I used to love Christmas and the holiday season. Every year, I’d deck the halls, obsess over ornaments and bake piles upon piles of cookies. I’d scour the stores for the perfect present and play that ridiculous Mariah Carey song on a loop. Okay, fine, I’d sing that ridiculous Mariah Carey song on a loop, because the Christmas spirit does not care about minutiae like pitch or rhythm or a propensity to fill in the blanks with dah-dah-dah IS YOOOOOUUUUUUU!
But now? Ugh. Christmas. I’m over it before Target even starts setting up their Black Friday displays in August.
Christmas is great as a kid, but once you find out Santa isn’t real, it all goes downhill from there. As an adult, Christmas is a non-stop barrage of forced merriment: making the rounds at holiday parties with people you don’t particularly like; buying presents with money you don’t have; reading holiday letters that boast of “everything is awesome” when you know both spouses are having affairs with their dental hygienist; changing the radio station to death metal because for the love of Rudolph, why does everyone play that ridiculous Mariah Carey song?
Ugh. Christmas. Can we just fast-forward to New Year’s Eve? The only holiday when it’s acceptable to drink an entire case of 99-cent champagne. That’s more my speed.
If left to her own devices, my Inner Grinch would become all-consuming during the month of December. She’d tear down the tinsel and set fire to the neighbor’s inflatable snowman (my Inner Grinch really hates inflatable yard ornaments for some reason). She’d still eat the cookies, though, because even Grinches crave baked goods after a 15-miler in the snow.
But last Christmas, I discovered the trick to canceling out my Inner Grinch. My husband, fed up with my—er, we’ll call it “pleasant disposition”—kicked me out of the house.
“Go for a run,” he said, hoping a few miles would burn off my bad attitude. So I did. On my way home, I gave a Picky Bar to a homeless girl while stopped at a crosswalk. It wasn’t an intentional act of charity—if anything, I wanted to assuage my own guilt for ignoring her and her mother at what felt like the world’s longest red light.
But her reaction was so joyful, so grateful, it took me by surprise. It was just a nutrition bar – I had dozens more at home – and yet for this girl, it was a rare treat. After years of scouring stores for so-called “perfect” Christmas presents in stores, I had stumbled onto it without realizing it. I went home, loaded up a backpack, and set about running around town to distribute more Picky Bars, warm socks, and Christmas cheer. Take that, Inner Grinch!
After writing about my experience in a column, “Making Merry On The Run,” it’s become a thing with runners. It’s been kind of cool to see this small, but growing movement of giving take place in our endurance community. For most people, running is a selfish act, one done in the pursuit of an individual goal or, in some cases, the avoidance of a personal displeasure (I’m convinced 90 percent of the miles run in December are to get a break from visiting family members). But what if we could all use running as a vehicle to bring joy to others?
That’s my challenge to you this Christmas—skip the metrics and find the merry instead. Use your run workout to make the world a better place. This whole thing started with a Picky Bar, so it’s kind of cool to announce that this month I’ll be giving away prizes from Picky Bars for those of you who are making merry on the run. The crew at Picky Bars is all about good deeds—just last week, they donated more than 9,000 bars to a food bank!
For a chance to win a groovy prize from Picky Bars, share with us how you are making merry on the run—take a picture, shoot a quick video, or write a tweet or Facebook post. Share it with Competitor on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram using the hashtag #runmerry. We’ll randomly choose and notify winners via social media on Dec. 31. That’s right—if you do good, you’ll get good.
There are many ways to spread the holiday spirit during your run:
- Carry a bag of small, lightweight supplies and distribute supplies to the homeless along your route. Especially needed items are socks, gloves, chapstick and food items like beef jerky or nutrition bars.
- Wear an ice scraper mitt and clear the windshields of your neighbors’ cars before they wake up and head to work.
- Volunteer to take the dogs at your local animal shelter for runs.
- Take a garbage bag on your run and pick up trash along your favorite trail.
- A-carolin’ you go. Collect a group of runners to jog from home to home, singing Christmas carols.
- If you see a charity bell-ringer along your route, make a detour to a nearby coffee shop or convenience station to deliver him or her a hot chocolate.
- Donate the medal from your holiday fun run to a charity like Medals4Mettle.
- Mentor a new runner. Run at their pace. Offer support and encouragement.
- Run in a busy park, dressed in a festive costume (Santa is always a surefire winner). Offer high-fives to any runner who crosses your path.
- Donate blood. Too many runners avoid this during the regular season for fear of performance impacts, but if you’re eating ten pounds of Christmas cookies a day, you’re probably not worried about setting a PR this month.
Go forth and be merry, my friends. Tis’ the season.
About the author
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). She lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: a labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. Lacke claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke