The Journey from Avid Smoker to 100-Mile Runner
I know how hard it used to be for me to keep my New Year's resolutions. I smoked for almost 10 years, I had tried to quit so many times that I stopped counting. At some point, I was sure I would smoke until the end of my life. I also had never run in my life! I remember my friends always laughed at me, because I even didn't want to make the effort to catch a bus.
4 years ago, during a rough time in my life, I came across my friend's book Eat & Run, written by Scott Jurek. I remember being incredibly amazed by this book; by the author's life story and his experience racing the Western States 100-mile race. To me it sounded like a fairytale / joke / impossible thing. But inspired by this book I made my typical New Year's resolution: “I will quit smoking and I will get fit.” I also just added the small “...and I will run the Western States 100-mile race within 10 years”.
Everybody thought I was crazy and nobody believed that I would start running, let alone complete the challenge. But I bought a pair of running shoes and I went for a run around a park near my house. Oh my god, that was the longest, the most horrible 1-mile run I've ever had so far in my life. I couldn't breathe, I was sweating and red, I was so aware of other people on the street, I thought everybody was looking at me and laughing.
Afterwards I went home and guess what? I smoked a cigarette. Yup, that was the beginning of my journey. New Year's resolution mode ON. But that very first, horrible run gave me a bit of motivation and confidence. I thought, “Wow, I did it! I actually did it!” I survived, I didn't die, no one attacked me, my body was able to do it.
So I kept at it, each time trying to extend my distance a bit more. I was getting a little hooked on running: I started to read about training plans, heart rate zones, how to build up mileage, what to wear, what to eat... and I was running more and more each week. Finally I decided to run to work – the whole 11 km. That for me was absolutely unbelievable! (I remember I had a great party afterwards to celebrate).
Okay, yes, I was still smoking, but... I realised that running kept my mind busy and I didn't think about cigarettes so much anymore. I also smoked much less, because after my runs I was so pumped up by my heart beat and fresh air that I was losing the taste for cigarettes. In the meantime I ran my first half marathon, I discovered barefoot running, and went to – guess where – Run and Become to buy my first pair of Vibram FiveFingers.
Here I also discovered the Chi Running technique. A few sessions with Chi Running coach Balavan Thomas helped me improve my running technique and increase my distance, because do not forget – I gave myself 10 years to run the Western States 100-mile race! Yes, it was still in my head – I never, ever forgot about my commitment to myself in December 2013.
I was getting more passionate about my running, so I decided to change my career path to get closer to my goals. I handed my notice in at my managerial post, to start working in the best running shop I've ever come across – Run and Become! With running I discovered other activities; yoga, pilates, climbing, weightlifting, crossfit, cycling.
Oh, and in the meantime – 100% true story – smoking gave up on me. I can't say that I quit smoking, because it happened without me paying attention. At some point I just realised that I hadn't smoked for many days. I didn't quit, I just FORGOT to smoke.
Also I got much, much fitter than I used to be. I started running longer distances; ultra marathons – 50 km, 50 mile races – and I found myself totally suited to it. I was strong, I was confident, I was experienced from my training and all the books I'd read and the people I'd come across.
This year, a few months ago, I ran my first 100-mile race, which gave me a ticket to put my name into ballot for the Western States 100-mile race in the USA. The ballot was a few days ago, and I didn't get in, but don't worry – I have still 6 years left to get there!
4 years after my New Year's resolution I found myself touching the biggest dream I ever could imagine. Since December 2013 every decision I've made has had to pass the main question: “Will THAT help me get to the Western States 100?” I made a commitment to myself and I didn't want to disappoint myself.
I used to be unhappy, tired, overworked, over-stressed, smoking a pack a day, unfit, with a horrible diet: a young woman without a dream or prospects. I had nothing to lose, but a lot to gain. I am very happy that I am finally, after 4 years, getting close to running my big dream race, but the race itself is not the best part of it anymore.
The people I've met – such amazing, inspiring, kind people – this is the best thing that's happened to me during my journey. Because of my New Year's resolution my whole life changed – I am fit and I stopped smoking!
That was the resolution... but I also changed my diet, I love my work, I'm studying part-time at University, I am surrounded by amazing people, I am active, energetic, happy and on the path that is right for me. And all of this happened to me because I made a New Year's resolution – Stop smoking and get fit.
Leave a Comment