To Run Or Not To Run? The Question We All Ask On Christmas Day…

This week, our editors talk running on Christmas Day, gift giving for runners, and dressing up for a Santa race

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Welcome to The Running Conversation, a weekly chat between MH writers and editors about what’s happening in the running world. This week, senior news editor Jessy Carveth and editor Michael Doyle discuss hot takes on different Christmas and New Year’s Running traditions and gift giving for the runner in your life.

Michael: When it comes to Christmas and running, there seem to be two distinct camps: whether you’re a Christmas person or a Grinch [if you observe Christmas, of course].

I’m curious to know, are you a Christmas person? And if so, do you incorporate that Christmas vibe into your running, or do you keep them separate?

Jessy: I am definitely a Christmas person because, to begin with, it’s just a super fun time of year. I also love Christmas because it’s two weeks after my birthday, so for me, it’s the perfect amount of time to be in the spirit.

Whereas a lot of people start to think about Christmas in November, which I think is quite a long time, and for them it might get a little annoying.

So the two weeks are perfect.

I love Christmas movies, and I love getting together with family and all those traditions.

In terms of running during the holidays, I do like to incorporate a little Christmas in my runs.

One big tradition when I was running cross country during university was we always did a Christmas light run.

A Christmas light run is as it sounds: we would run around and just look at all these different crazy light sculptures and setups that some people would come up with in the community near the school.

We’d stop and take pictures of our favorites. We’d finish the run with some hot chocolate, debating over which house was the most wowing, and it was a really nice way to spend the final weeks of school before the stress of exams and then everyone going home.

So that’s probably my favorite way to incorporate some Christmas into my running.

To Run Or Not To Run? The Question We All Ask On Christmas Day... 1

Michael: So, I would reluctantly admit that I have become a Christmas person. I’ve come to enjoy the season, particularly living in Toronto, where it’s becoming very Christmasy.

It’s cold, and there’s a little bit of snow on the ground at this time of year, but we haven’t been buried by it yet. That comes in January, usually.

And I while I come off Grinchy at times, I do surreptitiously incorporate aspects of Christmas cheer in my running. I just don’t like others knowing about it.

And I am certainly not a person who’s going to be running around in a Santa hat, or anything like that.

There’s a street in Toronto called Inglewood, which is nicknamed Cringlewood because all of the residents of the street either own or rent those giant inflatable Santas, and the street, which is several hundred meters long, is lined with all these 20-foot giant Santas.

The word “surreal” is terribly abused, but it’s apt in this context. It’s the sort of image AI would conjure up if you entered “residential Christmas scene, as painted by Salvador Dali.”

"A residential street, lined with giant inflatable Santa Clauses on each front lawn, as painted by Salvador Dali." Photo: Dall-E

So, that’s something that I always try to make an effort to go out and run around and see.

I’ve also spent some time in Florida over the years at Christmas time, which is a very different experience because it’s quite hot, and it doesn’t feel terribly Christmasy.

But I think I’m going to incorporate the Christmas Light hunt run into my future runs because there are some neighborhoods, particularly in Florida and in other parts of the United States as well that go crazy with the Christmas lights.

The neighborhood becomes an attraction, and people flock to it to see the spectacle of all the lights.

So, I guess the verdict is we’re both Christmas people; we both try to incorporate running into our Christmas tradition and routine.

I think the real question, though, is, do you run on Christmas Day?

I know those who are trapped doing the run streak thing, or are obsessed with juicing their Strava numbers before the year ends will always find themselves out there on Christmas Day proper.

But training can also compel runners to disappear on the big day. I know people who are training for the Boston Marathon and have started their training.

Have you, or do you run on Christmas Day?

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U.S. Marine Corps Santa 5K. Photo: Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez

Jessy: So I used to not run on Christmas Day, especially when I lived back in Canada, and I was in university and high school.

I just wanted to go home to my family during that time, after exams. Our season had just wrapped up so it was a nice break.

So, I wouldn’t usually run.

But when I moved out to Spain, where I am now, my routine changed. I’m in Girona, a really athletic city renowned for being a cyclist, runner, and triathlete hub. Since I’m on my own and I don’t have family here, I’ve built my own community and traditions with my local friends.

So, we now all go out on Christmas Day for a run.

It’s nice because we’re creating our own tradition, as we’re all away from home. This community is like being part of a little family, and we’ve started running together.

So, although I do run on Christmas, one thing I will not do is dress up like Santa or an Elf, which some people love doing.

I know that there are organized Santa races or runs around the world. Some even attract thousands of people, all in the same Santa suit.

But I think that’s a little past the reach of where I want to take my Christmas spirit.

So, what about you?

Do you run on Christmas? And if you do run, are you dashing around dressed as Saint Nick, or a rather tall elf, perhaps?

Michael: So, thinking back, I’m fairly certain that I have run most Christmas Days, and I’ve certainly run on Christmas Eve.

I had a tradition going for many years with a few close running buddies, that we would get together in the afternoon on December 24th for a late afternoon run. The city is usually quite quiet. It’s crisp and cold outside, and instead of just grumbling about our usual running gossip, we tended to talk about our plans are for the week with our families, which was a nice change of pace from our usual deconstruction of the most recent local race.

In terms of the Santa suits and the Christmas-themed races. I am morally opposed to Christmas-themed races.

And the reason why is, like you, I think it’s just ridiculous.

I also think it’s gross.

The idea of signing up for a Santa 5K where you’re sent or you gather a suit before the start with your bib, you put on this grimy, ill-fitting polyester uniform, and then you sweat out a 5K in it and then hand it back into them is a disgusting thought to me. The physical feeling of running a 5K is already demoralizing enough for me. I need not also humiliate myself with a thoroughly chafed body, and spittle-covered fake beard.

It’s one of the truly sadistic ideas in a sport that is already all about self-imposed pain and discomfort.

And while I understand the whole Guinness World Record thing and how it brings quite a bit of attention to running, I find most of them kind of silly.

The world record in a Santa suit is 2:49:21, by a guy named Paul Fernandez who ran it in October of 2019.

Now, it sounds impressive, but I mean, that’s a lot of chafing.

But if you look at a picture of the Santa suit he wore, it’s a dubious performance. He’s got on this very svelte, athletic looking Santa outfit. It’s costume doping!

Photo: Paul Fernandez/Guiness World Records
Photo: Paul Fernandez/Guiness World Records

I would want to see someone in a baggy velvet robe, the ldrooping fur-lined hat, and a big curly beard crush a marathon. That would be hard. And what about the footwear? It has to be black boots. Santa doesn’t do Vaporflys.

This guy sort of took the “Kipchoge route,” and everything is very aero and athletic. I don’t blame him, but it’s not a true Santa suit run, in my opinion.

So, you could say I’m anti-Elf and anti-Santa race.

I have never done one, and I will never do one.

Now, in terms of a more palatable Christmas-themed race, I know here in Canada, there’s a very old race called the Boxing Day 10-Miler.

It’s been going on for like 100 years and that is a great tradition.

There are always the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day races, which I have also done, a kind of “hair of the dog” event.

They are always billed as a “fun run.” But they are often instead these quite tortorously quick 5K‘s, which I’ve done a few times. Why I’ve kept doing them is beyond me.

Have you ever done a New Year’s race or have you done a Boxing Day race or anything like that?

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Credit: Dow Scoggins/Beerinfo.com

Jessy: I’ve never done a Boxing Day race or a New Year’s Day race, but back when I was living in Canada, every year, me and 10 to 15 friends, depending on the year, would do a beer mile.

It was arguably our biggest race of the year in terms of bragging rights, and it would get brought up throughout the next 12 months who won the last beer mile.

Every lap, you have to down a whole beer before running the next lap, and you do that for four laps.

We had some fast guys do it. I don’t remember the fastest time, but there’s always a good competition each year and really solid performances. It’s a fun way to finish off the year with your friends.

So, I guess we’re both pro Boxing Day and New Year’s Day races, and anti Santa suit races. What are your thoughts on Christmas-themed running gear?

I’ve seen Grinch themed socks and runners wearing a Santa hat (minus the full suit).

What’s your stance on these more subtle touches?

Michael: I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a Santa hat running around at Christmas time.

However, I have to admit, as we have this conversation, I am preparing to go for a 60-minute run, and I did put on a pair of red socks.

So I know that I have Christmas Spirit. It’s just others don’t know.

And regarding the beer mile; the beer mile is, sadly, probably my strongest event. I discovered well after my university days that I’m fairly good at chugging beer. Not a terribly useful skill at this stage in my life, save for once or so a year I run a beer mile, usually in spring or summer. I’ve never thought of it as a Christmas season event.

In terms of gear, let’s pivot to gifts.

Have you ever given someone a running-related gift, or have you ever received a running-related gift? And is it even appropriate to give a loved one a running-themed gift?

The running gear gift could go either way: you could be seen as really knowing the person, or  the person might feel as though you’ve now assigned them a chore by giving them a fresh pair of trainers or a fancy new GPS watch.

It’s never good to feel beholden to a present. It’s like giving someone a puppy as a surprise. The worst gifts are the sort that connote a chore or responsibility, a job.

But have you ever given a running gift or received one? And if so, what?

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Jessy: So when I ran in university, our team always did a Secret Santa, and most people would give a running-related gift.

I’ve done that for a few years and I’ve gotten different things like sports nutrition or some of those running belts or just little things like that because we also put a price cap on it.

So, no one was getting any Alphafly’s or anything.

Beyong that, unless they’re a runner and I know them very well, I probably wouldn’t necessarily think of something running-related to get them first.

I also totally agree with you on the shoes because I feel like shoes are such a personal choice. You have your brand that you like and your model that you like.

And even if your loved one gets you that brand and model, it might not be the color that you like, or there might be a newer model or something else you want to try.

I think running shoes are just not something that other people should get for other people.

If you want to give me a gift card to go buy some running shoes. Awesome. I’ll happily take that.

But I’m someone who likes to pick out my own running shoes because I’m very specific about them and what model and color I want.

So with running-related gifts, I think certain pieces of gear in certain situations, like my secret Santa situation, it’s all right.

But running shoes, I think, are a little dodgy, we’ll say.

If you were to give or receive a running gift, what would be the ultimate Christmas gift for a runner, in your opinion?

To Run Or Not To Run? The Question We All Ask On Christmas Day... 5

Michael: Running shoes are a very personal choice, even when it comes right down to selecting the specific colorway.

However, it’s funny you say that because last Christmas I gave my wife running shoes.

She loves Nike Pegasus.

I found a very specific colorway that incorporated this palette that I knew that she would have.

And so I took a big risk, and I bought her the shoes, which she ended up loving. She was just getting back into training seriously again after a long break, so I was trying to encourage her. So I did, in fact, buy my wife a pair of running shoes just last year. 

And I think I’ll double down on my running shoe take here: the ultimate gift for a runner is a pair of super shoes.

They are a decadent expense, they are necessary if you’re going to run a big race, and they say to a runner “I know what this sport means to you.”

Beside perhaps the fanciest running watch (which can be overkill for many runners), a pair of super shoes are the running equivalent of a Rolex watch, a Louis Vuitton bag or Tiffany ring. They are ridiculous, when you take a step back and think about them. But they feel essential once you have a pair.

What about you? What would be your ultimate runner’s gift?

Jessy: I think it would have to be one of the high-tech recovery tools, like Normatec boots or a Theragun!

Michael: The gift that keeps on giving!

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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