I have touched upon the subject of smoking and fitness before, but since the weather has improved, for some reason the synergy between the two seems ever more apparent. One would normally assume that they are of polar sides of the health spectrum, so how can it be explained, then, that they seem to have a chemistry that sends nicotine sparks flying.
I have smoked cigs since I was 13. And although I am not a heavy smoker, there is nothing quite like sparking up a fag after a long run, with a heart-palpitating double espresso. It has been noted here before that after every marathon I have a ritualistic ciggie. But what has started happening recently, since the running outdoors has become a more viable option, is that craving to smoke starts during the training session, and not after. How wrong is that? Picture the scene. It’s early evening and the sun’s rays are flickering magically through the tree branches as one pegs it through the leafy streets of south east London. You’re breathing in the fresh (well, fresh-ish) summer air, sniffing in the smell of freshly cut grass, and then you turn a corner and boom! you hit Catford high street and people are chuffing on fags everywhere. The fresh lawn grass replaced by heavy wafts of spliff, bellowing out from every other street corner.
One would think that inhaling the stench of smoke would be revolting during a strenuous work-out. But not for me. As I run past the drunks outside Wetherspoons chuffing on their tabs with dribble on their chins I breathe in with joy. As I avoid clipping the old grannies loitering by the bus stops with their skinny Vogues hanging out of their gobs, I revel in the aroma with the same joi de vivre of walking into perfume spray. And then there are the teenagers hanging about in doorways and loitering aimlessly outside KFC whose wafting spliff stench makes the hairs on the back of my neck tingle with joy.
But, smoking on the run just simply isn’t done. Too sweaty, clumsy and no room to pack one’s fags. Best to hang tough until home time, with feet up and kettle on, maybe chucking in a bacon roll for good measure: a sight that would make Paula Radcliffe shudder. Forget ice baths, pass the rollies!