It is December 25, 2016. Which means two things.
1. It’s exactly three weeks until the Chevron Houston Marathon.
2. To quoth Noddy Holder… “IT’S CHHRRRIIIISSSSSSSTTTTMAAAASSSSSSSS.”
Both of those are good, exciting things, but their confluence on the same date does create an interesting dilemma.
How so? Well, here are the things that should happen three weeks before a marathon:
- A final long training run
- Healthy eating
- Not massively overindulging on unhealthy treats like, to pluck some random examples, chocolate, mince pies, ice cream and Christmas Pudding.
And here are some things that traditionally happen on Christmas Day:
- Not doing much exercise and lazing round the house with family
- Unhealthy eating
- Massively overindulging on unhealthy treats like, to pluck some quite specific examples, chocolate, mince pies, ice cream and Christmas Pudding.
How to make the two co-exist? Well, I’m sure the answer is different for everybody who’s going to be running the Houston Marathon – or any other big January run. For me, it’s been one of balance, of finding ways to enjoy Christmas without ruining my hard work and training.
So there has been mince pie consumption. And some Christmas Pudding, with ice cream. And chocolates. But, in every case, they have been relatively small portions. Honest. And there was a proper Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, but I did so without piling my plate so high I couldn’t see over the top of it.
There hasn’t been a long run – because I decided ahead of time to delay it until Boxing Day. But that doesn’t mean I’ve had a day off from running: a Christmas Day run has rapidly become one of my favourite Christmas traditions. If something I only started three years ago can actually count as a tradition.
Four years ago, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to go running on Christmas Day – or any other day of the year. But my surprising transformation from a slovenly, slightly fat 15-stone layabout to a spritely 10-stone, surprisingly swift runner changed that. In 2014, the first year I’d taken up running, a Christmas Day outing felt like a natural thing to do. And it fitted well into a late-morning slot – after the chaos of present opening, and before the turkey is pulled from the oven. And it felt great.
It was quiet on the roads, for one thing. And there were plenty of people out and about, walking dogs, running, visiting friends, or just enjoying the festive break. And everyone seemed way more cheerful than usual. That could be because I was running back in my small hometown of Clevedon in Somerset and not London – but I’m going to chalk it up to the festive spirit.
I enjoyed it so much it seemed natural to repeat my Christmas Day run last year, when I spent the holiday at a big family gathering with my brother in Texas. The vibe was just the same – even if the weather was somewhat warmer…
So I was definitely going to have a run on Christmas Day this year. But did I really want to spent 2+ hours doing a 17-miler marathon training run on Christmas Day itself? No. Definitely not. So I settled on a 12k-ish loop, taking in some of Clevedon’s tough hills and lovely Victorian seafront – which also meant battling a pretty bracing headwind.
Once again, it was a good, fun Christmas outing, one that eased the guilt when the Christmas Pudding was dished up later. And, by delaying my long run by 24 hours or so, any guilt from indulging in a few unhealthy treats was tempered by the knowledge I’ll make up for it on Boxing Day.
In short, with a bit of planning it seems it is possible to balance pre-marathon training and preparation with the overindulgence of Christmas.
Besides, even with the Christmas Pudding, I’m still in far better shape three weeks out from the Houston Marathon than I was at this point ahead of London, when I was only just back to running after a bad illness.
Although that reminds me of something else. Have you ever noticed how many people you see coughing and spluttering with colds at this time of year? Stay away…
Oh, everyone reading this had/is having a great Christmas!