In a Word (published Dec 2010)

santaI am writing this piece in a downtown café. Outside, folks pass by sporting shorts and flip-flops for what might be a final summer fling. It is a sunny 74 degrees. These carefree folk stroll and sip lattés under trees growing at city-planned intervals between streetlamps. In this block at least, the color of the trees’ abundant leaves range from the most verdant green to Yellow-Cab gold. Here is a picture that might be entitled—though not very cleverly–“Downtown, Late September Day.” Shabby working conditions, right?

I am mesmerized by the splendor of the scene. I nod off into a late-summer reverie. I am thinking that it’s almost time to start covering the tomatoes. I start wondering whether I’m in shape for the Fall Series and whether the Broncos will be good enough to make the playoffs this season. I stare into my page and think, So, why am I writing a Christmas piece for the Long Run? Then it comes back to me. It is the sixth of November. The tomatoes are off the vine. I’ve elected to let someone else win the Fall Series this year (kidding, Logan Wealing). And the Broncos are—well, the Broncos.

So what’s with all the leaves, the shorts and the flip-flops? They shouldn’t be here. But they are here, like they didn’t get the memo about packing it in for the year.

By the time you read this piece, it will be December. And who knows what the weather will look like (like October, I venture to guess). But tell me, doesn’t it feel like just yesterday it was summer? Without taking sides in the global warming scrum, I will pronounce that we’ve had more than our share of lingering summers in the past decade. And few, I venture, have lollygagged like the past summer.

Whether or not this spells doom for the ski industry, it makes the holidays feel like guests that–while always welcome–have rung our bells unfashionably early. If Christmas once had a way of creeping up on us, it now tip-toes through the sunflowers and takes us unawares in shirtsleeves sipping mojitos under tiki lamps. Those TV ads that boasted of “Christmas in July” were unconscious of their prescience. It’s all enough to make one feel—well, Australian (they have Christmas too, you know).

But this is good for our December running, right? Warmer days. Less snow and ice. Fewer potholes. According to the Global Warming Interactive Simulation, Colorado runners should be enjoying 7.58 more outdoor running days a year.* December running has never been better. Right? Think again. When nature herself acts confused, you can bet we’ll act confused. The fair weather will undoubtedly have tricked us into falling off our ordinary holiday schedules–way off. So what do our behindhand December schedules look like? In a word (and I mean the expression literally), they look like decoratinguletidingbakingcraftingshoppingwrapping or some equally condensed, frenetic and unspeakable variation on that theme. (And by the way, my spellchecker just blew a gasket.) It is worth noting that running is nowhere to be found among the “ings” of my Greek loanword. Furthermore it doesn’t look like you can squeeze running in no matter how economical your handwriting (or pace) is.

But running is a luxury, I hear the voice of Reason say. It can go on the back-burner for a month of—um, merriment.

And with the voice of Reason, I respectfully disagree. Like a massage, running is something we need most when we have the least time for it. In the right measure and executed at the proper pace, running will leave us more alert and energized for December’s challenges.

Like a teenager, I despise the word chore. It has negative connotations that reach far beyond drudgery and paltry–or in most cases, no–monetary reward. But sometimes there’s just no escaping the fact that we must do our chores. When I was a personal fitness trainer I used to–as a stop-gap measure–implore clients who were struggling with workouts to approach them as another one of the chores they wouldn’t think of shirking. The holiday season will come and go and we’ll still have taken out the trash, vacuumed the carpet, cleaned the car, gone to work, etc. We will have maintained our homes, cars and finances. Why not our physical–and mental–health? More than one wise person has held that our primary duty is to cultivate our minds and bodies, for these go with us everywhere, unlike our abodes and trappings, from which we often step away. And to my knowledge no wise person ever said a word about it being our primary duty to trim the tree and garnish the roast beast.

So for a month, why not make running a chore—if you can’t make more of it, that is? Better than a discarded luxury. And besides, the more calories one burns the more holiday calories one can consume without penalty. Take that, voice of reason! And if you’re wondering, the Holiday Goody to Fitness Event Conversion Table states that a single glass of eggnog is equivalent to the calories burned during an ultramarathon!

Now take a second look at that word decoRatingUletidiNgbakiNgcraftINGshoppingwrapping. It’s the same as before. But this time try to form the word running from its letters. You’ll see that running was in there the whole time. You just have to look at it differently. So what do you say we put the figgy pudding on the backburner and promote running to its proper place. Or at least put it on our chore lists.

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