Running

My Journey from a Chain-Smoker to a Marathoner

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I have smoked for 5 years and could finish 1 1/2 packs per day. Yes, I was a chain-smoker. When I smoke my first cigarette, I can’t just smoke half of it or most of it, I smoke the entire thing until the burning ash is touching my fingers and then before tossing the already burnt piece of nothing, I take out another cigarette and light the next one with the burning cigarette of nothing in my hand and use that to light that next cigarette.

I used to be so lazy when I was a smoker, would come home from work, make a coffee and sit in front of the TV or computer and smoke. Disgusting? I know. There was no activity in my life. In fact, I don’t want to do anything and whenever I do something strenuous like going up stairs (my room is on the second floor) or even just answering the telephone I get tired. In fact, I always feel tired – it’s as though I have no energy for anything. Also, I was always grumpy and feel like I just want to punch everyone in the face. I tried running but I couldn’t even last 5 minutes without feeling breathless. That’s when I decided to finally kick the habit for good.

And I tell you, it is not easy to quit. I’ve attempted several times and failed miserably. Finally, after contemplating on all of my ‘attempts’ I realized I really should quit (making excuses). So I did some research, put a mark on my calendar one month past my decision (December 31st – new years resolution or whatever) and put out the last butt at 11:35 PM. It hasn’t been terribly easy but the farther I get from smoking the more I realize how ridiculous it was.

The first two weeks were difficult when I was not yet so sure about what to do and very much trying to avoid lighting a stick. Whenever I have the cravings, I’d distract myself by eating ice cream or go for a jog. Three weeks after I quit, I noticed how much easier it is to breathe while running. And, every once in a while, I’d push myself to go faster. After six months of being cigarette-free, I am up to 10 km without walking or stopping. And after four years, I already ran half-marathons and even finished a good 42 KM, I never thought I’d be able to do that. I can now enjoy total body workouts and other sports without feeling drained like I’m going to pass out.

Aside from that, you’ll also look younger and healthier. People who smoke heavily are wrinkled with stained, they have yellowish teeth, discolored nails, receding gums and lusterless hair – which makes them look older than non-smokers. When I used to smoke, I always get mistaken as someone who is in her 30’s. I was told that my eyes looked smudged and dark against my pale white face. Now at 28, people would say that they liked my skin, that it has a ‘healthy’ shade of tan and my lips are pinkish red without even using lipstick. I often gets mistaken as a 22 year old and believe it or not, I even get asked for my ID card.

Food tastes so much better after I quit smoking. When I was a smoker, I thought food tasted ‘okay’, but nothing spectacular. Never in a million years could I fathom how GREAT food would eventually taste when I finally broke the habit. Within a few days of quitting, you’ll notice that your smell and taste are both drastically increased, and these flavors may now be much too strong for you. In fact, you may find you do not enjoy many foods you once loved anymore. More subtle tastes may be more appealing to you, so be sure to experiment with different things. Foods you once disliked may soon become your favorite food!

Overall,  life is thrilling, exciting, and every moment counts. You’ll wake up each day bouncing out of bed, ready to take anything on, including the most difficult, stressful situations in your life. You’ll laugh at stress.

Just remember, it is important to realize that you are the sum of your decisions: smokers decide to smoke, runners decide to run. Obviously addiction is a very real thing -physically speaking- but understanding that craving a cigarette is a psychological response to the physical occurrence of nicotine withdraw and that not indulging will over time eliminate that physical aspect and help you make it through that craving.

Again, quitting is not easy. I’ve heard a lot of stories and I’ve experienced it first hand. I can’t begin to count how many times I tried before it really stuck. My tip is, I’d quit first then take two weeks to focus on it. When a craving happens don’t run from it, hit it head on. See how bad you can make that craving get, and just don’t give in. Once you’ve gotten past two weeks, start walking/light jogging and go from there. Good luck, you can do it!

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