The Legend of Marlboro Marc

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Today I was finishing up my hill sprints when I noticed a man standing on the other side of the street watching me. He was smoking a cigarette. I chatted with him for a minute or so about sprinting versus jogging. Even though he was a smoker, he liked the idea of sprinting uphill and said he was interested in trying it out for himself. As I walked back home, I instantly thought about my old roommate Marc and one of my favorite running stories.

I searched the archives of this blog and to my surprise, I’ve never told this story.

The year was 1995 and I was living in St. Petersburg, Florida. I met my roommate Marc back in Columbus when we both were delivering pizzas as Ohio State students. When I arrived in Florida, I kept delivering pizzas and after I made a delivery to baseball legend Dwight Gooden, I sent my old Columbus delivery unit a copy of the order ticket. Marc had graduated already and decided I had the right idea so he left Ohio and became my roommate in St. Pete.

Like me, Marc was also a runner. In college, he quit smoking and ran a marathon. What I didn’t realize by the time he arrived in Florida was that he had started smoking again. He was cool about it and only smoked outside. In fact, he was probably the best roommate I’ve ever had. The apartment was usually spotless.

Smoke by Ferran

Anyway, I had moved to Florida so I could make the transition from marathon running to triathlons. The topic of running or biking was often being discussed. Marc was also interested and took up running again, but he didn’t stop smoking. Despite conventional wisdom, he was discovering that he could do both. Every week he would run more, but he was still a smoker.

Then Marc decided to mix his two hobbies. He would run and smoke at the same time. And this wasn’t a cold Ohio morning, this was during the mid afternoon heat in South Florida. He would jog and smoke through South St. Pete while getting incredulous looks from neighbors. During one run, Marc came up with a brilliant idea. He would run an entire marathon chain smoking cigarettes.

To make it worth his effort he would seek out sponsorship. After working up to smoke running a full 10K (not a race course, just training), he contacted both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. He made an offer that if they sponsored him, he would run a full marathon smoking their product. Philip Morris rejected his offer outright, but he made it up to the Vice President level with RJR before they turned him down. They loved the idea, but this was during the height of the tobacco lawsuits. They didn’t want to take the risk.

I really believe that had Marc came up with this idea just two or three years earlier, he would have been backed. People would have remembered the stunt and his name would have been on the back of a Trivial Pursuit card. Last year I found Marc on Facebook. He moved to the other side of Florida and has been smoke free now for 6 years. I didn’t ask if he still runs.

My second favorite story about Marc involved the 1995 St. Anthony’s Triathlon. It was an Olympic distance event and Ironman qualifier that I completed. Marc noticed there was a second event that weekend called The Meek and Mighty Triathlon. It was really supposed to be for kids. However, there was a line in description that allowed for “novice adults”. Nobody else noticed that, including a few race coordinators until he pointed it out. He and one of his friends signed up for that event. They towered over their child competitors and when the event started, they destroyed them and won the awards. I wish I could have seen that event. I wonder if he was smoking at the start line. 🙂

9 thoughts on “The Legend of Marlboro Marc

  1. @James – I loved the photo of the smoking cyclists.

    @Becca – Perhaps the blogosphere needs a female version of “exercising while intoxicated”? 🙂

  2. Glenn Whitney

    Love it – very amusing. In the old days many of the great soccer players would have a cigarette at half-time, including Johan Cruyff.

  3. Jim

    Glenn and MAS,
    I was looking at the amusing site I posted a link to above, and it has a post about great athletes who smoked. I think it drives home the point that there is a big difference between being a great athlete, and in being fit and healthy in the way average folks might strive for. We tend to conflate the two in our minds, however. An objectively unhealthy, chain smoking athlete might be able to throw a 100 MPH fastball, while an objectively healthy non-athlete might not be able to hit 60 MPH on the radar gun. I guess we should pick our role models wisely (which goes back to an earlier post by MAS).

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