As 2011 was winding down, I began to think ahead to 2012. I've always received many requests from other runners that they would like to run with me. I started brainstorming one day while running and thought about that. How could I run with people, make a giving-back project and be a part of the community at the same time? So with a little more running and a little more thinking, I decided that I would run with 12 people (selected via application) and each of one them would have to help someone else finish a race of a lesser distance. And each person also had to have a cause they cared about. I primarily wanted to help first time half marathoners, marathoners or a 50K. I would run each step of the race with them and get them across the finish line. And thus the 12x12 Project was born.

Fast forward to April 1, 2012 and the first of the 12x12 Project participants - Jay Stancil. This was his first marathon and he was excited just like me! Although this was my 35th (? I've honestly lost track) marathon or ultramarathon distance, the love of running 26.2 miles is still awesome to me. 

I arrived in Knoxville, Tenn. Friday, March 30, 2012 and was greeted by humidity. Having just flown from dry Colorado, I wasn't used to this kind of moisture! The next morning I was pleasantly surprised by how GREEN everything was. March was the driest March in Colorado's history. In fact, when I left Colorado, vicious fires were claiming land, homes and lives. So it was a welcome change to see spring in full bloom!

It was so green, I was almost blinded by the brightness! I took a nice walk to the Knoxville Convention Center at the World's Fair Park. And my eyes found so many different things to take photos of. I love exploring and seeing new towns/cities!

Like this vintage bug. I have a 'thing' for them. This bug is a work in progress and will be used for a future article related to life. But I'm sure you already knew that :).

As I walked to the Knoxville Marathon Expo, it was a lovely, warm Saturday morning. It was great to be alive! The expo was great. Low key, quick bib pickup, fun music, friendly race volunteers everywhere and even a free chair massage. Always a great thing :). Afterwards, I wandered back outside and continued to explore the town. Did I mention it was a beautiful day?! I loved the park in front of the convention center, the flags (I have a 'thing' for flags too) and a kids park. I was searching for a pull-up bar of some sort, but didn't find any. The Tennessee Veterans Memorial was beautiful and sobering at the same time too.

The Market Square was cute and busy with people out and about enjoying the nice spring day. I was on the lookout for healthy food options and found it I did. I had a fresh spring greens salad with fresh red beets and salmon from Cafe 4. ANDI said no to the temptation (big, tall, moist cupcakes) :).

I was also on the lookout for some fresh veggies and after a few hit and misses, I finally found an adorable little market called Just Ripe. They had fresh, local, organic produce (and meat, eggs, dairy). I was delighted to score a sweet potato, kale, green beans, tomato, avocado (obviously not from Knoxville, but still fresh) and Applegate Farms turkey. I would have a fabulous pre-race dinner!

I spent most of the day walking around Knoxville and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Even hustling back in order to beat a heavy thunderstorm complete with vicious hail. There is nothing better than to explore a town/city then by foot. IMHO.

In the evening, my host and I went back to the Market Square and Old City and enjoyed watching the sun set behind the smokey mountains. Then it was time to hit the pillow. Knoxville Marathon and pacing Jay to his first marathon finish in the morning!

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