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Your Running Probably Won’t Be Perfect at the Holidays. That’s O.Okay.

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On Dec. 13, I took part in an annual Philadelphia running tradition: the South Philly Striders and Fishtown Beer Runners Holiday Lights Run, where a few hundred people run four miles through South Philadelphia to look at Christmas light displays. It’s a fun, slow going affair, where runners wear ridiculous holiday themed garb, dash over packed sidewalks, stop to gawk at inflatable Santas and take pictures with Christmas bears, all winding up at a bar big enough to hold everyone.

As I waited to walk into the bar, I saw wrist after wrist go up: people checking their GPS watches for their distance and time. “It wasn’t exactly four miles!” one said. “Yeah, I got 3.82 and I’m supposed to run four today. Should I go run a little bit more so I hit four?” asked another.

The holiday season is a busy time, with travel, family visits, upended schedules and sleighloads of treats and drinks. For most runners, running doesn’t stop, even if you’re just barely squeezing it in. As you’re reading this, I’m probably wrapping up my 10-mile run, which I started in the dark, so that I can shower, put my pajamas back on, and meet my visiting nephews for breakfast.

Go easy on yourself. If you don’t get in the last .18 miles because you ran with some friends in ugly Christmas sweaters, that’s O.K. If you flew across the country and are struggling to get through a speed workout the next morning: that’s O.K. too — even if you cut it short or just skip the speedwork part. Unless you’re hurt, some running is better than no running, especially right now.

My coach has told our training group that it’s a tough time for a lot of people and to try for at least 20 minutes a day rather than not running at all.

If the holidays aren’t merry and bright for you and you’re having a rough time, put on your running clothes and run for a mile. If you feel great, keep going. If you don’t, at least you moved your muscles a bit and got away from the houseful of relatives. Remember that the picture-perfect Christmas is sometimes a lie we tell ourselves.

I’ll be back next week with a wrap-up of the running stories we were talking about this year. Until then — happy holidays!

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