Knoxville (WVLT) - A record number of people hit the ground running Sunday morning, in the Knoxville Marathon.
Over 4,800 runners laced up their shoes and ran through Knoxville neighborhoods.
Many of those who participated say running has turned their life around.
"For me it's a joy. I've never thought of it as anything rigorous or training," said runner Jim Parham.
It wasn't always that way for the Navy veteran from Rhode Island.
He's a former 300-pound smoker who, in 1992, had a cancer scare.
"I laid in bed and said, hey, you get me out of this, God, and I'll quit smoking," Parham said.
Parham began walking, then running, and Sunday, joined thousands of other runners in the half-marathon.
The crowd gathered at the start line before sunrise at 7:00 a.m.
"Yeah, I'm a marathon maniac; there's no doubt about that," said Chester Kalb from Key West, who is a race walker.
This is his 84th marathon in six years, and the eighth one this year.
Kalb is trying to race-walk a marathon in all 50 states.
Other runners have their own reasons for competing.
"For me, my husband just left for Afghanistan, so it's my way of coping with that," said Mary Ellen Bell.
"And I was moral support for my sister," said Bell's sister, Kaitlin Chesney.
The sisters downloaded a training schedule online a few months ago, grabbed their music headphones, and shocked themselves.
"After our long runs we both call each other and it's just like, oh my gosh, I can't believe I did this," Bell said.
It's a challenge for everyone, especially Parham, who believes that without running, he wouldn't be alive.
Stewart Ellington won Sunday's marathon.
His time was two hours, 28 minutes and 36 seconds.