Calling All Debtors

If Gjonbalaj's allegations are true, it'd be nice to see her get a little justice. Still, this battered cylinder has to wonder whether it's ever wise to buy an automobile named after a chili pepper.

Stogies Find SoFla Sponsor

Speaking of dubious automobiles, years of exhaust and neglect have left this car part rusty and out of shape. So, eager to reclaim the endurance of its youth, 'Pipe did a quick Internet search for local marathons, which revealed that the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon are coming up at the end of January. Perfect timing to start a standard, four-month marathon-training program.

Runnin' on stogie power
Runnin' on stogie power

Looking for some company to run with, this cylinder then stumbled on the Samford Stogies, a social running club with a peculiar strategy. For three years, Stogies members have been running relay marathons, mostly in Alabama, with lit cigars in their mouths.

'Pipe loves to smoke, so more investigation was in order.

It seems the club, now comprising about 40 members, formed in 2005 at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, after a joke went serious. Keith Ward, Patrick Crandall, Colin Camacho, Josh Gates, and Drew Roberts were sitting around discussing an upcoming marathon they planned to run as a relay team. They needed a team name. Samford would be part of it. They were also sort of old, out-of-shape, cigar-smoking types. Samford Stogies it was. And while they were at it, why not run while smoking cigars? "My friends like to do things over the top," explained Roberts, an insurance agent now living in Orlando.

Roberts created a website for the Stogies (, and a month later he got a call from the director of the Mercedes Marathon, who had seen the site and thought it could herald a kind of phenomenon. Roberts expanded the site. A month after that, he met Dylan Austin, marketing assistant for Camacho Cigars in Miami.

"Do you have a sponsor?" Austin asked.

"Of course we don't have a sponsor," Roberts replied.

Since then, Camacho has provided jerseys and cigars for the Stogies, who have done pretty well, considering. Apparently, running with a cigar can dry your mouth out quickly, but the enthusiastic response from fellow runners and marathon supporters has been a real boost. In the 2007 Mercedes Marathon, in which six Stogie relay teams competed, the women's team finished first in their division. The Stogies have received attention from Alabama newspapers and TV, and interested runners have called from all over the country. Now the Stogies are hoping to expand their operation, and they're looking to eventually run a marathon down here, near their Miami sponsor. Until then, 'Pipe might just cruise the Internet some more. He's already found, where a Samford Stogie named Harper broadcasts himself counting out loud to a million, an effort expected to take three months. (At last count, he was "approximately" on 696,018, according to the site.) Shockingly, Harper does not have a sponsor — yet.

­— As told to Bob Norman

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