Running and Smoking

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I used to be a smoker. In fact, I smoked for about 35 years, starting in the days when it was cool to smoke. The days of Bogart and Bacall, amongst others.

I smoked cigarettes, cigars and a pipe. Not all at once, you understand, but almost. In my pipe smoking days, I was a chain smoker: I would be smoking one pipe, cleaning and filling another, while the third was cooling down from the last smoke – I’m not kidding! I had to quit that, because I had no time to do anything else with my hands.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but ask my kids – they know.

One day. when I realized that my weight was totally disproportionate to my height, I decided to take up running again. I hadn’t run since high school, but figured it would be as easy as it always had been. Boy, was I wrong!

After almost 37 seconds, I found myself doubled up in pain, trying to catch my breath. What had happened to me in those few years that had slipped by like weeks? I decided running was not for me, and lit up a cigarette.

A year or two, and about 20 pounds, later, I joined a gym in between smokes. If I couldn’t run, I could at least replace some of the flab with muscle, I thought. But somehow, working up a sweat on those machines soon got boring, so I thought I’d try aerobics.

The fact that all those cute girls looked so good doing it encouraged me. After all, if they could do it, surely I could! Wrong again: I staggered out to the locker room for a quick spit and a draw.

It was springtime, and some of the gym crowd decided that race walking would be a great idea instead of sitting in a stuffy gym. After my shins started to give me agony, I found it easier to trot a little, and that’s really what started me running (between gaspers). I have to confess that I quit smoking for at least 20 minutes every day I ran, since I never quite figured how to smoke and run at the same time.

The interesting thing is that as I started to get fitter, I found I didn’t smoke as much. First, I quit smoking in the car, and soon found that I could see out the windshield better without needing to wipe the soot off every hour or two, And then, one day, I decided to quit for good.

What happened was that I changed from being addicted to smoking to being addicted to running. I did it the hard way: cold turkey. That’s another story, but after the first two or three centuries (it seemed) I didn’t want to smoke again.

I finally overcame my running addiction, too, so that now I can miss a few days, or even weeks, and enjoy getting back to it. If it wasn’t for the emphysema (from all that smoking), I’d probably be quite fast (really “smoking”). As it is, I can usually pass people using walkers, but not people walking fast!

Smokers beware! If you take up running, there’s a good chance that one day you’ll quit smoking. Running and smoking might work for a while, but not permanently.