23rd January 2011
A Brief History: Smoking and Running
Last year I made the brilliant decision to enter the London Marathon.
In November 2009, I finally stopped smoking after six hazy aired years. I soon found that not smoking was harder to do without any motivation, and after a single run with Sister’s Friend, I decided that running would be my new thing.
I quickly found that I was not alone in enjoying running: underneath every stone a runner emerged, spinning epic tales of 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and of course, the icing on the cake, an actual Marathon; how was I supposed to stay committed to running without a real goal in mind?
With such a problem to reconcile, I began to plan runs into my weekly routine – ideally three times a week, for twenty minutes. In reality it was once a week with Someone From Work for about an hour, at the end of which I constantly vowed to discipline myself to run at the self appointed times. And then, to give myself a real goal, I decided, along with half the population, to run the Race for Life in Blackheath in July that year.
And the goal helped! I ran more throughout the week, I could run futher distances and I felt healthy.
But then, in May, I got bored and started smoking – just every now and then, and every time I lit one of those things up, and guiltily puff away at it at the kitchen window, I would remember how much better it felt to run. I smoked until a week before the 5K run around the Heath, and then, smoking the last in the pack, and gazing intently at my suspiciously clean running shoes through the smoggy air of the living room (because as I get more into smoking, I just do it everywhere), I refocused on my goal: 3.1 miles on a Sunday morning six days from then. I would just have to do it.
And do it I did – finishing in 33 and a half minutes, having run with my handbag as I had failed to find anyone to meet me that morning (a whole other blog will be written about my great powers of disorganisation, so it is better at this point to accept that someone can be so disorganised as to run with a handbag) – but the important thing about that first 5K was … I wanted to run more.
At the end of that Sunday, I had decided to run one 5K a month, eventually working my way up to a 10K, then a half marathon, and somewhere, a shadow in my mind, the prestige of the London Marathon flickered as an eventual half hope.
The great plan began its execution over the next few weeks. I ran as planned, and entered the Adidas Women’s Challenge in Hyde park the following September. And then of course, I came down with a virus in August, got bored at home on my own, and begged a Sibling to fetch me cigarettes from a shop and smuggle them back to me, if only to give me something to do in those virus ridden times. So there was a repeat of the 5K in July, the same panic, guilt and evetual reprieve, again a week before the run. I finished the second one in 34 minutes, having struggled around buggies and walkers, having decided to race from the point that I would finish in over 40 minutes, obviously having no faith in my lung capacity based on the bin full of Marlborough Light boxes at home.
And this time, I vowed: Running over Smoking, Running over Smoking. So convinced was I of my will power, that I followed up the advice from Someone at Work and applied for a charity place in the London Marathon. October seemed to delay the dream, when I was informed that it was unlikely that I would have a place, and so I permitted myself once more, aided by the dark nights and cold weather, to lead a life of slobbery, only to find, in the first week of December, that hooray – I would be running the Marathon in April.
I like running. I like completing new distances, I love it when I find that I have run an already covered distance faster than I have done it before. I love the second wind that carries me through the second half of the run, I love planning the routes, I love eating food that I have read will build me up, and I love indulging in chocolate, knowing that I will burn it off. I even like the schedule that I copied from a book onto a calendar at the beginning of the year. It took me a week to find the calendar at the end of December: I wanted something on which I could organise my chores, training, social activities and things to remember. It would be impossible to train for the Marathon without a calendar – any fool should know that.
It was also impossible to begin training for the Marathon while I had a cold at the end of December (I started smoking again – what was the point in not – I couldn’t go running anyway), and then there was snow that tured into ice – which I definitely couldn’t run on for fear of a sad injury that might prevent me altogether from running the Marathon. And then, finally, in the first week of January, there was no ice. And I had stopped coughing.
It was time to start training.
I am now into the fourth week.
Hazards and Highlights
Throughout my first week, (four runs between 3 and 4 miles each), I found my mind wandering a great deal while out on the roads. It ploughed through the details of the day (more about my job another time), it completed the route before I had ran it, it screamed at my diminished lung capacity, and it constantly played on the idea of how awful it would be were a car to hit me and ruin my chances of running. Fortunately, things improved a little.
Ten minutes into my fifth run (3 miles in the rain, which sounds unpleasant but started off quite nicely), I found a kitten on the street. As any responsible, animal appreciating runner would, I checked with a pedestrian as to whether she definitely seemed to small to be out in the rain, tried to find out if it belonged to any of the houses I had found her in front of and when no one answered, I gave up on the run and brought her home. She eventually dried off, slept for two days and has not left since. (I did report her to vets, the Cats Protection League and the RSPCA – as far as I know, there’s no sobbing child out there who misses her).
I completed my first four miles about a week ago. As discussed above, my furthest run has been a 5K rewarded by a shiny medal (well, not really shiny, but metal at least). My body is not used to further distances than a Sunday morning fun run, and has adapted to the extra pressure by finding ways to cause me pain. The most noticeable is in my knee, which I have consistently complained about to anyone who has listened. Mum eventually gave me a knee support, possibly to shut me up.
Boyfriend (who is a smoker by the way) has also injured himself. He has been sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress. I hear updates on the pain on an hourly basis. I have tried to match his pain, by listing my ailments, but I suppose it’s different. He has been attacked by an uncomfortable mattress. I keep stamping on pavements and pounding my arms against the air: my pain is a voluntary pain.
And another problem that I struggle with out on the roads is the other runners, who actually look like runners. It could be a PE lesson thing (I accomplised no more than a school report C on a yearly basis, probably because the department would not give me lower to avoid looking as though they had an unfit pupil in their midst), but I feel an absolute fraud running around. Once the runenrs, who generally look like gazelles, all balanced arms and 10 metre strides have passed me by, I roll my eyes and pull faces. I have no idea why. My running style is the swimming equivalent of a doggy paddle – maybe one day I will become a gazelle?
And so I draw to a close. The scariest thing in my head at the moment is the prospect of the Mararthon. I am scared of failing to train as much as I am supposed to, scared that if I miss breakfast I will ruin a planned run for the evening, scared that I will never learn that smoking really is not good for me – especially when trying to run long distances. And of course, I am scared of failing to raise the money for the charity and therefore have my name blackened in the third sector world (more about that another time).
But why should I be so scared? Peope do the Marathon for the first time every April. This year, I won’t be watching it on the television, hungover on the sofa – I’ll be out there, with the gazelles.
And I will be…a Marathon runner!