If you have been following our Instagram, you may have seen pictures from our recent road trip to Tennessee. While it wasn’t just a runcation, we were thrilled to participate in the Secret City Half Marathon that took place about 30 minutes NW of Knoxville in the town of Oak Ridge. Obviously, I didn’t know much about Oak Ridge going in, but the town has a pretty rich and interesting beginning – specifically this:
As part of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government secretly built Oak Ridge with the hope of developing technology that would end World War II. It was the first and largest of the three Manhattan Project sites built to produce the world’s first atomic weapons. Known as the “Secret City,” Oak Ridge was built in 1942, and its population skyrocketed to 75,000 in just 2.5 years, making it the fifth-largest city in Tennessee at the time.
I mean, crazy!
The Secret City Half (and 5k) is essentially a big loop that starts and ends at the Melton Lake Park peninsula and traverses some of the quiet countryside, neighborhood, and industrial areas of the city (here’s a simple reel of the event).
Race morning was a beautiful day, complete with blue skies, sunshine, fog rolling off the lake, and…37 degree temperatures. Though it was chilly, I’ll take that over rain any day! Given the relatively distant location from the major nearby population center (and a home UT football game that day), I was surprised to see about 600 runners participating in the festivities. It felt really good to participate in a medium-sized race again!
After leaving the park, we shortly turned off on a private road that ran through a small valley that houses an operational quarry and along the edges of a wooded area. This 2-mile stretch was essentially a complete straight line – a really interesting and unique course portion you don’t see every day (and this anomaly repeated itself again between miles 10-12 as well!). The course was relatively flat and straightforward, but there were a couple short hills that challenged runners along the way – one at mile ~4.25 along the main highway and another short one just prior to mile 8 – just to keep things interesting.
The final 1.25 miles were really the star of the show, as they placed us on a paved trail along the water’s edge with all it’s beautiful views.
Following the race, there was plenty of space to relax, refuel, and enjoy the day. I loved that the race benefited something dear to my heart – TORCH, a nonprofit aimed at serving people facing housing insecurity.
If you happen to find yourself in Tennessee, I recommend seeing if you can make this event or, at a minimum, come check out this cool town and run along the waterfront. It’s worth it!