Smoking and running

Smoking and Running

in Running Life by

Here’s something I don’t understand, runners who smoke.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand smoking, I was a smoker for more than half my 47 years and I loved almost every second of it.

I Was a Smoker

My favorite cigarettes were:

  • Right after waking up
  • After a stressful meeting
  • After hard work
  • With a drink (of anything but usually liquor)
  •  After a big meal
  • After “relations”
  • The first cigarette from a new pack
  • The last cigarette from an old pack

If the picture I’m painting isn’t obvious enough, I loved smoking any time, anywhere for any occasion. But then, I decided to get myself healthy.

But I Quit

If you read this space you know that when I was 36 I decided to change virtually everything about my life and get myself into shape. And the rewards since have been astonishing!

At the time, and to this day, I was ready to give up smoking as a huge part of the Eric Improvement Program. It didn’t hurt that there were a lot of public interest campaigns about the dangers of smoking, the whistle blowers in the tobacco industry came to light and laws started getting passed that banned smoking in restaurants and bars. The general attitude towards smoking changed. It really was a good time to quite.

And I quit without looking back. And as part of the Eric Improvement Program, I started getting my body into shape. First by cycling and then running. I started eating better and just generally living a more healthy lifestyle.

Confusion Sets In

But then I noticed a small contingent of folks that were participating in the same lifestyle I was but with a small twist.

See, I was a gym rat when I first started getting into shape and sometimes when I’d leave the gym I’d notice folks that I had seen working out walking out and lighting a cigarette.

And I was confused by it. But whatever, it’s their life, they seemed like adults, they can make their own decisions.

Running and Smoking

Fast forward a few years and I have a pretty dedicated group of guys that I run with. Some of us are faster than others, some more dedicated to sport, some run marathons, others just a 10K on the weekends. But one guy in this group sticks out. The one guy who has recently taken up Ultras, who runs roughly 50 miles a week on average, who holds the marathon PR for our little group – – – – is a smoker!

Now, I’m not judging him, not at all, it just boggles my mind that someone who takes the time to train for runs that last 24 hours would also do something so detrimental to their body. I really think that if he quit and set his mind to it, he could be a local competitor (and I’ve told him as much to no avail). But again, it’s his life, he seems like an adult, he can make his own decisions.

A Boston Qualifier?!?!

But it’s not just him. I was following the Boston Marathon back in April and on Twitter and I came across this picture. Both Steve Annear (the writer for the Globe) and I tried contacting the guy as his sister saw our tweets. Well, Steve does have better credentials than I do so when the guy decided to call someone back, he called Steve 🙂

If you read the article, it basically says that the dude just wanted a cigarette after the race. And on some level I get it.

I’m starting to think it’s not all that uncommon.

Last month, I volunteered with the NYRR and handed out medals after the Oakley Mini10K. About an hour into my volunteer shift I started smelling cigarette smoke. After looking around, wouldn’t you know it, right there next to the racks of medals to be handed out was a woman who had finished the race and clearly, just needed a cigarette.

See for yourself.

Smoking and running

I remember getting ready to head into my corral at the start of the LA Marathon back in 2016 and bumped into a guy who was smoking – getting ready to head into the same corral.

So, I guess it’s a thing.

Do you see runners smoking at races you run?

Or is it only me?


  1. That is CRAZY!! I have never seen a runner after a race smoking. I will say from years of working in gyms, it’s not terribly uncommon to see people lighting up after they walk out of the gym post-workout. I mean, I get it, it’s an addiction, it just seems to me that doing something taxing with your cardiovascular system just doesn’t lend itself to smoking at all.

  2. I can’t say I have seen this myself, but I will be on the lookout for it. I am an ex-smoker and runner, and I found myself nodding with agreement with every single one of your excellent points about when you enjoyed cigarettes! Now I despise the smell of them. I wonder if for some of these people, they are the type who only smoke one or two cigarettes a day. I never could do that myself, though.

    • Unless you mean one or two with my first coffee 🙂 Glad you could relate! I also hate the smell of it too but try to have empathy for those that still smoke.

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