I was still catching my breath from our fifteen-mile run last Sunday when someone commented on the ear buds dangling around my neck. They’re blue, with earpieces that are sort of elongated — not round like the ones Apple sends out with its iPods. I prefer them on account of they fall out less when I’m running.
“Where did you get them?” my fellow trainee wanted to know.
I thought for a minute, and then laughed at the irony: They were actually a gift of the Parliament cigarette company. I quit smoking back in October after ten years as a smoker and one long summer of fits and starts. [Full disclosure: I’ve actually fallen off the wagon a couple times since May, but these were momentary indiscretions and regrettable.] Parliament used to send me all kinds of crazy free gifts. Earbuds, cool cigarette cases, CD organizers. Once they sent these flashing blue electric LED lights shaped like ice cubes. I’ve never actually been to a party where I thought carrying a glowing blue beverage would up my cool factor, but they work really well for lighting a dark tent.
I always told myself that I’d quit smoking when it started affecting my ability to do the things I like to do. Which is pretty moronic, when you think about it, because how would I know? Not long after quitting, though, I found myself doing things with relative ease that used to be a lot tougher — things like biking all the way up Pattee Canyon and tasting my food. So training for the half-marathon seemed like the next logical step. Of course, it’s since become much more for me than just another non-smoking challenge — it’s the culmination of months of work, as well as something convivial, a kind of big aerobic street party celebrating a town that I love.
I do miss the periodic monthly surprises from my peeps at Parliament, though. Finding an unexpected, icy blue package in the mail every couple of months was always a nice surprise. To console myself, a short list of fun things I’ve acquired thanks to my marathon training:
* Sweet Run Wild Missoula shirt, upping the number of non-cotton articles of running-wear in my possession to two.
* Boxer briefs. As a lifelong boxers man, I’d never before shimmied myself into a pair of these bad boys until running-shorts season came around. It’s like having an Ace bandage wrapped around your crotch.
* Blisters. I’ve always said that it’s good to really toughen up your feet early in the summer — lay down that nice, thick layer of calluses. At this rate, I’m gearing up to walk across a bed of hot coals sometime this August.
Not a bad haul, all things considered, and I’ve still got a couple of weeks to go. Maybe next year, Run Wild Missoula will consider handing out ear buds.
- Brian Kevin