The fall marathon season is coming to a close and the holiday season is upon us, which means, no matter if we’re still glowing from running a race or just enjoying the change of season, we’ll all be facing a shift in energies over the next few weeks.
With a sincere wish that the holiday season is warm and bright for you and your family members, here are five ways to approach the season as a runner.
1. Give Back
The holiday time is a great time to donate money, volunteer time or pass along running gear you no longer use. You can find opportunities in your local community for each of those or you can pick a national or global organization you believe in (like Wings of America or Shoes for Africa). For me, I’ll be donating a lot of pre-worn running shoes to One World Running, which delivers them to schools, running groups and non-profit organizations domestically and internationally. I will also be donating to a GoFundMe account aimed at offsetting the medical bills of the family of runner Aaron Kuen. A committed age-group runner, husband, father, veteran and respected accountant, Kuen was on his way to a personal best time in the California International Marathon last December, when he collapsed from a freak medical incident brought on by rhabdomyolysis and has been rehabilitating a brain injury ever since. He’s made great progress, but it’s been a difficult and expensive process for his wife and three young daughters.
2. Run a Turkey Trot
Believe it or not, Thanksgiving Day is the biggest running day of the year in the U.S. and it’s solely because of the quirky (but popular) concept of running turkey trot races. Why are turkey trots so quirky? They’re an odd mix of timing, a random collection of runners and non-runners and an integral part of a day filled with so many other big events. No one is peaking their training for a turkey trot, it’s just a random bout of jogging just for fun. However, a different level of competitiveness seems to emerge as family members challenge each other before the day begins a lethargic spiral into football and feasting.
3. Get Re-energized for 2024
If you’ve been running all year and chasing race goals for several months, now is a good time to back off a bit and give yourself some grace to relax and rest. I always find this time of the year the best time to start fine-tuning my running goals for the coming year. If you can carve out even an hour to earnestly think about what you’re inspired to do next year—specific races, running-related travel destinations, your first or next trail race—you can start to calmly put it in motion. (I’m planning to run the Bolder Boulder 10K, and I just signed up to run the 2024 Los Angeles Marathon, which is exactly four months from today.) But if you wait until late December or early January, there’s a good chance you’ll get caught up in the false hopes and the reactionary race registration spree tied to the “New Year, New You” drivel that will be strewn across magazine covers and your social media feed. (Want to legitimately kick start your running for next year? Consider engaging in a streak of running 5K every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.)
4. Find Crazy Shoe Deals
As much as there are a lot of great shoes about to be released for 2024, now is the time to gobble up your favorite shoes of 2023 at a discount. (You can probably even find some remaining 2022 models, if you can find your size.) I’m talking about both typical end-of-season discounts aimed at clearing out this year’s models to make room for the new ones, as well as super-discounted Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals. While I always suggest you shop at your local running store, Running Warehouse has started its Black Friday Week sale, and I just spied a pair of Saucony Peregrine 12 trail running shoes for $77.
5. Remember Your ‘Why’
We all run for different reasons, but sometimes we get carried away, right? Sometimes we ask too much of running, thinking it’s going to make us super fit, hyper lean or exceptionally fast. It's easy to get caught up in what we see on social media, and occasionally we get carried away with our individual racing goals—me included! But I know running is at the bedrock of who I am. I run for my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being because nothing else is as helpful keeping me balanced in each of those areas.
This time of year, I go out of my way to take down the pressure and expectations and make it a point to enjoy low-key 30- to 60-minute runs without any objectives. It allows me a moment to immerse in gratitude, not only for running but for all that I have experienced and endured during the previous year. If I run slow, it’s no big deal. If I skip a day or two, that’s OK. It’s not that I need to reset my “why”—I’ve always known exactly why I run five to six days every week—but it’s a good opportunity to really appreciate it and embrace it without distractions while preparing for the new year on the horizon.