What ultrarunners want

We asked Santa what runners really want for Christmas, and it’s not more stuff.

By Jason Koop,
Head Coach of CTS Ultrarunning

Earlier this week after I had deleted the umpteen-millionth ‘holiday gift guide for runners’ from my inbox, I got to thinking ‘there’s got to be something else runners really want’. Sure, a new pair of compression shorts, or the ‘only breathable and waterproof jacket you’ll ever need’ are nice gifts, but most runners have enough stuff. Our closets are full of socks and jackets and tights of both full length and three-quarter length varieties. I figured there had to be something runners wanted that was more meaningful than what you can find on the sale rack at your local running store. So, I turned to Twitter and crowdsourced the answer by asking, “What do runners REALLY want for Xmas?”

Some of the typical responses mirrored cliché presents such as- ‘Honestly, just a bunch of new socks’ as Justin G wrote.

Others were humorous such as The Streak Podcast’s request for a second edition of the iconic ultrarunning movie Unbreakable.

But what intrigued me the most were the more esoteric asks for things under the tree. ‘Being injury free and running under the trails having fun’ wrote Sébastein.  This final group of presents would be hard to wrap and put a bow on, but that shouldn’t stop us. If only I know of someone who was a true domain expert in gift giving….

There’s only one person on earth who would know how to bring these abstract presents to life, the ultimate gift giver himself, Santa Claus. Fortunately for all of the good little ultrarunner girls and boys, Colorado Springs is home to the NORAD Santa Tracker, and I also have some favors to cash in with the powers that be. Several strings pulled and a few security clearances later, I got Saint Nick on a secure FaceTime line, just as he finished up loading his sleigh.

The following are excerpts from our conversation. I encourage you to read the part of Santa with the voice from your favorite Hollywood rendition. Mine is from the movie Elf.

Koop: Santa, I can’t thank you enough for helping me out with this. I asked a number of runners what they really wanted for Christmas. Some of the answers stumped me.

Santa: Ho, ho ho!!! I understand. People ask me for all kinds of stuff every year. I can fit most of them in my sleigh and deliver them to children around the world, so long as Amazon doesn’t keep undercutting me.

Koop: Yeah, Amazon has been hurting specialty running stores for years. But I digress. Let’s get into it. It seems that one thing runners really want this Christmas is to be uninjured.  Bill C. asked to ‘be injury free in the coming year’. What would you give Bill under his tree?

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Santa: Well, my reindeer feel Bill’s pain! Most people don’t realize that Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph are not invincible. They are susceptible to injury just like any endurance athlete. They also train year round to be ready for the ultramarathon flight that is Christmas. Think about it, hauling around presents for all of the girls and boys does not happen overnight! At the North Pole, we don’t have access to any of the fancy recovery modalities you do. So, to keep my reindeer healthy, we make sure they have plenty of two different things- food and sleep. My reindeer eat Magical Reindeer Food in order to fly. Mrs. Clause and I feed them enough so that their weight has little fluctuation during the year and their energy intake matches their training demands. Humans might not be able to fly like my reindeer, but they should do the same thing. We also make sure my reindeer get plenty of sleep. Our reindeer get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Ultrarunners should too.

Koop: Thanks Santa. Getting enough sleep and eating plenty of food is good advice. Let’s move on. Raymond W. tweets that he wants to ‘lose some (OK, a lot of) weight’. What would Raymond find under his Christmas tree?

Santa: Ho, ho, ho the irony of asking a fat man how to lose weight (jiggles his belly like a bowl full of jelly). First off, Raymond should have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. As with starting any exercise or weight loss program, food should be more than fuel and exercise more than the means to offset the intake. For example, Mrs. Clause and I make sure that every night after the elves are done making toys that we all sit down to dinner as a family. We don’t count calories, cut out whole categories of food or skimp on a particular macronutrient. We even indulge on the occasional Christmas cookie year-round. As long as Raymond is on the Nice list, his present under the tree will be a reasonable, sensible approach to running and weight loss that results in about a pound of loss per week, as long as he’s happy and uninjured during the process. Sounds like a neat thing to be wrapped up in a red bow, huh?

Koop: Sure Santa. That’s hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around because it’s so painfully long. But I believe ultrarunners can understand how to play the long game here. Next Christmas wish comes from Nancy. She tweets that she wanted ‘to not trip so much on the trails’. That’s pretty common for trail runners. What would the klutzy trail runner find under their tree?

Santa: Well, no matter how much Hoka One-One would like you to believe, humans cannot fly like my reindeer. Nancy should take the winter and do some of the drills you mentioned in this article. They are practical, simple and you can do them year-round with very little equipment. The winter is a great time to do this as many runners are not as focused on their fitness and high volume training. Downhill running for most ultrarunners should be about effectiveness, not necessarily speed!

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Koop: I’m humbled you read my blog, Santa. Thank you for the unabashed plug. Finally, there are number of ultrarunners who want to gain entry into their favorite race via lottery. You surely can’t grant all runners a trip into Western States, Hardrock, Leadville or Wastach. So what would you give these runners?

Santa: Oh you silly runners. You are mistaken on what the real gift is! The real gift is not the opportunity to run one of those iconic races. It is the opportunity to be inspired by them. Inspiration is similar Christmas spirit. It has the ability to uplift, provide comfort and bond people together. Regardless of if you ever get into your goal race or not, the inspiration provided to train for it and satisfaction in the process are the real gifts to be enjoyed!

Koop: Sage advice Santa. We should all have that perspective. I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me and give ultrarunners some much needed presents under their tree. I wish you and the reindeer a safe flight and I will leave some extra cookies for you!

Santa: Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!  

Comments 5

  1. Pingback: An Ultrarunning Coach's Guide to Reindeer (Training) Games - Jason Koop

  2. I got Saint Nick on a secure FaceTime line, just as he finished up loading his sleigh.

    “You serious, Koop?” — Cousin Eddie

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