A few years ago, while working as a graphic designer, Norman’s artistic background and competitive nature led him to accept the challenge of making his son a special cake for his second birthday.
“I went for it,” Norman said.
When that cake turned out to be a huge success, word spread to his friends and family, who started requesting Norman make them cakes as well. After a while, he decided to pursue baking full-time. So he opened Cakebuds, a specialized bakery in downtown Johnson City where he has worked ever since, producing intricate, colorful and adventurous cakes.
And that’s what he likes best. The biggest he’s done was a model of Franklin Woods Hospital that he put together for the opening of the facility. He does lots of Dr. Seuss cakes and quite a few animal-themed cakes.
Recently, Norman and his son, Gabriel, put together an e-reader cake for Norman’s wife, Kayla, because she likes reading so much. Gabriel decorated the screen part of the cake, he noted.
Aside from cakes, Norman’s store has a display case filled with cookies, cupcakes and other tasty desserts. Surrounded by such deliciousness all day, every day, Norman sometimes worries that his fast metabolism won’t be enough to keep his slight figure in tact.
“I need to do something because I sample everything,” Norman said.
Having shown a bit of aptitude for distance running in the past, Norman decided to again pick up the hobby in the last few years.
With a half-marathon under his belt, Norman decided to bite off more than he’s used to chewing with registration into Kentucky’s world-famous, for both difficulty and enjoyment levels, Hatfield-McCoy Marathon in his hometown June 14. He has no doubts that he’ll complete the distance, but is more concerned with how quickly he’ll find the finish line.
Norman is hoping to average 8-minute miles throughout the 26.2-mile race, and he says he spends too much time thinking about it.
“I think I’m going to love it, regardless of the experience,” he said.
In conjunction with his marathon training, Norman decided to make webisodes under his YouTube tag “Runner Chef,” where he talks about his progress and offers useful recipes for other runners training for races.
In the eight webisodes already posted online, Norman has offered recipes ranging from whole wheat chocolate chip cookies for runners looking to save calories to an easy fish and vegetable dinner.
As for his own training regimen, Norman said he has a lot of support in effort to reach his goals.
His wife is a nurse practitioner and clinical instructor at East Tennessee State University, who offers useful medical advice along the way.
“It’s beneficial to have her,” Norman said. “I can ask her about pains I have.”
She has also started running, and their son often rides a bike alongside his dad during training runs.
Norman said his son is surprisingly fast for his age, too, and combining that with his ability to decorate cakes, don’t be surprised to meet Runner Chef 2.0 in a few years.
To follow Norman’s journey to the marathon or to find out recipes, subscribe to him on YouTube at Runner Chef, follow him on Instagram at ChefRunner, Tumblr at runner-chef, or on Nike+ at Timmy_Norman.
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