I smoked for about a decade so I consider myself lucky that I got out when I did. Who knows how much harder it would have got if I'd waited longer?
Smoking was something I took up at around fifteen or sixteen. I was part of the generation who really should have known better. Unlike my parents' generation I had always known smoking was a stupid and unhealthy thing to do. Like many other teenagers however I had very few thoughts beyond what I was doing at the weekend in those days.
I started slowly, nicking fags off friends when I was socialising and then eventually fell into the routine of ten a day, maybe twenty on the weekends.
Then about four years ago, shortly before I turned 30, I got bronchitis. I couldn't move, couldn't breathe even without wheezing and spent months on antibiotics and puffing on an inhaler for the first time in my life. That summer I told myself I should quit and managed to not smoke through most of my illness. But cigarettes are sly and the odd one or two quickly became a full time habit again.
The following summer my bronchitis returned with a vengeance. Not only that, but when I was trying to clear my airways by breathing in menthol scented steam, I spilled boiling hot water all over my thighs, burning me so badly I still have the scars. I was at my lowest, lying in bed all summer with bandaged thighs and barely able to breathe and determined to quit the habit once and for all. I didn't want to just quit smoking either; I wanted to never be stuck in my bed due to ill health again.
I decided to eat better, exercise more and quit smoking as soon as I was recovered. I went through about three courses of antibiotics and finally felt better. I immediately took up jogging. Two years ago I could barely run a mile and struggled to get myself around the park near my house. Now I'm training for Paris Marathon 2014 and running my second Cardiff Half Marathon this October.
In quitting smoking and starting running at around the same time, I used jogging as a distraction from wanting a cigarette in the evenings. It worked and soon I found myself craving a jog, rather than a fag after work.
Annoying as it may sound to those who still smoke, now I find it very unpleasant to even be near smokers anymore. The smell has gone from comforting to disgusting and I don't think my lungs have ever fully recovered as passive smoking can often leave me in a coughing fit. I'm lucky to have quit right around the time smoking became illegal in pubs and clubs, saving me both from temptation and discomfort.
To smokers I say, don't let it get to the point I found myself at. Bronchitis is far from fun and lung cancer I imagine is a hell of a lot worse. Jogging can be a brilliant alternative and please believe me; you will eventually feel so much better for it.
Check out my marathon training tips for advice on how to keep motivated when first starting jogging.