I Ran a 10K as a Heavy Smoker. Here Is How I Did It
What you don’t think possible actually is.
This short sentence sums up what I learned in the past year.
A year ago, I took my first run towards the goal of running a 10K before turning 30. I ran 3 kilometers and couldn’t walk for the next 2 days.
Recently, I ran 10.04 km and ran again two days later. When I started, I saw this goal as another one of those goals we set but never accomplish. In the end, I did it two months before the deadline.
10K feels like nothing to many people. For me, it was a beast to tackle. Something my younger self wouldn’t believe I did if I were to tell him.
Why? Well, there are two reasons.
First, I grew up in a house always filled with pipe and cigarette smoke. Then I started smoking about 10 years ago, and have been a heavy smoker for 5 years. Nowadays, I got through at least 5 packs a week, on a low week. I’ll let you guess how incredible my breath is.
Second, I grew up with a muscle deficiency located on my legs. Myasthenia, as it’s called, makes the muscles touched weaker and lowers their stamina. As a child, I had to go through physical therapy to learn how to run because I still couldn’t run at 7 years old. Until high school, I was always in the girls’ group in PE class because I couldn’t follow the boys’ one.
This is to show that if I can do it, anybody can.
This isn’t just my story. This is the story of the muggles we all are. I’m no Superman, I’m “Super-standard”.
On this journey, I noticed 4 reasons I was able to meet my goal. Here they are.
Curiosity is too often overlooked as a reason for improvement, despite its central aspect in all the successes we’ve had in our lives.
We learned to walk and talk because we were curious. We played games because we were curious. We got a raise in our job because we were curious and thus stood out. We discovered what we liked because of curiosity. Nothing positive ever happened without curiosity implicated.
I did all my runs in my neighborhood this past year, but only a few followed the same path. On every run, I tried to discover something new, to find a hidden gem.
And there were so many! I found a small park, at least 4 temples, a bamboo grove, rice fields much closer to home than I thought, and countless magnificent buildings.
After a while, running wasn’t just about running. It was about finding what’s around the next corner. Finding what’s behind that hill. Finding what’s the scenery like from that bridge.
Curiosity always made me forget the pain appearing in my legs and kept me running for a while longer.
The other day, I was trying to beat my record of 7.5km but I wasn’t thinking of going all the way to 10km. I just ended up lost far from home after going around a hill. When I reached 9.2km, I got curious about whether I could keep running for a few extra hundred meters.
Curiosity is what makes the world go round. It’s how people innovate. It’s how people learn. It’s what makes life interesting.
Be curious and you’ll accomplish a lot more.
We all know how much impact consistency can have. We’ve heard it so many times we unconsciously consider people over-hype it. They don’t.
In the past year, I ran 85 times. Between February and now, I ran 78 times. In-between I did daily push-ups and crunches to get used to sweating. As the months passed, I ran more and more.
At first, running 1km was the minimum goal. The goal increased to 2km, then 2.5km. Once in a while, I tried to push myself farther, go around a new block. The focus was always on taking regular runs, not running farther.
In the end, what made the difference was that my legs had taken to the habit of running. I could forget about everything and focus on the nice scenery around. All I had to do was to start. The consistency took care of the rest.
This is something I had already experienced with the many languages I’ve studied until now. Once the habit of studying was set, all I had to do was show up and the habit of studying would take care of the rest.
Show up often. The rest will take care of itself.
Set a Clear Goal
Would you consider a goal like “run as much as I can as quickly as possible” easy? Would it even register as a goal?
This is too vague to help you push through your limits. What “as much as I can” even mean? Is it until I break a sweat? Is it until I can’t stand?
My goal was simple: Run 10km within a year. Easy to calculate with the use of any app. No need to worry about speed or time, I just had to focus on endurance.
With a well-set and easy to calculate goal, you can focus on one single criterion. No need to worry about the rest.
It also makes it easier to push yourself.
If I had decided to run 10km under an hour, then I would have had to push myself harder at the end yesterday, even though I was already dripping enough sweat to fill a pool. Instead, I was able to slow down a bit, concentrating on the buildings passing by and my house getting closer.
Make your goals easy to calculate, focus on one task, and forget the rest.
We’re so focused on the “how” we forget “when” is just as important.
Daniel H. Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, wrote about the power of endings. Almost half of first-time marathoners are in the last year of their decade. Why? Because we all want to accomplish something before the “end”.
Pink talks a lot about what he calls 9-enders, people in the last year of their decade, but this can apply to all sorts of endings. It could be by the end of the year, of a contract, of an evening, of a month, or even of your time in a country.
How To Finish a Decade Satisfied: The Magic Of 9-Enders
Why you should use your age as a trigger for good.
In my case, I am leaving Japan, after 5 years in the country, in one month and turning 30 in one month and a half. As a result, I had a combination of two important endings, thus increasing my motivation.
We’ve all experienced this surge of motivation before. The most common happens on the night before an exam. We can suddenly study for hours on end even though we couldn’t concentrate for more than 20 minutes a week before.
Look for the endings in your life. If none seems strong enough ask someone to give you a deadline and make it a real challenge. Agree to pay a small fee if you don’t meet it and you’ll be even more accountable, thus raising the probability of meeting your goal. You can even do it on platforms like StickK, GoFuckingDoIt, or Beeminder.
I’m a heavy smoker but I’m now a runner too. I’m still far from being able to accomplish a marathon but I’m still 10 kilometers closer.
It’s only a matter of time before I can do it. As long as I sharpen my strongest weapon, curiosity, I’ll do it one day.
If I was able to run a 10K as a heavy smoker and someone who had to take lessons to learn to run, then you can too.
Accomplishing something you never thought possible in the first place is one of the best feelings possible. It changes your way of thinking.
Everything that seemed out of reach isn’t anymore.
You realize the potential you hold. You discover your strength, both physical and mental. Your eyes open to a whole new world. A world full of opportunities.
Run, Forrest, run. You can do it too.
All you need is curiosity. That’s it.