Run Rudolf Run: Holiday Running Traditions

The Trail Sisters contemplate their respective holiday running traditions.

By on November 23, 2016 | Comments

The end of the year brings with it a bevy of holidays. For most of us, holidays are connected with deep traditions. So it would make sense that we as runners would also have running rituals that we associate with different holidays. Here are some of the things the three of us do to incorporate a little seasonal flair into our running routine.

From Pam:
My kids like to refer to the end of the year as the “HallowThanksMas” season which means we cycle nonstop through ghosts and goblins, turkeys and pilgrims, and Santa and reindeer. But truth be told, I was a big Halloween fan way before kids and have always loved the opportunity to don a costume. Running has given me one more reason to get creative with my ensemble. The Autumn Leaves 50k/50 Mile is a local ultra on the last weekend in October which encourages costumes. It has been a staple on my racing calendar and I am proud to report that I am a five-time costume contest winner!

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Pam Smith’s costume fever! Images courtesy of Pam Smith.

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without running what the locals have dubbed “a preemptive calorie strike.” Some years this has meant a casual run with friends, but on a couple occasions I have convinced the whole family to get out for 5k. It always feels good to get some exercise in before stuffing ourselves silly and the run reminds me of so many things I have to be thankful for.

Christmas has a lot more hustle and bustle on the day than Thanksgiving, and if I do get in a run at all, it is usually just a hurried few miles between breakfast and dinner preparations. But in the days leading up to the holidays, our core of Tuesday/Thursday runners have made a few of our 5 a.m. dark and dreary runs a little more merry by toting backpacks of goodies around town and “elfing” the porches of our friends who are still sound asleep. And my Monday track group annually does “The 12 Days of Christmas” workout the week of the holiday.

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Pam Smith’s “12 Days of Christmas” workout.

I have never made a big effort to run on New Year’s Day. Sometimes an interesting opportunity comes up, like a race or an invitation to run with friends, but just as often it is a day off for me. These days, midnight is such a rare sighting for me that even a sober late night is enough to leave me feeling a bit hungover, and adding alcohol just makes it worse. I am happy to spend the day lounging in pajamas and relaxing with family. Any New Year’s resolutions and training plans that I have for the year can start on January 2!

From Gina:
Holiday exercise traditions. I have to say that I don’t have many, but the one thing I try to do, if it can even be considered a tradition, is to simply just get in a run. Holidays are meant to be spent with family and friends, so I make social engagements my first priority. I believe family and friends are the key to helping us develop feelings and emotions, thus really experiencing the fabric of life.

I’ll start with Thanksgiving Eve. Where I grew up, in Bangor, Pennsylvania, Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest party night of the year. To be honest, I have no idea why… but it is. The night involves meeting up with your best friends, drinking multiple cocktails, and dancing excessively (with the crazy thought that dancing will burn off all the cocktail calories). As you can imagine, the next morning isn’t easy to greet, but hungover or not, I had the local turkey trot to hold me accountable for getting in my run.

Since moving to Boulder, Colorado a few years ago, my turkey trot has morphed into a Bear Peak summit run via Fern Canyon. My good friend Krissy Moehl and I were both a “long way from home” in terms of attending a family party, so with extra time and no place to go, we decided to upgrade the traditional turkey-trot run.

Christmas time is always spent back in Pennsylvania with my family and friends. 99% of these people do not run, but they sure know how to celebrate. Since I never have anyone to run with, I’d always dread the days after a night out on the town with friends. I was already unmotivated, and the struggle-bus hangover wasn’t helping. At some point, I finally came up with a little plan to force me into running the day after a crazy evening. I’d drive to wherever our hangout destination would be, and then go home with one of my sober friends. This little maneuver would force me to run to pick up my car the next morning. It isn’t always pretty, but it works!

I spend the majority of my life planning runs and fitting everything else in between. But when it comes to the holidays, running takes the backseat. Running is a very important part of who I am and what I do, but it isn’t everything. I’m already looking forward to this year’s holiday shenanigans, and can only imagine where I’ll be running to pick up my car.

From Liza:
This year will be my family’s first turkey trot. I’m not sure exactly where we’ll be dragging our children to trot Thanksgiving morning, but we will be trotting somewhere because my vegan in-laws just let me know they’re not coming to dinner as planned. I was all set to make various stuffed vegetables and an Herbivore Holiday “Roast” (along with a tiny turkey to make the house smell right), but they changed their minds yesterday. They’d driven from Houston to watch my kids for two days while Eliot and I attended conferences. (Eliot took his students to the Texas Conference for Women. He heard Amal Clooney speak about important things and brought home some nice facial cleanser.) Anyway, either the six-hour round trip, or our awful children, or our tiny, dusty house was too much for them because they told us they’d decided not to come back for Thanksgiving. I’d be hurt if my thoughts weren’t consumed with turkey-trot plans. Since this is the first year of our tradition, I’d love advice from all you veteran trotters. Do you garnish the running with anything? Turkey hats? Pilgrim shoes? Carrying cans of jellied cranberry sauce? Should I dress my three year old up like a turkey?

December and January are actually our best running months in south Texas. It’s not too hot and not too cold, and our clothes aren’t soaked with sweat. We forget our summer plans to do whatever it takes to get the heck out of Texas and move to the mountains. And two of our biggest and best races, the Bandera 100k and Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile take place in January and February, so I’m usually training through the holidays. That’s good because every night of Christmas week seems to start with this:

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The Annual Née Marcello Antipasto Platter Competition. Photo: Eliot Howard

I’ve never managed to get the family to agree to a jingle-bell run, but if the turkey trot goes well, I’m definitely going to find an elf costume, attach bells to the kids, put a Santa hat on Eliot, and get that tradition going too.

And I’ll be out running early on New Year’s Day. That’s been my habit since I enjoyed a mid-course correction in life about 15 years ago. Sometimes I’ll mull over my resolutions while I run. And sometimes I’ll nurse a hangover. But I always count the runners wearing brand-new running outfits and shoes who look like they’re completing Day 1 of their New Year’s resolutions (2016: eight nattily attired runners). I’m always overcome with happiness before I finish a New Year’s Day run, grateful to be outside and moving for another year. And that’s how I need to start 2017.

Call for Comments (from the Trail Sisters)

  • What are your holiday traditions?
  • Are there particular running events associated with Islamic holidays? Hanukkah? Any Diwali running events?
  • Do you set early season goals for yourself to ensure you run through the holidays?
  • What’s hardest for you about running or training during the holidays?
  • Any advice for others or ways to involve your family?
Trail Sisters
Trail Sisters is a group of three women, each with unique opinions, ideas, and attitudes toward all things trail and ultrarunning. Pam Smith is a mom, physician, and lover of running who lives in Oregon. Liza Howard is a mom and 100-mile specialist from Texas. Gina Lucrezi is a Colorado-based short-distance speedster exploring the realms of ultrarunning.