Marathon to celebrate start of smoking ban

A smoking cessation counselor plans to run a full marathon on Tuesday.
Sunday, January 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:29 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Jim Linville and his friends are going to be laughing out loud Tuesday as they run, walk, skip and jump a giant lap around the city of Columbia.

Linville, a smoking cessation counselor and UM Health Care software support analyst, plans to celebrate the ban on smoking that takes effect in Columbia on Tuesday by running a full marathon — and the public is invited to join him. The 26.2-mile jaunt will begin at noon at Athena Night Club, at the corner of Hitt and Locust streets downtown. Registration begins at 11 a.m.

“At first it was just going to be me and my friends,” Linville said. “We were going to dress up and just have a good time, but now I have a feeling it’s going to be bigger. It may just be a happening thing.”

Linville, 50, started smoking when he was 8. When he was 20, he began trying just about anything to quit.

“Then I developed emphysema,” he said. “The fear of death was enough to push me to quit.”

Using a combination of nicotine patches and lozenges, he finally succeeded three years ago. Linville wanted to take part in a support group to help him quit, but there weren’t enough classes. So, after quitting on his own, he got involved in University Hospital’s Fit For Life program, which inspired him to become a cessation facilitator so he could hold his own classes.

Linville now hosts weekly meetings for anyone who wants to stop using tobacco. He said different methods work for different people, so the best way to quit is to keep trying different things and see what works best.

“Nicotine addiction is such a personal thing, it’s hard to say what is the best method for quitting,” he said.

Columbia’s new ordinance bans smoking in bars and restaurants. Linville says the ordinance will be a huge help to those who are trying to quit smoking because they won’t be exposed to as much second-hand smoke.

“Second-hand-smoke is a big trigger for people who are trying to quit but can’t,” he said. “It’s hard for them because then they end up just not going out to the bars and restaurants, and then they get frustrated from the cabin fever, and the frustration can cause them to start smoking again.”

Linville came up with the idea for a marathon a few days after the Columbia City Council approved the ban. He’s calling Tuesday’s event the Laughing Out Loud Marathon, a play on the Internet acronym “lol,” which for Linville stands for “love our lungs.”

“To most people, ‘lol’ means laughing out loud,” he said, “so that’s how I came up with the name.”

Linville said he wants it to be a fun event without the strict rules that usually govern marathons. There is no time limit, but participants must finish under their own power. Some people are planning to make a relay out of the event with multiple people starting at different locations.

Participants are encouraged to decorate their T-shirts and clothing for the run. Linville said he and a few friends plan to dress up in cigarette costumes and refer to themselves as “The Big Cigs.”

Mike Denehy, who helped Linville plan the marathon, said he will ride his tandem bicycle, offering people rides along the way. Denehy, owner of Graphic Illusions, helped Linville promote the event.

“It sounded like a cool event, different from a lot of the other marathons out there,” he said. “I think people will have a lot of fun with it.”

Linville said he partnered with Athena Night Club because of its support for the smoking ban and because it could provide music. He and Denehy hope a lot of people will join them Tuesday.

“The ban is a great thing,” Denehy said. “It shows that the city of Columbia is open-minded and that it cares about the health of its citizens.”

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