You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to appreciate the holiday’s sense of warmth and togetherness, you just have to take a jog through town.
Of the four seasons, winter is the one that sees the most runners mail it in. It’s a shame, but I get it. It is miserably cold with biting winds, and you can never tell for sure when you’re about to step on an icy patch.
But one thing that keeps me going outside (in layers) is the Christmas spirit. Particularly with the lights and decorations. I love the effort, creativity, passion, and unity shown by seemingly 75 percent of every street. For a runner, sometimes a nice, shiny distraction is all we need to shift the focus from the freeze to the fun.
Finally starting to show signs of life after back-to-back bouts of appendicitis and flu, I knew I needed some good old-fashioned holiday cheer, so I took myself for a Sunday evening run around town.
Churning my legs at a faster clip just to stay warm, the first thing I notice as I settle into my run are the inflatables. I don’t remember seeing these around when I was a kid, but they’re everywhere now. The Santas and reindeer make me smile, and I can’t stop laughing when I see the Buddy the Elf blow-up, or Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation.
While the inflatables are cool, my route is guided almost entirely by the lights. I love to see how folks box their windows and doors with strings of lights and hanging icicles. I didn’t realize how effective a small red- or green-colored spotlight could be until I came across a house where every individual tree in the front yard was bathed in colorful light.
The lights are even brighter if you venture into a downtown area. Where I live, every single light post is strung up with white lights, with the tops adorned with angels. The local businesses that dot the streets are colorful and inviting, while the streets themselves guide me to the destination I’ve been looking forward to this entire run: The oversized Christmas tree in the town square.
This tree is perfectly glowing with bright, white lights that are complemented by simple bulbs of green, red, blue, and gold. It’s been a tough winter for me, but breaking from my run to soak in the beauty of the tree, I can almost hear a voice of hope telling me that everything is going to be just fine.
My run back home was difficult. I may have overestimated my gas tank, but once the familiar sights and sounds began to show themselves, I knew I was back on my street. Breathing hard and feeling the burn in my throat from the cold air, I was granted some reprieve by the gentle ringing of bells from the house of my neighbor, Joanne.
I finally glance at the lights at the house where my run concludes: My own home. Our light display is modest — a certain 9-year-old Grinch might call it the worst display on the block — but it makes me happy and reminds me that of all the things I could want for Christmas, I already have the things that I value the most.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or are just looking to wash away 2022 with a few glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve, I hope the spirit of the holidays can find its way into your hearts. Thank you, once again, for allowing me to bring my running stories into your homes for another holiday season, it’s one of the best gifts I could have ever asked for.
1 STEP BACK, 3 STEPS FORWARD
The large-framed Clydesdale runner, or female counterpart Athena, is one that any runner can respect.
These runners carry more body mass and typically burn more energy than the average competitor, but once they get moving, some of these folks can cover ground at a remarkably fast pace.
Enter Chambersburg runner Matthew Walker, who often cross trains and takes on Spartan races. He proved himself to be one speedy man at the Humble Hustle 5K in Reading. Walker not only finished as the top Clydesdale in 21:59, he was also the 10th overall runner in the field of 169.
In Solomons, Md., Waynesboro’s Jacob King did some 5K damage of his own at the Jingle Bell Run 5K, completing the race in 23:29 to take third in the 40-49 AG. Smithsburg’s April Stockman ran a 29:22 at the YMCA Santa Run 5K in Frederick, Md., while Chambersburg’s Kristin Johnson posted a 29:36 while running amongst a sea of Santas at the Santa Shuffle 5K in Harrisburg.
Another holiday-themed race, the Celtic Solstice 5-Miler, drew a pair of Local.News runners, with Smithsburg’s Sean Allen (35:32) and Chambersburg’s Sara Grove (50:22) each crossing the finishing line.
Chambersburg’s Josh Blankenship traveled to Biloxi, Miss., to take on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon, and he ran strong, completing the race in 1:39:25. Another solid half marathon effort was turned in by Waynesboro’s Dodie Moats, who ran a 1:55:13 at the Kiawah Island Half Marathon in South Carolina.
Finally, a pair of Chambersburg runners braved cold conditions at Blue Marsh Lake in Leesport to log finishes at the Naked Nick 25K/50K. Matthew Smith posted a 6:52:59 in the 50K, while Eli Tlanda completed the 25K in 2:51:12.
And now, a look ahead:
The Last Mile: Saturday, Dec. 31, 10 a.m., in Duncannon. This longstanding five-mile race promises to challenge runners with its long climb, eventual descent, and sprint to the finish. Register for the race on runsignup.com.
John Rudy Rail Trail 5 Miler: Saturday, Dec. 31, 9 a.m., in York. The York Road Runners Club Winter Series reaches its halfway point with this event. A one-mile option is also available. Learn more at yorkroadrunners.com.
Medal Madness New Year 5K/10K: Sunday, Jan. 1, 11 a.m., in Harrisburg. Enjoy some coffee and hot chocolate, courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts, before or after this race. Check out the event on runsignup.com.
Also: First Night Resolution Run 5K (Saturday, Dec. 31, in State College); New Year Run Challenge 6 Hour (Sunday, Jan. 1, in Mechanicsburg).