The Race Course

"this is not a hill"
The marathon route includes 26.2 miles entirely within Percy Warner Park. The marathon runs over four different paths: 1) The Vaughn Creek's cross country field, 2) the 11.2 mile Main Drive loop, 3) the 1.4 mile Shell Hill cut through, and 4) the Luke Lea Heights 0.6 mile loop. These four paths are indicated on the "Route Maps" page on this website. You may also click here to see the route segment map, with the segments color coded according to this page.

In brief, you will park in and start at the Vaughn Creek field, run to the Main Drive and take a left. After about 0.4 miles, you will turn right and cross over Shell Hill, then take a left at the far side of the Main Drive. Complete the entire Main Drive loop, returning back to the Shell Hill cut through. Cross back over Shell Hill and take a right, back on the Main Drive. This time, about halfway around the Main Drive, you will take a right onto the Luke Lea Heights loop, then return to the Main Drive and keep going. Rather than completing the Main Drive, however, you will take a left out to the Vaughn Creek field where you will finish.

You can access a google map to the starting line here.

Volunteers will be present at every intersection to provide directions. Please be nice to them.

Volunteers will be present along the course to provide fluids and directions, at the following locations.

  • Corners of Shell Hill cut through and Main Drive (both sides, at Main Drive mile 4 and mile 6)
  • 4 way intersection of the Chickering parking area and Main Drive
  • The picnic area at mile 8 on the Main Drive
  • Corner of Luke Lea Heights road and Main Drive
  • By the flagpole near the Percy Warner Park "stone gates" main entrance
  • The corner of Deep Wells picnic area and Main Drive
  • At the top of Three Mile hill
  • The sharp switchback marking the western turnoff from the Main Drive to Old Hickory Boulevard

We will place small temporary signs marking each mile and will also have a volunteer at every turn.

Course Details

mile-by-mile, turn-by-turn

The following is meant mainly for reference. It is unlikely that you would be able to memorize all this unless you were already very familiar with the course. That is why we also plan to have signs and volunteers to point you in the right direction. But this should give you a feel for what to expect.

- Start - Start in the Vaughn's Creek Cross Country area. Run parallel to highway 100 on the grassy path, then follow it as it veers right. When the path adjoins the Main Drive, take a left, then take a right towards Shell Hill at the first intersection. Follow this to the first switchback.

- Mile 1 - As you start uphill, you will pass the first mile marker. Follow the hill upward, then switch back to the left, where you will reach the crest of the hill. Follow the route as it winds through the woods. As you start to go downhill, you will come to an intersection where you rejoin the Main Drive. Take a left.

- Mile 2 - Immediately after you enter the Main Drive, you will reach mile 2. From here, you will run through the woods, then out into a clearing where you will find a golf club house and putting range. At the putting range, there is a short, steep hill, followed by a slow uphill, which will veer to the left and take you back into the woods.

- Mile 3 - As you crest the hill, you will pass the third mile marker. You will soon encounter a four-way intersection. To the right is an exit to the Park. To the left is a shortcut. You will go straight. Then there is a long slow relentless upward grade.

- Mile 4 - You will encounter an uphill switch back to the left, where you will also cross mile 4. Follow the Main Drive as it slowly drops towards a clearing with a small creek and a picnic area. You will encounter a three-way intersection, where you will take a right towards the stone bridge over the creek. The route wraps around the picnic area, then veers upwards and to the left into the woods.

- Mile 5 - As you start to climb uphill again, you will pass mile five. This brings you to “Nine Mile Hill”, one of the tougher hills in the park. This hill includes three main components, a short gentle grade, a short steep and a long winding upslope. Take this hill easily. On the hill, you will encounter another three-way intersection, where you will again take a right. After you cut around a hairpin turn to the left, you will have completed Nine Mile Hill, however there are still several rolls along the crest to come.

- Mile 6 - Following your second rolling hill atop the crest, around where you encounter an intersection with a hiking trail, you will pass mile six. The route continues to roll up and down on the Main Drive. You will pass the Luke Lea Heights overlook road on your left, then drop down a short steep named “Hairpin Hill” after the two abrupt hairpin turns you will pass. Notice the broken rock walls from bikers, cars or runners that have barreled down the hill totally out of control. You will pass another three-way intersection, where you will again take a right turn down the hill.

- Mile 7 - You will pass mile seven right before coming out into the open picnic area that connects the Percy Warner Park main “Stone Gates” entrance with a set of old stone walls and steps. You will run down and around the flagpole, where you will then turn back up hill to your left. The Flagpole also marks the lowest point on the entire marathon course. From here you will climb about 125 feet in about a half-mile. At the top of the hill, you will encounter yet another three-way intersection, where you will again take a right. From here, you will glide downhill, then up another big hill.

- Mile 8 - While climbing this hill, you will pass mile eight. From the top of this hill, you will wind through the woods, gently downhill. After nearly a mile, you will come to a three-way intersection, where you will take a left, still on the Main Drive.

- Mile 9 - As you finish going downhill towards the Deep Wells Picnic Area and the trailhead, you will pass mile nine. Stay on the Main Drive as it swings around the picnic area and back uphill. You will pass a couple of reasonable rolling hills before climbing “Three Mile Hill” (fortunately named for its location on the Main Drive rather than for its length). Three Mile Hill carries you relentlessly upward, climbing nearly 200 feet in just under a half-mile, or about an 8-10% grade. Around every turn, you will see more to climb. Have fun.

- Mile 10 - As you pass the signpost for the Main Drive Mile 3, from which Three Mile Hill takes its name, you will be crossing your mile ten. Keep climbing. You will finally crest the hill at a three-way intersection, where you will take a right, still on the Main Drive. You will get to run along the top of this ridge, observing several spectacular lookouts at Nashville, before a precipitous drop on the backside of Three Mile Hill. As you come to the bottom of the hill, you will see on your left the Shell Hill Cut Through that you took in the first mile. Sorry. Keep going straight, on the Main Drive.

- Mile 11 - Right as you pass the small picnic area to your left, you will cross mile eleven. You will also see to your right the road to the Finish line at Vaughn's Creek. Keep going straight. You will climb a very short hill and then pass a hidden intersection on your left. Then follow the road as it sweeps around a large open field. This field is one of the places where the Flying Monkeys are most frequently spotted, so approach it with caution. As you circle around the opposite side of the field, you will encounter a four-way intersection while climbing a hill. The two roads straight ahead take you out of the Park, while the one up and to the left keeps you on the Main Drive. Take this route, as it switches back leftward.

- Mile 12 - As you are climbing slowly upward, you will pass the mile twelve marker. You are now at the beginning of a long, relentless uphill that will cover much of the next mile and a half, and that will climb nearly 250 feet. Follow the road around, taking a left at each of 3 three-way intersections, always staying on the Main Drive. You will climb up a short steep that will take you over the Iroquois Steeplechase to your right, then down and around a grassy field, then back into the dense woods. Right when you think the hills have stopped, you will come to another switch back that takes you up and to the left. At the top of this steep, you will come to the Shell Hill Cut Through, where all this madness began. Take a left, back over Shell Hill.

- Mile 13 - After taking the Shell Hill Cut Through, you will soon pass mile thirteen, and as you climb the hill, you will pass the halfway point. Keep going uphill, then pass the crest and go down the switchbacks on the far side of Shell Hill.

- Mile 14 - As you come to the bottom of Shell Hill and take the switchback to your left, you will pass mile 14. From here you will come back to the Main Drive. This time, you will take the Main Drive in the opposite direction, so take a right. Immediately, this will seem like a bad idea, when you begin to climb back up the backside of Three-Mile Hills. Again, this is approximately a 200-foot climb in under a half-mile. At the top of the hill, you will have a brief repose, during which time you will pass a three-way intersection. Then it is down Three Mile Hill.

- Mile 15 - Immediately after you start down Three Mile Hill, you will pass mile fifteen. Keep going down, down, down, around the twists and turns, towards Deep Wells.

- Mile 16 - Just before you come to the Deep Wells Parking area and trail head, you will pass mile sixteen. Stay on the Main Drive past the parking, then back up into the hills. Stay on the Main Drive as it veers right at the next three-way intersection. You will pass three slowly rising hills over the next mile.

- Mile 17 - As you reach the top of the third rolling hill, you will pass mile seventeen. Notice the tall rise looming over your right shoulder. Atop that hill is the Luke Lea Heights overlook, where you will be in just over two miles. You will immediately go down a steep hill, then gently upwards. At the top of the next rise, go left at the three-way intersection. Then down the steep hill back to the Stone Gates area and the flagpole you saw before.

- Mile 18 - As you come into the open grassy area to round the flagpole, you will pass mile eighteen. You are again at the lowest point on this route; you will climb to the highest point over the next mile and a quarter. Again, pass the flagpole and climb back uphill, taking a left at the next intersection and on the Main Drive. You will climb Hairpin Hill, passing each of its two switchbacks as you climb. At the top of the hill, you will have ascended 300 feet in about a mile.

- Mile 19 - At the top of hairpin hill, right as you reach the turnoff for the Luke Lea Heights overlook to your right, you will pass mile 19. It is all downhill from here. Except for the uphill segments. Anyhow, take a right to do the 0.6-mile Luke Lea Heights loop. When you reach the fork, take a left. From Luke Lea, you will get a great view of Nashville and Belle Meade. If you are actually still running at this point, you may want to consider stopping for a second to take in the scene. Back to work. Complete the Luke Lea Heights overlook loop and return to the Main Drive, taking a right when you get to it.

- Mile 20 - While rolling up and down, back and forth on the ridge way, you will pass mile twenty. Only a 10k left to run, you had better be warmed up by now. Soon you will get to go down Nine Mile Hill, taking a left at the intersection you pass midway down the descent.

- Mile 21 - As you come to the bottom of the hill, you will pass mile twenty-one. Follow the route around as it veers to the left, out into the open picnic area. Take the road around the picnic area, taking a left as you pass the three-way intersection. You will climb a gentle upward grade and then take a switchback down to the right.

- Mile 22 - As you approach the tall hill off to your left while running below a ridge above you to your right, you will pass mile twenty-two. From here you will go down a slow, gentle grade through the woods and then out into a field. You will again come to the four-way intersection, where again you will go straight. Go down the big steep hill towards the golf course.

- Mile 23 - As you reach the bottom of the hill and approach the putting area, you will pass mile twenty-three. You will be treated for this accomplishment with a mean short steep climb that brings you up to the putting green. But you are not done; from here you have a slow gentle climb through the woods back towards the intersection with the Shell Hill Cut Through. When you reach that intersection, stay on the Main Drive, to the left.

- Mile 24 - You will go down a short steep drop and pass mile twenty-four around the time that you round the switchback. Keep going on the Main Drive. You will again pass the Iroquois Steeplechase, this time to your left, and then start heading downhill.

- Mile 25 - As you come back to the four-way intersection, with the steep switchback, you will both pass mile twenty-five and take the right-most route, still on the Main Drive. Follow the route again around the big field. This time, when you pass the field and come to the grassy path that takes you out to Vaughn's Creek, take a left. Almost there.

- Mile 26 - Out on the grassy path, you will pass mile twenty-six. Keep going and you are done.