I quit smoking and ran a marathon

I quit smoking and ran a marathon

I first smoked a cigarette when it was cool and rebellious to do so. I was an eyeliner-laced, dyed-black haired teenager with too many metal band patches sewn onto my Roxy rucksack, who wanted to fit in with the older ‘emo’ kids at school. Oh god, typing that makes me cringe so hard. All of us ‘misunderstood’ types would go out into the village at lunchtime and huddle in a corner, ensuring no-one got caught. Solidarity.

I smoked here and there during my teenage years. Mostly when we went to gigs, or hung out on a Friday night at the park in summer. There was often some blue WKD to hand, too. (We all did that, right?)

Nevertheless, I didn’t really become addicted to smoking until my last year of uni. Before then I could start and stop smoking whenever I wanted to, it was easy. But then I had a bad break-up. I finished uni. Everything seemed to be falling apart, I was leaving York, and I started becoming reliant on cigarettes to make me happy and save me from a bad day.

Fast forward to September 2013.

I was approached by a friend who worked in our Communications department.

Would you like to be the face of the Stoptober campaign for our workplace?

She made it impossible to say no – but I’d kinda wanted an incentive to quit for a while. This way, I’d be writing a blog on the work website AND a column for the local paper, which would document the whole of my quitting progress. Talk about pressure. Talk about a reality check.

Smoking had become intrinsic to my daily routine. I planned for cigarette time – the walk to work, mid-morning, after I ate, before bed. I enjoyed smoking. How could I let something that had the very real potential to kill me be something that I enjoyed and looked forward to?

I smoked around 8-10 a day, and I worked out that I spent almost £30 a week on cigarettes. I could almost sob when I think about how much money I wasted.

I suffered with constant skin breakouts and my hair was lank. I had no energy.

stoptober picture

{I physically hate this picture of me at the start of the Stoptober challenge – eyebags, spots, greasy hair}

I also began thinking about my future. About my future with a husband and maybe kids. I couldn’t bear the thought of my life being cut short or hindered by a dangerous habit. I needed my life to be full and I needed to be healthy.

I didn’t use any smoking-cessation aids, but there was no reason behind that really (although I am tight, and too stubborn to accept any ‘help’). The only thing I used or checked regularly was the Stoptober app as it kept track of how much money I was saving, and what was happening to my body at different stages of quitting.

I managed the whole month without smoking, and longer still.

Fast forward again. This time to January 2014.

Around Christmas, life took a turn. There was a situation in my life that was so, so hard to deal with and I just wasn’t able to cope with it. I turned to cigarettes again. Even though I was so angry with myself for failing, I needed something to take an edge off.

I sort of wallowed for a bit, while I tried to work out what to do in those current circumstances. I knew that it was going to be a long time until anything felt normal again.

I wanted to take my mind off it. I wanted to give myself something to work towards. I had registered for the pre-sale of the Yorkshire Marathon months before, and one day in early 2014, the email dropped into my inbox. ‘REGISTER YOUR PLACE HERE’. I did as I was told.

And just like that. I was registered.

I was going to run a marathon.

That gave me 10 months to prepare myself. Within those 10 months, I’m pleased to say that life got better. I began to face the depression I’d been ignoring for years head on. I sought help and slowly bettered myself in many ways.

The furthest distance I’d run before training for the marathon was a 10k Race For Life which went spectacularly awfully (in my head, anyway). For months on end, I ran at least 4 times a week in training. I trained myself, alongside some help from a book. I listened to my body, I nurtured what I had. I pushed myself hard.

Frustrated and proud. Exhausted and exhilarated. Fearless and nervous. Training for a marathon made a mockery of any rationality I thought I had. Ultimately, though, running made me feel unshakable. Mentally and physically, I had peaked.

I raised money for Crohn’s and Colitis UK (Chris suffers from Crohn’s disease) with a target of £400. The generosity of people week after week astounded me. The total raised was £1,160.

Even until the day itself, I don’t know if I believed I could run 26.2 miles. I had always wanted to give it my best shot, and knew I would, but I wasn’t sure I would last for the entire distance.

I did. I ran for 5 hours until I reached the people who mean the most to me in the world, yards from the finish line, and I crossed it. I have never been so proud of myself, and of a decision I made.

yorkshire marathon 2014

I quit smoking and ran a marathon.

We don’t always achieve on the first go. It sometimes isn’t that simple for us to go full steam into something and come out with the exact result we wished for. The journey is still an achievement. 

amy rubin flett


“That was the day she made herself a promise to live more from intention and less from habit.” Amy Rubin Flett


17 thoughts on “I quit smoking and ran a marathon

  1. Amazing! It’s always wonderful to read such inspirational stories. I’m tentatively wondering about my first marathon in the spring, reading your post makes me believe I CAN do it! Thank you


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