The pressure of the training plan can overwhelm. There, in stark black and white is the schedule of running you’re supposed to be embarking on, and along comes Christmas. Almost guaranteed to get in the way of even the most dedicated trainers, the holiday promises much excess but not necessarily an excess of running. Followed closely by New Year, these holidays are often a long awaited for break from what always seems to be the end of an incredibly long year. For those with kids it marks the end of the first term of schooling frazzling kids minds and bodies long before the nativities and Christmas plays are a long forgotten poorly filmed video mainly featuring the back of the head of another parent poorly filming their child and the back of the head of another…..you get the idea.
Often we enter the Christmas break with the best of intentions, “oh I’ll get out Boxing Day” or “the day after that”. This then changes to the next day which then transforms quickly to “after the new year”. And then even in the New Year, where we are now, it can be hard to drag ourselves out and I’ve written about just getting out the door before – here
So the question that then arises is why do we run?
What’s the driver if we get waylaid so easily, sucked into the Christmas excesses, to emerge the other side less able to fulfil the obligations we’ve set ourselves.
Having run a couple of times during the Christmas break and today I’ve been drawn to how it has generated such a positive state of mind, often from the most unexpected run, or outcome of it. This positive state of mind is something I have found I struggle with during the festive season. I find Christmas and, especially, New Year particularly challenging for my state of mind.
I’m not sure why this is and have tried to think it through to examine its why and how, so that I can identify a solution, a way around those feelings, but have always hit a barrier on this. I’ve never quite worked it through.
However, what I’ve come to appreciate over that time is that running has always helped. Now there is plenty of evidence about why this occurs with noted outcomes in reduced levels of anxiety and depression, and less ‘bad days’ also being reported see here and here.
Yet it is also about identifying its own purpose for you and focusing on that as a reason enough to get out the door. Therefore, it’s not about the fact its telling you to run on your training plan, it should be much more about how it benefits your overall wellbeing, and the knowledge that in building this up over time you will get the improvements in your own running – a great virtuous circle to get wrapped up in.
Yet it also offers other unexpected benefits, sometimes the simplest thing can just bring about unexpected fun and laughter or the mild distraction of the occasional, impromptu star spotting.
So, in a run just two days before Christmas as I pushed on through the local woods I was able to see a long way ahead of me. There emerging from the blurry distance was a figure, white bearded, red hatted, but dressed entirely in sports casual wear. Grey sweatshirt, grey tracksuit bottoms, beard, white and hat, red. He appeared to be dressed ready for Christmas Eve duties, Santa out for a Sunday morning constitutional, some well-earned down time before the mayhem of Christmas deliveries, perhaps?
There on a woodland footpath in North London. Reindeer nowhere to be seen, but Santa’s form looked fine, though an upgrade on the sports casual wear maybe warranted – perhaps what Santa wants for Christmas.
Was I the only one to see this?
Another moment arrived as I trotted on further uphill. There I rumbled on past a typical morning, shorts-wearing chap toting the Sunday morning breakfast stuff. He looked vaguely familiar, it was a few metres further on that the name struck.
In a further surreal turn, the star quota for the day was topped off when I spied, Miriam Margoles indulging in a bit of retail therapy in another part of town.
However, the best came today as I reached the final kilometres of the long run. My younger, Celtic running partner and I ran past a woman of, it’s fair to say, advanced years. Now normally this wouldn’t warrant a particular mention, but her actions altered that. As we passed, she chirped up ‘Nice Legs!’
I like to think that given my colleague was first past her, that he has to take the accolade, whilst he claimed that the exclamation came as I strode past.
Yet it’s clear that in this transaction there were no losers. Happiness seemed shared amongst all parties. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander I’m told. Though perhaps being eye candy for the elderly isn’t necessarily a priority in this running lark.