I started smoking in college. I first smoked out of curiosity - then because of boredom, or to settle my nerves, or because it tasted good with a glass of wine or cup of coffee. I decided to quit twelve years after picking up my first cigarette and on the eve of my 30th birthday.
I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. A few failed attempts had proven that I had a weak resolve. I needed something to commit to aside from just quitting smoking to keep me straight.
It was the early 2000s and running marathons had become a 'thing' in D.C. Non-athlete couch potato types (like I had become) were raising money for various charities in exchange for marathon training. People of all races, shapes, sizes, ages, and fitness levels were shown in charity brochures running with big 'ole grins on their faces and shiny medals around their necks at the finish line. I had found my totem.
I signed up to raise money for the Whitman Walker Clinic in D.C. in exchange for a race entry and training. I promptly bought some good running shoes with the help of Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan and some functional running clothes. I was in a world of hurt after my first training run (I hadn't run in over a decade), but I kept at it. I ran twice a week on my own and once a week with the group for 6 months. Every Saturday the group runs took me farther than I had ever run in my life.
I completed the October 2002 Marine Corps Marathon in 5 hours and fifteen minutes - about one month before my birthday. I had a big 'ole grin on my face when I crossed the finish line.
I've now completed seven marathons, a few ten-milers, a couple of half marathons, and some shorter races. I'm still not very fast, though I am faster than before. I don't care. I love running - how it makes me feel, and the fact that it is my time to be alone with my thoughts. Also the shoes and clothes have gotten fancier.
My statement that "running saved my life" is not hyperbole. Of course, I reduced my chance of contracting emphysema or developing lung cancer when I quit smoking. But it really hit me that I may have dodged a bulletduring a recent checkup with my new doctor. She asked me if I was physically active. I said that I run, and that I had picked it up to quit smoking. She told me that quitting smoking and being active is probably why I have not had a stroke by now and to KEEP RUNNING.
Some days it is hard to find the motivation: I'm tired, or lazy, or I have other things I'd rather do, or I don't feel like changing my clothes or messing up my hair. But I muster that little bit of drive I keep tucked away in case of emergency, put on my shoes, and head out. I also love Robin Arzon's blog "Shut Up and Run" (and her book by the same name) and my fellow National Black Marathoner's Association (NBMA) members always motivate.
My sister is also an active NBMA member and all around bad ass. She has started running groups at her church and my niece is becoming a force to be reckoned with on the track.
If you have never tried running before, or you once did and have less than good memories, TRY IT AGAIN. You may be in for a pleasant surprise. I certainly was.