Thursday, April 9, 2015

Knoxville Marathon Race Rating

Race: Knoxville Marathon
Date: March 29, 2015 (will be the first weekend of April in 2016)
Location: Knoxville, TN
Year Running: 11th
Registration: $40 (with the most generous Marathon Maniac discount ever!)
Race Information
Size: 585 full, 2221 half
Course Limit: 7 hrs
Min. - Max. Elevation: 800 - 960 ft
Min. - Max Temperature: 37 - 66
Charity Supported: Knoxville Track Club Youth Athletics, Katerpillar Kids Camp, Innovative Recreation Initiative, Thompson Cancer Survival Center

Airports: Knoxville has an airport, and I think some of the surrounding cities do as well. Flights from CLE, at least, were pretty expensive, so I would recommend driving, if possible. 
Rental car: I would say possible? Packet pick-up, the host hotels, start, and finish are all in a small cluster downtown. Even if none of the hotels had an airport shuttle, a quick cab ride would solve that. Plus, you would still be in easy walking distance of lots of cool stuff!
Host hotel: Several downtown. They're all nice chains, but very expensive because of their location. We stayed 10 minutes away in North Knoxville for a fraction of the cost, and driving in was painless.

Communications: Pretty good. We got some final instructions that were in PDF (annoying to download on my phone whenever I needed it), and it would've been nice if that information was also easily accessible on the website. 
Expo: Very spacious, but it was all basically packed up when we got there. I think I heard other runners during the race comment that they really enjoyed it.
Other Activities: pre-race past dinner
I think the dinner was at least $20 per person, so we opted out. We saw the spread on our way out of the expo, and it did look very well catered by the hotel, so maybe the price wasn't that outrageous.

Race Day
Parking: Plenty, but a little tricky to find. The best place to park is right next to the stadium, where the finish is, but Google Maps doesn't understand where the entrance is. I would recommend checking it out beforehand in the daylight to orient yourself.

Shuttles: None, but not needed (host hotels were within easy walking distance)
Bathrooms: Plenty. We arrived just as the gun sounded, and there was still a huge line, so they probably could've used more.
On Time: Exactly on time.
Corrals: Yes. There were large signs, and people seemed to seed themselves appropriately. There was lots of space at the start, so it wasn't an issue either way.

Type: Loop
Terrain: Concrete, asphalt
Bathrooms: Every aid station
Crowding: None
Highlights: bike paths, downtown Knoxville

Course Support: Awesome. All the volunteers were extremely enthusiastic, even early in the morning. Every aid station had at least one person clearly calling out what was available and where. Later on when more things were available (i.e. fruit, GU, etc.), the volunteers were very vocal about what they had.
Spectators: Lots in the first half and at the very end, though very few in the back half. The neighborhoods that were officially involved were so enthusiastic and had an unbelievable amount of fun signs up! These people were awesome.

Local knowledge of race: I'm not sure, but I would guess pretty good. The ranger at Obed (a good distance away) knew we were running Knoxville when we said we were in the area for a marathon. I guess the people in the square near the end seemed pretty confused, so it's a toss-up.
Food: Great selection! (Though they did run out of pizza before Michael got any, since some people took a whole box to bring home...not cool.) But lots of other unique choices were still available for us.
Atmosphere: Laid-back, but it was so nice to have a private indoor finishing area 

Party: Just what was at the finishing area, I'm guessing it was in bigger swing when the halfers were around
Shirt: Short-sleeve technical shirt. The v-neck is actually normal, and it fits great.

Medal: Really cool. I love the skyline!

Bag: Ok, the bag is a drawstring backpack, but also has handles like a tote bag. I am super geeked about it!

Hat: I've been wanting a technical running hat for awhile, but couldn't justify spending the money, so getting one at the finish was a fun surprise. I've since tried it out, and it stayed put in huge wind gusts and completely sheltered me during heavy rain.

Final Thoughts
  • I loved this race and would probably rate it my third favorite (after MDI and Monument, but I'm very biased towards nature rather than cities). There was quite a bit of nature on the route for a city race, but the skyline views throughout were also awesome. I especially loved running through World's Fair Park and downtown at the very end.
  • Finishing on the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium was super unique. I don't care about the Vols and hate SEC football, but the experience was still amazing. I also loved being able to watch Michael finish on the jumbotron. (Plus you exit via a ramp, not stairs, like other stadium finish races make you do!)
  • The community that comes out to support this race really gets into it. Not only were the spectators so enthusiastic, there were plenty of unique signs put up, and they really helped take my mind of the pain.
  • Yes, the course is very hilly, and my minimal hill training was not enough. However, if you live in a hilly area and/or put the specific training in, I think this could be a really great course to PR on. 
  • The second half of the race does get very lonely. There was a good number of finishers, but I was surprised how much I was on my own. I could almost always see other runners, but we were pretty spread out.
  • This was the best finisher's area, hands down. Having a special indoor lounge was incredible. Nothing feels as good as eating pizza on a couch immediately after finishing.
  • 50 Staters: Yes. This race is so well done and does a great job giving special perks to the marathon runners. Plus it's very scenic and in a fun city! (And there's a killer discount to boot.)
  • Non 50 Staters: I'd say yes if you want to plan a trip to Tennessee. There seemed to be lots to explore in Knoxville, with the Great Smokies nearby, as well as some other cities. Fit this race in if you can!

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