Race Raves voted best half marathon in the state of Tennessee.
Medal designs for the 2023 Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K

#GSMHALF

Great Smoky Mountains Half & 5K

Great Smoky Mountains Half & 5K

September 8-9, 2023  |  TOWNSEND, TN

September 8-9, 2023  |  TOWNSEND, TN

  • Quick Info

  • Travel & Lodging

  • Explore The Park

  • Register Today!

Escape to the "Peaceful Side of the Smokies" with a gorgeous course through the woods. You couldn't ask for a more beautiful destination!

Two young woman running past a sunny field and barn

Half Marathon

  • September 9, 2023
  • 7:00 am (EST)
  • AM shuttles from Talley Ho to the start line
  • Finish: Talley Ho Inn (Townsend, TN)

5K Race

  • September 8, 2023
  • 6:15 pm (EST)
  • Start/Finish: Talley Ho Inn (Townsend, TN)

Expo & Bib Pickup

Quick Info
  • McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) and additional options
  • 80° / 59° F
  • Mixed pavement & dirt road
  • Shuttles to the start line
  • Wheelchair and stroller accessible
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Race Raves: 4.7/5

Read more reviews from runners like you!

*Race day parking & shuttles are all located at this site. There will be shuttles from the Finish line back to this location.


Get to Know Your Half Marathon Course

  • Point-to-point
  • Prepare for heat & humidity
  • Elevation Gain: 202 ft
  • Max Elevation: 1,097 ft

Maps & Elevation

Click the map for an interactive MapMyRun course preview.

Great Smoky Mountains Half Course
Elevation chart for the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon

GPX Download

We plan to mark the course thoroughly. That being said, we recommend downloading the GPX file before the race so that you have offline map access on your device.

- Offline map data coming soon -

Course Description & Notes

This will be an "open course" meaning there will be cars on the road as well as runners. There are sections on main roads where traffic may be heavy. These spots on the course could get a little crowded.

The course will be well marked but it is your responsibility to stay to the right when running with traffic and be courteous and mindful of cars and other runners. DO NOT step off the course into traffic, you will be disqualified. We want you to stay safe. Be courteous.

The course is only slightly uphill so there should be plenty of time for walkers.

Time limit
All runners will have 4 hours to finish the race from the time you cross the starting line. That is an 18-minute mile - plenty of time for walkers! If at anytime we deem it unsafe and need to pull a runner off the course we would hope for understanding and immediate cooperation. Failure to comply will result in being banned from future events.

Location Note
To be clear, this race doesn't take place inside the National Park. It's difficult to get permission to conduct private business activities on national land (and rightly so.) Having said that, this is about as close to the park as it gets.

Two young woman running past a sunny field and barn

Dirt Road (partial)

Parts of this course are run on a dirt road. However, you should wear whichever running footwear feels most comfortable for you as this is not difficult trail terrain.

Pink and reflective silver hanging from a tree branch as a course marking

Course Markings 

We will have a variety of course markings for this event. They include pink reflective ribbons and additional signage to keep you on track. (click the image to expand)

Course Difficulty

  • 2.5/5 Difficulty
Current Progress
Current Progress
Current Progress
Current Progress

Factors:
Humid climate & a gradual uphill course


Training: 

We recommend training on trails with uphill portions. Check out our custom training plan for this course.

Aid Stations (Bring your own cup!)

image of a blue foldable cup with the Nathan brand name on it

All aid stations are cup-free so remember to bring your own hydration solution or request a FREE Nathan reusable cup when you register.

Expect about 4 aid stations on the course near mile 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 12 (Exact locations vary).A medic will be stationed typically at the aid station at or near mile 9. Aid stations include toilets, water, Gnarly Hydrate, Honey Stinger gels, basic first aid supplies, and sometimes more. 

Cups are not provided on course to help reduce waste.

Additional Details

GET INVOLVED

Wander Project Final Logo color

Support Our

Park Communities

Fundraise for your chosen race and your registration fee could be waived. All funds go to Wander Project to support efforts in and around the communities that host our events.

Learn more about Wander Project >>

New this year, YOU choose whether the funds you raise support a WP community partner or an organization that matters to you!

Volunteer with Us!

Our amazing volunteers help runners at the race expo, finish line, merch tent, and beyond! Join us for a 3-4hr shift and earn a $50 or $100 credit towards a future race.

Pro-tip: Volunteer at the expo and run the next day OR ask a friend to volunteer and "gift" you the credit (or use it themselves!)

HOW TO PREPARE

Know Your Guidelines

- Read your race details! Following event rules helps us to put on safe, sustainable events.

- We are a cup-free event! Please stick to reusable water bottles and avoid bringing disposable items to the race.

- Be courteous towards fellow runners on and off the course.

Join the Community

Vacation Races is honored to have a community of runners who actively support one another! We highly recommend joining one our Facebook groups to get input from other runners, share stories, and learn about the latest updates.

Great Smoky Mountains Race Logistics

Everything you need to know before the race! Want this info on-the-go? Bring the race guide with you!

Race Expo & Bib Pickup

You have a couple of options for picking up your bib and race packet including at the race expo or we can mail it to you. When you register, we ask you to indicate when you plan to pick up your bib. If you plans change, don’t worry about it. We only ask to help us plan in terms of numbers.

Option #1: Race Expo (recommended)
Race expos are held the Friday before the race. They typically run 5-7 hours, allowing you to get your bib at your convenience. 

Option #2: Race Morning (not recommended)
We will have limited race morning packet pickup. We do not recommend waiting until the morning, but if it cannot be avoided - we understand.

Option #3: Shipped Before the Race
There is a cost of $30 if you want to have your bib and shirt mailed to you. We do this as a convenience for runners not wanting to drive to the area early. You can add a shipped bib to your registration until one month before the race by logging into RunSignup, clicking Manage Registration, and Add Ons.

Refunds: Once your package is shipped, you are officially checked in to the race and no longer qualify for our refund, deferment, or transfer options.

Race Expo

Location: Talley Ho Inn (8314 TN-73, Townsend, TN 37882)

Hours: TBD (EST)

We recommend joining us for the race expo! You can pick up your bib packet, check out merchandise, and meet fellow runners. It's a great way to get pumped up for the event!

 We'll have a variety of swag from shirts and tanks to our favorite Hydro Flasks and everything in-between.

Bring Your Own Bag
In our ongoing effort to eliminate waste during our races, our expos are bagless events. We encourage you to BYOB (bring your own bag) to hold your bib, race shirt, and any goodies you pick up from the race expo!

Race Day Schedule
Schedule Breakdown

All times listed are in EST. The schedule is based on 2022 times and may change in the month before the 2023 event.

Friday - Race expo & 5K run

Hours TBD - Race expo & bib pickup


5:15 pm - 5K runners must be parked

5:45 pm - 5K runners line up

6:00 pm - 5K starts!

6:45 pm - 5K Awards Ceremony

Saturday - Race day!

4:30 am – Finish line parking area opens & bib pickup begins
5:15 am – First shuttle loads for start line
6:00 am – Last shuttle heads to the start line
6:45 am – Runners line up & last call for gear check
6:50 am – National Anthem
7:00 amRACE STARTS! We will have a rolling start for all runners
7:15 am – Sunrise
9:15 am – Overall & Masters awards ceremony

10:00 am – Age-group awards ceremony

Arrive early & get ready with us

We encourage runners to arrive early on race morning. Find a parking spot, grab some Summit Coffee or hot chocolate, and listen for updates from our race announcer (they're the one with the megaphone and early-bird energy)!

Parking & Shuttles

Parking Lots

Location: Talley Ho Inn (8314 TN-73, Townsend, TN 37882)

Opening time: 4:30 am

We will have plenty of parking to accommodate all of our runners. There will be no parking at the start line - runners will need to take the race shuttle or be dropped off at the start line. 

Shuttles

Morning shuttles to the starting line will load and leave from 5:15 - 6:00 am. There will be no shuttles after the race. Runners can park and head to E Lamar Alexander Parkway to meet the shuttles. Check the map below for our race day staging!

To avoid traffic congestion, we strongly encourage runners to arrive early - we will have plenty of coffee and hot chocolate waiting for you at the start line race morning.

great smoky mountains parking

Runner Drop-off

great smoky mountains drop off

Location: Heritage High School (3741 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN)

If you are dropping a runner off, please enter the parking area behind the school and drop your runner off in the designated drop-off area. The best approach to the back of the school is via Tuckaleechee Pike. The drop-off is for quick unloading only and is not for parking. To avoid any traffic jams from runners being dropped off, please drop-off your runner and then exit the parking area.

Spectators

We welcome spectators to Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon this year!

Spectators are welcome to park at Tally Ho Inn and meet their runners at the finish line ONLY - please do not stand or park along the highway. 

We recommend downloading the RaceJoy app to track your runner's progress and send them cheers!

Great Smoky Mountains 5K
Medal designs for the 2023 Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon and 5K

Great Smoky Mountains 5K

Date: September 8th, 2023

Start Time: 6:15 pm 

Location:  Talley Ho Inn (8314 TN-73, Townsend, TN 37882)

The Race
The 5K course runs mostly on the Townsend Historical Trail. The race will start and finish at the Talley Ho Inn (same place as the expo).
  

Spectators are welcome at the finish line, but may NOT stand or park along the highway.

A wave start will help us organize the race start line area and prevent overcrowding on the course. There will be 9 waves assigned where runners will line up with the wave according to the colored wave on your bib. These assignments are made based on estimated finish time.

You may seed yourself in a different wave if you choose. We will break the waves into three separate starts to allow vehicle traffic, so please be patient as it takes us a little bit to get everyone started.

We will stage everyone near the expo and then all cross the highway together before the start. We do not police the waves and so if you need to run in a different wave you are free to do so (you don’t need to notify us). But please do not switch waves unless you absolutely NEED to.

Screen Shot 2020 08 20 at 3.52.49 PM
Screen Shot 2020 08 28 at 3.42.53 PM

Aid Station
There will be one aid station on the course near the half way point (mile 1.5). The aid station will have water, Gnarly, and bathrooms. Like the half marathon, this race will be cupless!

Bib Pickup
Our expo will be in the same place as the start line. 5K runners will have until 30 minutes before the race to pick up their bibs so that we can get you all lined up and ready to go! 

Course Records
Our course record holders receive a FREE RACE ENTRY every year that their time remains the course record! The current course record holders are: 
Male Overall: Orinthal Striggles  17:12 (2021)
Female Overall: Caitlyn Morgan  20:19 (2020)
Male Masters: 
Orinthal Striggles  17:12 (2021)
Female Masters: 
Julie Stackhouse  20:40 (2021)

Looking for more fun, more of a challenge, and more swag? Sign up for the Black Bear Double (5K + Half)!

Black Bear Double

What is the Black Bear Double?

Up for an extra challenge? Try the Black Bear Double! Run the 5K on Friday evening and the half marathon on Saturday morning and earn extra swag! You'll use the same bib for both events.


When: September 8-9, 2023
Where: Townsend, TN

Black Bear Double

Races:

Great Smoky Mountains 5K

Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon

Two races, one weekend! You'll run both Smokies races within the span of 24 hours. Pretty hard, core right?

With a Black Bear Double registration, you'll earn: 

  • One standard race shirt for the Great Smoky Mountains
  • ONE special Black Bear Double swag item - during registration, you’ll choose between a hat, pint glass, campers mug, t-shirt, tank top, or beach hoodie and you’ll pick it up at the race expo. Additional items can be purchased at the end of the second race. finisher medals - one for each race.
  • Two finisher medals - one for each race
  • One Black Bear Double medal

Check in before the 5K and use this bib for both races.

Black Bear Double logo
Registration & Upgrades

You MUST register for your specific Double not separate races. 


If you register for the races separately, you will need to upgrade into the correct Double in order to receive special swag and medals.

Need to upgrade to a Double?


This is considered an event transfer. You can transfer into a Double via your account on Run Signup.


*if you deferred or transferred into this race your race credit will appear as $0. Contact us at info@vacationraces.com and we'll complete the upgrade for you!

Zero Waste

As nature lovers, we are committed to keeping our events sustainable and managing negative impacts on the environment. Our goal is to send less than one bag of actual “trash” to the landfill after each event. We have managed to meet this goal at events with over 3,000 participants!

Here's how you can help us:

CUP-FREE RACING

Single-use plastic is a huge source of waste at any public event. We have reduced that impact by making our events "cup-free". 

What does that mean for you?

Coolers of Water and Gnarly Hydrate (electrolyte drink) are available at all aid stations, but cups will not be provided on course or at the finish line. In order to stay hydrated, we ask you to bring one of the following:

1. Reusable water bottle

2. Nathan reusable cup - These light-weight cups fold into a pocket or waistband. Request one when you sign up to run!

3. Hydration pack - These are refillable backpacks meant for running that allow you to access fluid via a built-in straw.

image of the foldable Nathan cup next to a person folding the cup into their waistbag

Stay hydrated on course with a reusable cup!

ZERO WASTE CONTAINERS

You can help us reduce trash by sorting disposable items into the appropriate container. 

You’ll notice three containers at our events:

  • Compostables: Organic goods like banana peels and most food items (without the wrapper please!)
  • Recyclables: Paper, aluminum, cardboard, steel, and glass. Please dump out any liquids into the compost bin BEFORE recycling the container.
  • Everything Else: Non-recyclable food wrappers like from used gel packets and styrofoam. Please dump out any food matter BEFORE throwing away the container.

Please avoid putting organic waste and compostable items in the wrong bin. It gets gross to sort through.

Race Results and Photos
Race Results

Visit RunSignup for current and past race results.

Runner times are available ~20 minutes after you finish the race. Keep in mind, the results are not official until all runners have crossed the finish line, and have been reviewed by the event director. Because our age group winners are based on chip time, it is possible to cross the finish line before someone else in your age group while still finishing with a slower time than them. 

Top Finisher but missed the awards ceremony? You can request to have your place medal shipped to you!

Got questions about your placement? please email timing@runsum.com.

Half Marathon Race Photos

Half marathon race photos are offered to our runners for FREE! These photos are available the Friday following the week of the race via RunSignup. We will send out an email when they're posted to the album. Currently, we do not offer photos for the 5K event.


Past race photos are also available via the link, with the exception of our 2016 & 2017 races. These can be accessed for a fee.

Share your experiences with us! 
Be sure to use #GSMhalf in any photos you post from the race or your adventures exploring the park so we can share in the fun with you!

Race Merchandise

Exclusive Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon merchandise will be available both at the race expo and near the finish line! When possible, we'll have race merch for sale in our online store after the race is over. Please allow time for us to add items online.

Still need to train? Join the email list.

We'll send you updates about registration opening, price jumps, and more to keep you on track! 

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