- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

If the holiday season were a marathon - and it is - we would be past 20 miles and into the last 10K.

It makes perfect sense. Dealing with the holiday season and running a marathon require many of the same qualities.

Just as you wouldn’t race into the holiday season without preparation, you wouldn’t rush into a marathon without a plan, either.

Just as you know the holiday season requires tremendous endurance, you know that racing a marathon requires an above-normal level of fitness.

Just as you know the holiday season mandates patience and discipline, successful marathoners know that their sport takes patience and discipline to a greater plane.

It’s a shame that getting through the holiday season isn’t as easy as putting in a marathon entry fee.

But the easiest task of the holidays is to shop for your favorite runner even if that’s yourself. Here’s a little help:

The no-brainers: Any runner living north of Florida will love pair of winter running gloves and a hat. But don’t forget socks, too. Not cotton - I am talking about the $10-a-pair, absorbent ones. You don’t need toe socks in the winter, which brings to mind the age-old argument of mittens vs. gloves. Take the gloves. Simple gifts like magazine subscriptions and race entry fees work well, too.

The night riders: Night gear is a must. Reflective vests are cheap - $20, $30. Reflecting safety strap lights or flashing arm bands can be purchased for less than $10. Headlights go for $10 to $40.

The serious shoppers: Cool running sunglasses can start at $50 and go well over $200. Heart-rate monitors can be had for $100. The best use of the heart-rate monitor is to slow you down on the recovery runs so that they are recovery runs. I will never be disappointed with some technical winter clothing, such as an Under Armour long-sleeved mock turtle or wind pants. Already have one pair? Remember, there are seven days in a week.

The moneybags: Of course, you can shell out $200, $300 or more on a GPS system, which allows you to run anywhere and know exactly how far, how many calories burned and how many fat cells turned to muscle. Maybe not. But it does allow you to tell a race director that the course was not correctly measured. And for the mother or father of your newborn child, maybe a long vacation. But short of that, how about a baby jogger?

You can find these and many other neat gifts in many venues, including online sites like Road Runner Sports and Holabird Sports. But in the spirit of giving, we all should support our local running stores that give back to the running community year-round.

Bowled over - The ITS all-comers track meet, originally scheduled for Dec. 27 at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, has been canceled. According to meet director George Harris, the Temple football team will be using the Episcopal facility starting Dec. 25 as a training site in preparation for the Dec. 29 EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium. But Harris said the Jan. 2 meet at Episcopal is still on.

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