Christmas Day may be a time for watching old films, snapping crackers, day drinking and spending time with your nearest and dearest, but for many runners, it’s also the best time of theyear to lace up and get out.
When Christmas Day finally dawns, what does your morning entail? Perhaps you wake up, reach out an arm and find a bucks fizz ready and waiting. Maybe it’s a box of paracetamol that you first seek out. For us runners, however, it’s usually a case of having a coffee and heading out to a Christmas Day parkrun or our own joyous route.
Christmas Day running is a tradition for so many people – both regular runners and those who, like going to mass, drop in and out on very special occasions. In my family, we run all year round except Christmas Day, which is sacrosanct. But last year, for the first time, I was away from my family home and found myself heading out for a half marathon cycle around the city, followed on Boxing Day with a 16km run along the same route.
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The roads were wonderfully quiet, with walkers, runners and cyclists taking over usually-congested routes. Jogging strangers yelled ‘Merry Christmas’ to each other (which, in London, is bonkers). But perhaps for me, the highlight was the afterglow; there’s nothing quite like coming back home to a full day of napping in front of the TV, drinking wine and eating mince pies after a refreshing Christmas run or cycle.
There’s a whole community of Christmas runners out there who find peace and joy on their trails and roads come 25 December, or who turn up to parkrun in their Santa hats. So, we asked runners why the Christmas Day run was such a big part of their festive traditions.
It’s a chance to connect with loved ones
For many, it’s the best parkrun of the year because they’re not running it alone or as part of a training plan – most people are there simply to enjoy the experience and to bond. Harleigh Reid, founder of The Small Slice is one such runner: her Christmas begins with “going to parkrun with my mum. I wouldn’t call it a Christmas tradition, it’s spiritual bondage at this point!” Christmas Day is so popular that in 2019, some 2,000 runners were reported to have turned up to parkrun in Bushy Park.
But not all of us live near a parkrun or can be faffed to get to the start by 9am – particularly if you’re roping various family members into the activities. And, of course, sometimes going out solo can be as rewarding as running with other people. Runner Alicia de Haldevang says: “I always go for a Christmas Day run in the morning, with my dad or sister or by myself. I’ll run for around 10km, and then come home to rehydrate with Buck’s Fizz. It always starts the day off so well.”
It’s a break from all the madness
Pilates teacher Karen Laing says: “It’s that little bit of peace between the crazy. Also, my Sunday routine is run then church, so Christmas Day is just the same: physically then spiritually restored. On a practical level, it also means my metabolism is faster so I feel like I have more room for roasties.”
And Fab Giovanetti agrees, saying that while she’s not a consistent runner, “I love to do it on Christmas Day as it allows me to take a break and have some time for myself”.
It’s a great way to connect with your community
“I love seeing the pure joy on children’s faces as they zoom past me on new bikes/scooters/whatever the new ‘thing’ is,” explains Niamh O’Donoghue. “And it’s an excuse to wish neighbours a ‘happy Christmas’. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.”
If you’re not yet at the stage where you can talk or greet folk while running, you could take a leaf out of writer Eleanor Noyce’s book: she enjoys running in a Christmas T-shirt on the big day “and getting nods from people on their Christmas Day walks”.
Missed Christmas Day? Boxing Day is equally magical
Boxing Day is arguably as good a day for movement as Christmas Day. Fuelled by turkey and nut roasts, there’s something to be said for leaving the house on 26 December and getting some well-deserved fresh air (if nothing else, to earn a break from your family).
Running coach and blogger Grace Rowland (@GraceRunsLdn) is part of the Christmas Day parkrun massive, but spends Boxing Day morning at the semi-heated lido. “I usually go with my mum, her friend and her daughter, and it all started about seven years ago,” she tells Stylist of the tradition. “Love a Christmas tradition!”
This year, you may roll out of bed and decide that you want to do nothing more than schlep to the sofa, prosecco in hand. But if you do want to get a bit of fresh air, connect with the people you’re spending Christmas Day with, or need a little quiet time alone before the festivities begin, why not go for a run on the best running day of the year?
This year, you’ll find me out running on the same trails I spent March 2020 traversing, before coming home to a breakfast of prosecco and mince pies. How could I not, considering Zaazee founder and runner Deb Todd’s reason for Christmas running: “It helps to start the day feeling amazing.”
Going running this year? Why not take a picture and tag us on Instagram (@StrongWomenUK) so we can share it as part of the Strong Women community?
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