My pet peeve about runners—yes, I’m looking straight into a mirror as I write this—is that we have a tendency to take ourselves a bit too seriously. This may be out of necessity, as it’s hard to get out of bed in the darkness and speed around the neighborhood on foot every morning if you don’t have faith that you’re doing something really worthwhile. Maybe even a touch noble.
The perfect antidote to self-seriousness, I’ve found, is getting smoked by a high-school cross-country runner who’s wearing a paper pilgrim hat. Holiday fun runs range from goofy Turkey Trots to inebriated New Year’s Eve races and the ridiculously hot events held on the Fourth of July. Nobody has ever qualified for the Boston Marathon or made the U.S. Olympic Trials based on a result from a race that offers a honeyed ham as the grand prize. That’s the beauty of these things.
Personally, I’m not a big costume guy. Sometimes I picture myself wearing antlers, a flashing red-and-green bowtie or some other whimsical accessory, but somehow a “Bah, humbug!” erupts in my brain and stops me. Plus, where do you even find those kinds of kitsch? Beats me, but I really do enjoy the goofy, creative and occasionally far-too-revealing costumes that the true revelers wear.
There are other reasons to celebrate fun runs. It’s good to see friends and neighbors shuffling toward a start line, rosy cheeked and brushing snow from each other’s jackets. Several times at local races I’ve had occasion to exclaim things like, “Carl’s lousy at keeping up his yard but he’s got a dynamite finishing kick.” Good finishes make good neighbors, and they give you something to talk about months later at a block party.
Then there’s your family. Holidays often bring an uncomfortable amount of indoor time, fussing about with inane projects like stringing lights on perfectly nice-looking trees or creating wreaths from dead plants. A holiday race can get everyone out of the house for some much-needed exercise and fresh air. Sure, Uncle Ralph may overcook his 5K effort and spend the rest of the holiday sporting a limp, but everyone will laud him heartily and look the other way if he hits the eggnog too hard.
There’s plenty of time during the rest of the year to build ambitious training schedules, ramp up the miles and try to nail the big race you’ve been targeting. Don’t make that mistake with your holiday fun run. Get out there and chase that kid in the damn pilgrim hat. This year he’s toast!
Contributing editor Mark Eller placed 13th out of 14 runners in a Thanksgiving 5K his wife organized in their neighborhood last year.
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