Overall Rating
Overall Rating (32 Reviews)
4.8
(32 Ratings)(32 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
2.9
SCENERY
4.7
PRODUCTION
4.4
SWAG
4.6
Our Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K courses both start and finish in front of the Tally Ho Inn in Townsend, TN – “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies”! Both courses are scenic runs with gorgeous views of the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee countryside. We’ll have plenty of parking … MORE
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Recent reviews

    cdefonso FIRST-TIMER '18

    This was my first Vacation Races event in a National Park, and I was really impressed with the production. They did a fantastic job! I did the Black Bear Double … MORE

    This was my first Vacation Races event in a National Park, and I was really impressed with the production. They did a fantastic job! I did the Black Bear Double (5K on Friday evening, Half on Saturday morning), but was really disappointed with the 5K course. It was terrible! You run for a mile on this very narrow bike path, barely 5 ft wide, and then run another mile in a field, before turning around and heading back for the last mile to the Tally Ho Inn. It made it very challenging to pass anyone. I’m not sure the VR folks can do anything about it, since it really makes sense to start and finish from the Tally Ho Inn, but just know that going in if you decide to do the 5K.

    The half marathon was an A to B course so you had to take a shuttle bus in the morning from the Tally Ho Inn (finish) to the local high school where the start was. That was a very smooth process. Plenty of room at the high school parking lot to start. The half marathon course runs along a paved back road along a river. Vacation Races promotes cupless water stops, so you either need to bring your own container or get a free hydra-pouch at the Expo. I think it’s a great system and found it easy to fill up on water and power aid. I wish more races did this! I didn’t really feel like the course was Great Smoky Mts scenic, but it was pleasant and not at all hilly. There are virtually no spectators along the course. Once you hit mile 9 or 10 (?), you run along a bike path along the very busy Lamar Alexander Parkway back to the Tally Ho Inn. The finish line is sort of crowded, but they call out your name as you cross and they have some nice goodies as refreshments. The medals and technical shirt are awesome! I look forward to more Vacation Races in my future!

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    5

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    PattyF FIRST-TIMER '17

    This course is fairly flat, even though it is in the Smokies. 727 feet of elevation gain is hardly noticeable over 13 miles. But it is really pretty and definitely … MORE

    This course is fairly flat, even though it is in the Smokies. 727 feet of elevation gain is hardly noticeable over 13 miles. But it is really pretty and definitely worth some pictures.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    JARunner2010 FIRST-TIMER '16

    I participated in a couple Vacation Races events and was immediately hooked and signed up for the Black Bear Challenge, too. As always, the event was extremely well organized. The … MORE

    I participated in a couple Vacation Races events and was immediately hooked and signed up for the Black Bear Challenge, too. As always, the event was extremely well organized. The 5K course was a little long, but I am sure that is something which will be remedied in short order. I thought the course was incredibly beautiful. I appreciated the finish line area being very near a couple local hotels, which made it very easy for after the race or to catch the shuttles before the races.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    bragmankc REPEAT RUNNER '14

    Apparently I do well with hills because this course was challenging but I still ran my personal best time! This was my first experience with cup free racing and I … MORE

    Apparently I do well with hills because this course was challenging but I still ran my personal best time! This was my first experience with cup free racing and I really like knowing that trash isn’t hitting the ground at these races! Love the challenges that you guys put out there for finishers so that we can explore and enjoy America’s amazing national parks…I completed them all for this race!

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    odelg99 FIRST-TIMER '16

    Lodging is limited but still made up for the great views along the course, race staff were so organized, for my first half with vacation races, I was impressed and … MORE

    Lodging is limited but still made up for the great views along the course, race staff were so organized, for my first half with vacation races, I was impressed and will be doing another with them.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    paula9 REPEAT RUNNER '15

    I really enjoyed this race. We were under threat of heavy storms with possible cancellation but the weather held off until after. Course is beautiful. Great support, nice finish. cool … MORE

    I really enjoyed this race. We were under threat of heavy storms with possible cancellation but the weather held off until after. Course is beautiful. Great support, nice finish. cool shirt and cup free! cant wait to run another park race. They all look amazing

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    debtip FIRST-TIMER '14

    This was a great race near the Great Smoky Mt Natl Park. It is hilly, but the rural mountainous scenery distracts from that. Aid stations were plentiful but the water … MORE

    This was a great race near the Great Smoky Mt Natl Park. It is hilly, but the rural mountainous scenery distracts from that. Aid stations were plentiful but the water tasted like a rubber garden hose. Well organized, although the shuttle delivered us to the start area way too early. The shirt fit well & is one that I actually wear. I’ve run 30 half marathons & the medal is my all time favorite!! Great post race snacks. I completed the hike challenge and received an awesome water bottle from Aspire. All in all, a great race that I’ll run again

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    M_Sohaskey Mar 18, 2017 at 3:56pm

    Ha ha, I know that "rubber hose" taste all too well, even though I don't think I've experienced it since I was a kid! Glad you had such a positive experience aside from that Deborah, and hope you'll consider reviewing some of the other halfs you've run – we'd love to hear about 'em, as would your fellow runners!

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    racgarcia FIRST-TIMER '16

    Other than the bathroom issue there were parts of the course that were on a steep grade/slope. This made it hard to gain footing and is the reason why I … MORE

    Other than the bathroom issue there were parts of the course that were on a steep grade/slope. This made it hard to gain footing and is the reason why I lost a toenail on this course. I didn’t know that the whole course was uphill until the night before. This was a tough course and will definitely test your endurance. Beautiful scenery along the river and up the mountain. Worth the trip but definitely disappointed in my finish time.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    scutles FIRST-TIMER '16

    The swag was awesome! The race was very organized and didnt have an issue with anything. The course was very hilly and ran slong thr dide if the highway... some … MORE

    The swag was awesome! The race was very organized and didnt have an issue with anything. The course was very hilly and ran slong thr dide if the highway… some parts had gravel going down hill which made it kind of tricky, but sll in all it was s great race

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    scutles REPEAT RUNNER '16

    This race was beautiful. I volunteered the friday before and i also did the black bear double!!! They have great swag and it was very organized. The morning of the … MORE

    This race was beautiful. I volunteered the friday before and i also did the black bear double!!! They have great swag and it was very organized. The morning of the half was very organized and no issues with buses

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    niedziev FIRST-TIMER '16

    Vacation Races will never disappoint; they always put on an amazing show. They are a great series to run for any first-time runners. Great expo, great swag, high-quality shirts, AMAZING … MORE

    Vacation Races will never disappoint; they always put on an amazing show. They are a great series to run for any first-time runners. Great expo, great swag, high-quality shirts, AMAZING medals, and delicious post-race snacks. I did the Black Bear Double–5K on Friday evening (hot) then half marathon Saturday morning. 3 medals! This was a beautiful course in the Smokies. The courseis gradually uphill, but I didn’t really feel it, so don’t let that intimidate you. It does have some smaller rolling hills. I trained for this on hills, so I was okay with that. Some parts of the road is tilted, uneven, which led me muscles to ache after a bit more than usual. Most of it was shaded, but for the last 3 or so miles we were in the sun. I weirdly got my 2nd best half marathon time on this course which was a pleasant surprise. We then spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday completing the Trifecta, which is a great way to see beautiful parts of the parks. Run this race, you won’t regret it!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    pollygolightly2 FIRST-TIMER '16

    Vacation Races does a great job of hosting events close to National Parks. Great Smoky was no different. Little snafu with the timeliness of the transportation to the start line, … MORE

    Vacation Races does a great job of hosting events close to National Parks. Great Smoky was no different. Little snafu with the timeliness of the transportation to the start line, but once it started it went smoothly. The shirts/medals and other swag is awesome! Cup-free race, which does take a minute to get used to. I ran with a pacer at 3:30 and we had a great time enjoying the scenery and encouraging everyone. Difficult course in that it’s on open roads, with most of the roads are banked one direction or the other. One thing I don’t like is that hydration is not cold, it’s air temperature. They do offer cold chocolate milk at the end of the race, but nothing cold on the course. Vacation Races really put on a good event. Everyone should do one, at leasr once.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    bluelawmike FIRST-TIMER '16

    I highly recommend this race. But, if you're not staying in Townsend, arrive at the parking area plenty early. I stayed in Maryville and thought I had given myself more … MORE

    I highly recommend this race. But, if you’re not staying in Townsend, arrive at the parking area plenty early. I stayed in Maryville and thought I had given myself more than enough time. Then I hit a wall of backed-up traffic looking to get into the parking area. I got parked, got on a shuttle and got to the start point moments before my wave was called to the staging area. The lines at the port-a-johns were long. No time to pee. I got to the staging area and then withing five minutes or so was off.

    I stuck to my game plan — five minutes of running followed by a minute of walking — for the first 9 miles. Then I was going to treat the rest as a four-miler. Blisters formed on the balls of my feet and it hurt to run. I walked most of miles 11 and 12. Then ran most of mile 13 into the finish and a ginormous medal. The postrace box of food was pretty good. I’m vegan and a few of the items weren’t, so I didn’t eat those.

    Remember to bring your water bottle or hydration pouch to the race. Vacation Races events are cup free. Cuts down on waste and litter, which I appreciate.

    All in all, I say this race was first-rate despite the traffic jam and rush from bus to start point.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    Profile photo of Mary Wright
    mwrisal FIRST-TIMER '15

    The course is all uphill but manageable. Friendly volunteers who stay excited even for the stragglers. The swag was great but the shirt ran a little small. The trifecta challenge … MORE

    The course is all uphill but manageable. Friendly volunteers who stay excited even for the stragglers. The swag was great but the shirt ran a little small. The trifecta challenge was a lot of fun and encouraged people to get out and see the national park. I look forward to running this again.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    jrny4evr REPEAT RUNNER '15

    If you love scenic races this is one you must put on your "to do" list. I was impressed how well the race was organized...from the many buses they had … MORE

    If you love scenic races this is one you must put on your “to do” list. I was impressed how well the race was organized…from the many buses they had available to get us to the starting line to the box of goodies and huge medal at the finish line this is one I plan to do again. The only negative I would give this race is the location of the expo was too small…very limited parking…parking was honestly a mess. Other than that, this race was amazing!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    Profile photo of SenoraCorredora SenoraCorredora
    SenoraCorrida FIRST-TIMER '15

    Well organized, beautiful race on hilly pavement alongside a burbling brook. The race is not within the national park, but the mountains create gorgeous vistas. Fabulous medal. MORE

    Well organized, beautiful race on hilly pavement alongside a burbling brook. The race is not within the national park, but the mountains create gorgeous vistas. Fabulous medal.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    Profile photo of Mike Woods
    bayvcf FIRST-TIMER '15

    About 9 miles of the run is next to a mountain stream, absolutley lovely!! Well organized, miles 4-9 or so is where the hills are....good challenge! I loved this race!! MORE

    About 9 miles of the run is next to a mountain stream, absolutley lovely!!
    Well organized, miles 4-9 or so is where the hills are….good challenge!
    I loved this race!!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    Profile photo of Rachel Firestone
    h.firestone FIRST-TIMER '15

    This race was very well organized. The medals are awesome! Love the shirts and plenty of options to purchase additional shirts, long sleeve, short sleeve, hoodies, etc. Great communication and … MORE

    This race was very well organized. The medals are awesome! Love the shirts and plenty of options to purchase additional shirts, long sleeve, short sleeve, hoodies, etc. Great communication and sponsorship. I love how Vacation Races recognized the sponsors by putting signs up at their locations. The scenery was beautiful – as long as you love mountains! Post race snacks were readily available. Additional challenges are very cool. Hike or visit certain area attractions and received a discount on next years race.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    TJTrunsalot FIRST-TIMER '15

    From start to finish, this was a great event. There was good communication beforehand, a good variety of products and services at the expo, organized parking and transportation to the … MORE

    From start to finish, this was a great event. There was good communication beforehand, a good variety of products and services at the expo, organized parking and transportation to the start, and clear communication before and at starting time. They even gave away door prizes while waiting for the start. (It is a point-to-point course. So there was a little wait time before the start). Aid stations were well stocked and supported and the course steady approached the mountains, while keeping them in the distant view. So, you don’t have to climb the mountains. Much of the course follows a winding river/creek. There were lots of volunteers at the finish to keep you moving and to the treats (a wide variety of snacks all boxed up, fruit, drinks, and even ice cold chocolate milk. The finisher’s medals are multi-colored, huge and look like a national park ranger badge (but, big and metal). The awards look just like the finisher’s medals, but in gold, silver and bronze finishes. All in all, a great event.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    The race course was not as hilly as I expected. The whole event, from expo to awards was well organized. There was great post race food and drinks... even chocolate … MORE

    The race course was not as hilly as I expected. The whole event, from expo to awards was well organized. There was great post race food and drinks… even chocolate milk! The medals and awards were complimentary of one another and nice and big..very well thought out. The location and distant views were amazing.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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