lot of Saturdays throughout my childhood.
All in all, even though the hills were brutal, the race was fun! I was happy to spend some time in my birthplace – and this was a good way to see much of it.
I hope Allen and I can visit again sometime soon, whether we’re going to a football game or not. There’s so much more to the city than I realized, and I’m very proud to say I was born there.