The Smoking Runner

1 Aug

…and I don’t mean “smoking runner” as in “smoking-hot-bod runner.” I literally mean, the runner who smokes.

I will just come out and say it, runners who smoke gross me out. Completely.

Okay, okay…before you go getting all preachy and telling me I am judging my fellow runners, I will admit that I am a former smoker…and it STILL grosses me out.

Before the Rock N Roll Mardi Gras Marathon this year, there were runners standing in the corral…smoking. Literally, the gun went off for their wave to start, they threw down the cigarette butt, squashed it out with their fancy running shoes, and started running…a marathon. How is this? Lord, help me…training in the winter air (with asthma, no less) is hard enough on my body. I can not even imagine how I would feel smoking a cigarette right before a marathon.

At the end of my triathlon this past weekend, I saw a handful of family members and friends standing around waiting for their racers…smoking. I just found it odd. Even odder, I even saw one or two race participants light up themselves!

Most of us, at some point, have spent some time around a person who smokes. Even if they didn’t just get finished smoking a cigarette, you can usually still smell it on him/her…especially a hard-core smoker. While I have not experienced running near a runner who smokes (they are usually *still* faster than me), I can imagine the smell would make me uncomfortable…probably even nauseous.

When I first started running, back when I was just starting to get into 5k races, I still smoked. Granted, I had cut back to only a few cigarettes per day, but still, I was a smoker. I can remember mornings of going out to races and then coming home, stepping out on my balcony, and lighting up a cigarette…like it was no big deal. I could never do that now, not that I would even want to. Now, coming into the finish of a race, if I even smell a cigarette in the vicinity, I think, “Who in the WORLD would be smoking around this many people who care about health and physical activity??”

In general, I not only think the combination of running and smoking is gross, but physiologically speaking, how is it that runners who smoke can can actually do that? Don’t they feel their lungs, which are pretty vital in a sport like running, getting tight??

I am sad for people like this.


Am I jealous that they get to continue on with their vice and *still* perform better than me?

I know that this is a free country and people can just about do whatever they want, but should races consider other runners and make the events, corrals, and finish line festivals smoke-free areas? What if the race/event was benefiting a cancer charity or organization? (I have seen this too!)

Wouldn’t a runner who smokes (even if they already do well in an event) want to quit smoking, knowing that the odds of doing so would probably increase their performance exponentially?

How does the “running smoker” fit in to the stereotype that runners/triathletes are generally people concerned with healthy, fitness, clean eating, training, etc.?

If a lady feels bold enough to lecture me about running while pregnant, should someone not lecture these runners about the dangers and risks associated with smoking?

What do YOU think about runners who smoke? How do you feel about them? How do you feel when people smoke around you at races and events?

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28 Responses to “The Smoking Runner”

  1. Katie A. August 1, 2011 at 11:11 AM #

    Runners who smoke never cease to shock me. It shocks me, because generally someone who runs is health conscious and smoking is NOT a healthy choice (I’m a former smoker as well!) It also shocks me just to see how quick some of these smokers still are. There is NO way I could have run a 5K when I was a smoker, much less run it quickly or run a half, or full marathon! I’ve not experienced anyone smoking in the corral thankfully, but I think if I was around that person, I might have to ask them to put it out. I think because I WAS a smoker, the smell of smoke seems to make me naseous that much worse now. If restaurants and other public venues are going smoke free, I feel like a sporting event that focuses a little more on health like running, should definitely enforce a smoke free policy!

  2. Katherine August 1, 2011 at 11:17 AM #

    Wow, I had no idea that you had run into smokers before RnR Mardi Gras. That’s just disgusting. And I’m SHOCKED that a smoke-free start area isn’t race policy. I’m hoping this is something that will change in the future. Like you, I have asthma, and smoke gives me headaches and makes it harder to breathe after exposure (I definitely feel it for like 2 DAYS after hanging out in a smoky bar). I always find myself wishing that I could go at least ONE SINGLE DAY without having to smell smoke wherever I go. Somehow it always seems to pop up when I’m out running, too. Thanks for bringing attention to this subject!

  3. Craig Sweeney August 1, 2011 at 11:34 AM #

    At Rouge-Orleans, we were at the Mile 59 aid station. Ultra runner comes up and after he gets his aid, he starts off again. He then lights one up, looks at me and says, “I know, I have problems.” Smirks a little and keeps on running. Crazy!

    • katieRUNSthis August 1, 2011 at 11:36 AM #

      NO WAY! NO freaking way. That is just insane to me. I mean, how do these people do it? How do their bodies take it? It just astounds me.

  4. Jordan Trump August 1, 2011 at 11:57 AM #

    I absolute HATE people who smoke at running events. I know it’s their choice, bla bla bla, but I think smoking at a running event is just the worst place to do it and absolutely inconsiderate to everyone around them. While running the Bix 7 this weekend I ran by someone smoking (spectator), and almost wanted to yell something at them. I did think some pretty mean thoughts in my head towards that person blowing clouds of smoke into the faces of runners!

    I have never witnessed a runner who smokes. Fortunately I finish ahead of them. I can’t believe ANYONE would do that at the start of a marathon though! That’s insane!

  5. alli August 1, 2011 at 12:45 PM #

    Sadly, I still smoke even though I consider myself a runner now. I can say however that running has already helped me cut WAY back and I can’t smoke for hours before or after a run. My boyfriend is one of those freaks of nature who can actually smoke WHILE RUNNING!! And he doesn’t understand why I don’t want to run with him!
    At least I feel like I’ve cut back enough that it will be easy-peasy to quit for real as soon as I’m pregnant/seriously trying!

  6. IamIrene August 1, 2011 at 1:55 PM #

    I hate smokers. Period. I cannot stand the smell. As someone who had to battle cancer at age 23 because of my mother’s inability to not smoke around me, I hate it with a blinding passion. So I have no idea why anyone in their right mind who is a runner can smoke. It defeats the purpose, I think. Ugh, just the idea of it is making be grossed out and angry.

  7. Mark Heyerly August 1, 2011 at 2:01 PM #

    First let me say I completely agree with you. I don’t understand it & think it’s crazy as all get out. Down right rude when it’s done in a corral (though I’ve never witnessed that personally).

    With that stated, let me play devil’s advocate for a moment with 2 thoughts though. 1) You stated yourself you still smoked when you first started running. Could it be some of these runners you’ve seen smoking are at that stage? Maybe they’re trying to get healthy, picked up running, and are attempting to quit gradually but just don’t have the common sense (as you did) to wait to light up until they’re in the privacy of their own place. …and 2) what about other unhealthy habits, such as poor eating habits? Under the logic of being upset with smoking runner, shouldn’t we also “villify” runners who after a race go straight to McDonald’s and gulp down a Double Quarter Pounder, large fry & Coke? Likewise, though I’m *still* losing weight, I see runners you are obviously heavier than me (in terms of body fat % not sheer poundage necessarily) and run faster than me and I think, how do they do that?! Then I look at one of my better running friends (also a triathlete & marathoner) who eats whatever he wants with no regards to nutritional value or calories and remains thin as a rail. Of course he burns 5,000 cals a day. But I think, man he’d could be so much faster if he ate his veggies and kicked the soft drinks and ice cream!

  8. Shelly in MI August 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM #

    I would think it would be super hard to b a smoker and a runner.

  9. runningperspective August 1, 2011 at 2:37 PM #

    runner that smokes seems like a contradiction in my book…running is about health and wellness and smoking is the COMPLETE opposite
    i hate when i am running and someone blows a huge smoke in my face it pisses me off! i dont know how someone could smoke and cigarette and then run? like they must somehow have a lung of steel..if that is even possible

  10. Tiffany August 1, 2011 at 3:44 PM #

    I think running and smoking is a bit of an oxymoron. I mean, isn’t the biggest picture here that we’re all doing something active (which happens to be running) to stay healthy? They’re just able to continue running, I guess because they’ve trained their lungs to endure I guess… It’s just, just, stupid in my opinion.

  11. Ed The Plumber August 1, 2011 at 4:29 PM #

    I am an ex smoker and I used to just love to light up after running the LSU Lakes. The looks were priceless! Now that I have quit for years and will never go back I can say that I hate the smell of smoke. I don’t mind if people do it, just don’t blow it in my face or in crowed areas. The irony? I am still not as fast as I was 20 years ago when I used to smoke 2 packs a day, go figure!

  12. Daria August 1, 2011 at 11:29 PM #

    I am en ex-smoker too. In fact, I also began running while smoking and continued to do both for a couple of years. I had to choose between health or smoking…health won but not after several falls off the wagon. Now, I can not stand the smell of cigarettes. I guess living in California has spoiled me a bit though. Here, smokers are pretty much shunned everywhere (by law), so I have yet to see a smoker at one of my races.

  13. Long Legs on the Loose August 2, 2011 at 12:31 PM #

    ick the other night it was storming so I hit the gym for the treadmill. About a mile into my run, a women comes in, take the treadmill right next to me, and she was REEKING of cigarette smoke. It was so bad I actually got up and moved. And I wasn’t shy about it either. Rude? Maybe. Needed to be done? Definitely.

  14. Stephanie August 2, 2011 at 1:17 PM #

    i’m a runner and a yoga teacher, and you’re right the contradiction is incredible. i actually had two girls in my yoga teacher training who would to out for coffee and a cigarette after our first morning yoga class each day. i would not be able to keep my mouth shut if someone was smoking next to me in the corral.

  15. Jamie August 2, 2011 at 2:27 PM #

    Smoking while running does seem very strange to me. I grew up around smokers. My father smoked until I was 3. His entire family (my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins) all smoke. I remember being a little girl and asking my grandma to quit. She laughed. I find it a disgusting habit. Absolutely disgusting! However, I do believe in the freedom that our county gives us and that you can do what you want. It’s your choice. But you don’t have to bring others down with you. I am thankful to live in a state that has banned smoking from inside public places. I can now go to bars and bowling alleys and not have to shower after. I believe that if you want to keep a habit that is harmful to others, you can. Just have the courtesy to do it in the smoking-section of the park/race area/etc. I try my best not to be rude when I’m confronted with a smoker/the smell at an unwanted time. Like Mark said, maybe they’re trying to quit and just can’t kick the addiction. I’ve tried to quit/overcome lots in my life and I don’t like feeling put down because I’m trying and it hasn’t quiet worked yet.

  16. Erica Sara August 2, 2011 at 2:45 PM #

    Such a coincidence… I’ve never seen a smoking runner until this past weekend and it confused the crap out of me. I was walking home and noticed a runner with her Queens Half Marathon bib on. She had obviously finished the race and was heading to brunch with her friends… and she was smoking. It struck me as so weird on so many levels. I was annoyed that she was wearing her bib with a cigarette in her mouth- almost like it sent an inappropriate message. And I wondered how on earth she could be a smoker and run 13.1 miles. And why bother running and work hard at doing something great for your body if your just going to destroy it & kill yourself in the end?

    • katieRUNSthis August 2, 2011 at 3:13 PM #

      You are right. It DOES send an inappropriate message. I don’t like it. It almost seems braggy, you know? I agree…how can a person work hard, train, fuel their body with the right foods for energy…and then light up?? It just makes NO sense to me at all.

  17. Creative CajunTisha August 2, 2011 at 9:06 PM #

    Smoking is a terrible habit, one I wish I had never picked and kept for almost 20 years. Having said that, I don’t mind being around people who smoke, as long as they don’t blow it directly at me. I feel like I’m more tolerant of smokers because I was one. It took several years and attempts to kick the habit (now over 2 1/2 years smoke free!) so I try to cut people some slack. Everyone knows how bad it is for you, it’s just a personal decision that’s different for everyone that makes it the final “OK, I am quitting” decision.

    A lady I work with was going on and on one day about how people should be able to just stop smoking because they know how bad it is, and how bad it stinks, etc etc, during her diatribe she unwrapped a piece of candy and started to eat it, and I yelled “STOP! That candy is FULL of SUGAR, you don’t want cavities do you??”

    Point was made, and I haven’t heard her say a word about smokers since lol

  18. Justin August 17, 2011 at 10:26 AM #

    I’m a runner, ex-smoker, and the runner/smokers confuse me too.

    That said, all you people are wasting time fretting about it. So other people are making choices you don’t agree with? Oh my goodness! Move upwind and move on with your lives.

  19. Sahil August 18, 2011 at 3:28 AM #

    I’ve quit smoking now but unfortunately, I have cooled down on my running routine as well. Though, I gotta say that when I saw running 8-9 miles everyday last summer, A cigarette was one of my most sought after things after I came back home. I don’t know what it is but smoking a cigarette after exercise makes it 1000+ times more pleasurable.

  20. Quentin May 27, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

    Hi, me I’m in the 20s, I do bicycle and run and I smoke cigarette but not a lot (5-10/day), I just wanna say that people who practise sport just like you have the right to smoke. They are not creatures like you call them (smoking runner), they are humans. Some people just can’t stop smoking for the moment and want to practise sports just like you. It’s their problems not yours, so if they want to smoke and run that’s their problems. Woa big deal !So if see after a marathon a runner who finish and eat a big mac after you gonna freak out. At least, it’s better for a smoker to practise sport, than watch tv and smoke more and more cigarette.

  21. bruce June 8, 2012 at 11:03 PM #

    I’m a pack a day smoker and run about 80km a week and race reguarly…I used to smoke two packs before i started running about a year ago… My best time is 1h36m48 in a half marathon…I try and I try but I just can’t stop…I know how bad it is…Just can’t help it

    • Matt June 28, 2012 at 2:09 AM #

      Hey Bruce, I also smoked a pack a day when I started running last year. I even got up to running a few half marathons while still smoking. The thing that helped me quit and quit without going crazy was a book recommended to me by a co-worker titled “The easy way to stop smoking.” It’s by Alan Carr and you can get it off Amazon for around 10 bucks. You might laugh at the idea of a book helping you stop but for $10 you’ve got nothing to lose. It talks about the psychology of smoking and why so many fail in their attempts to stop. Give it try, it worked for me.

    • freethinker22 June 28, 2012 at 2:12 AM #

      Hey Bruce, I also smoked a pack a day when I started running last year. I even got up to running a few half marathons while still smoking. The thing that helped me quit and quit without going crazy was a book recommended to me by a co-worker titled ”The easy way to stop smoking.” It\’s by Alan Carr and you can get it off Amazon for around 10 bucks. You might laugh at the idea of a book helping you stop but for $10 you’ve got nothing to lose. It talks about the psychology of smoking and why so many fail in their attempts to stop. Give it try, it worked for me.

  22. Michelle March 24, 2013 at 11:38 PM #

    I am also an ex smoker, quit 3 years ago. Yeah, I quit
    because I felt gross while doing it. But I think it may be a little
    selfish of you to say smokers who run gross you out, and shouldn’t
    be allowed to smoke at an outdoor event. I mean, it’s not really
    affecting you so why be so judgemental? Everyone is entitled to an
    opinion, and I’m not judging you for being judgement, I just ask
    you to keep an open mind, for your own well-being. Also want to say
    that your post on lacing alternatives was very informative, but
    still judgemental. Not every person can afford to shop at a
    specialty running store, and the big box stores or online sites
    like 6pm or overstock may be our only option for scoring decent
    running shoes.

  23. Sam April 2, 2013 at 6:48 AM #

    Has it ever occurred to any of you that not all runners are
    necessarily health conscious, maybe they just -like- running for
    the sake of running.

  24. Kae May 8, 2013 at 5:12 AM #

    I am a smoker. And I run. I’ve never been one of those
    pack-a-day folks, but I enjoy at a minimum 3 per day. It’s a
    psychological thing, I think, that makes it hard to quit. Habits
    are hard to change. I used to play sports back in the day, and I
    gained weight in college because it stopped and running is the one
    thing that I’m comfortable doing while getting back in shape, and I
    continue to enjoy it. But I can’t stop smoking, not just yet. I do
    agree, after a good run, sometimes I want to light up and relax and
    feel good about myself. Or even beforehand. Although or course it
    would do us better to not smoke if we are exercising, I agree that
    running more often makes me feel less inclined to smoke a lot. One,
    because the endorphines and satisfaction of a good workout kind of
    replace that feeling a few cigarettes give when feeling stressed
    out or tired or hungry or bored, or whatever. But those who still
    smoke, or used to smoke, cut us some slack. We’re trying to be
    healthy, but you know trying to quit smoking and run all the time
    and workout and eat clean and be successful at the rest of life is
    hard to do all at once. I hate to break it, but even though I
    continue to run, I still enjoy my smoke, and have gradually been
    able to improve my performance and abilities in other aspects of my
    life because I’m not trying to be a super hero. We’re human, right?
    Just like someone else said, you don’t dis a runner for hitting up
    mcdonalds or a cupcake shop after a marathon, so don’t dis a runner
    who smokes. I do agree though, smoke-free race locations are a good
    idea. Runners can smoke before or after elsewhere before starting.
    I think that’s fair enough. Just like we smoke before or after
    entering a bar or restaurant that’s smoke free, we can adjust to
    those requirements as well. I guess it would be hard to control
    spectators, though…hm…

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