Friday Open Thread: How do you handle training during the holidays?

This time of year, it can be a struggle to stay consistent with your running, even when you have a race (or races) planned for the new year. Holiday parties, events with family and friends, etc., all pull us away — and all for really good reasons! But of course, that means our running can sometimes suffer. How do you keep up with training during the holidays, while also giving yourself ample time off for fun? — Terrell

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How has your running year gone so far?

Plus 5 great 2020 races in Sonoma County, Charlotte, Jackson Hole, Bucyrus + the Jordan desert

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.” — James Clear

Often, I find myself going back to books I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to, to see if there’s anything new I can learn from them. To see if there’s anything I missed the first time around.

This week, I listened again to a podcast that we’ve talked about here before, this interview with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, on how to make running a more consistent habit in your life.

Among the things Clear touches on in the roughly 50-minute interview are a few things that were surprising to me when I first heard him say them: that goals get you inspired, but system are what brings real progress; and, what most of us want isn’t to run a marathon per se, but to become a runner.

No matter how small or insignificant it may seem in the moment, he adds, any action you take toward becoming a runner “counts” — even something as simple as getting up in the morning and putting on your running shoes.

The more you come to see yourself as someone who runs, the more you’ll be inspired to try something a little more ambitious.

As this year ends and the next one begins, I’m taking stock of what went well and what didn’t. Setting too-ambitious goals for my running certainly didn’t. So next year, consistency is what I’ll try to emphasize rather than getting hung up on distance.

How have things gone for you with your running this year, and what do you want to do differently next year? I’d love to hear.

Your friend,

— Terrell

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Tuck Fest Trail Half Marathon

Charlotte, N.C. | Sunday, April 26, 2020

A run along the challenging hills and trails that wind through the forest surrounding North Carolina’s 1,300-acre U.S. National Whitewater Center, as part of this weekend series of running, kayaking, whitewater and obstacle races for runners, hikers and families. From the starting line at the Center’s Ridge Pavilion, where whitewater rafters and kayakers train, you’ll run this race mostly through the woods, along stretches of Long Creek and the Catawba River, shaded by trees throughout. If you’re up for it, the Saturday before the half marathon features a quarter marathon along the same trails, which you can use as a warm-up for the half on Sunday.

$40 and up | Sign up here

Running With The Cows Half Marathon

Bucyrus, Kan. | Saturday, May 9, 2020

Farmland, white picket fences, barns, silos and lots and lots of rolling green hills will be what you’ll find at this springtime race that started 10 years ago as a fundraiser for a then-struggling school just outside Kansas City and now attracts runners from around the country. There will be lots of cowbells ringing along the route (of course!) and you’ll get a chance to pose for a photo with a calf at the end of the race, which is also famous for its post-race buffet.

$69 and up | Sign up here

Grand Teton Half Marathon

Jackson, Wyo. | Saturday, June 6, 2020

A high-elevation, point-to-point run through Wyoming’s Jackson Hole area, where you’ll cross the Snake River and finish within sight of the majestic, snow-capped mountains in nearby Grand Teton National Park. The race climbs from a starting elevation of just over 6,100 feet above sea level to just over 6,300 feet by the time you reach the finish line, so it’s a gradual climb through one of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere in the U.S. You’ll run a combination of paved roads, dirt roads and jogging trails as you make your way past the National Elk Refuge to the finish line at a golf course. (Be sure to read these tips about running at altitude before you go.)

$129 and up | Sign up here

Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon

Sonoma, Calif. | Sunday, July 19, 2020

It’s been called the half marathon with the “best finish” in America by none other than Runner’s World, thanks to the wine and music festival that awaits runners in Sonoma Plaza at the end of this beautifully scenic 13.1 miles through Sonoma County’s beautiful rolling farmlands, vineyards and wineries. Sometimes, you’ll catch a glimpse of early morning fog that slowly gives way to sunnier skies as the race progresses. In addition to the landscapes, you can expect to pass by working farms and ranches along the route, complete with animals ranging from horses, cows and pigs to sheep, goats and llamas.

$180 and up | Sign up here

Petra Desert Marathon

Petra, Jordan | Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020

One of a series of races that take place in extraordinary locations around the world — like the Great Wall of China, Myanmar’s Bagan Temple and South Africa’s Entabeni Game Reserve — this marathon begins at a location that will be very familiar if you’ve ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Starting from the famous carved pink sandstone at the entrance to Petra, which dates back to around 9,000 B.C.E., you’ll run through the desert of this part of southern Jordan, where “you will find yourself surrounded with tombs, caves and monasteries carved in the mountainsides,” the organizers say. While there are some challenging climbs along the route — which features a combination of sand, paved and gravel roads — the final few miles are a steady downhill to the finish.

$895 and up | Sign up here

A podcast to listen to

For the Long Run,” in which host Jonathan Levitt interviews Mario Fraioli about many things, but especially coaching in running — what works in the coach-runner relationship, and how Fraioli tries to help his runners get the best out of themselves.

A song to run to today

A-YO” from the album Joanne by Lady Gaga.

Listen to our full playlist on Spotify here.


Plus beautiful 2020 races in Roanoke, Salt Lake City, Los Alamos, Fontana + Alaska

“As it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” — Aristotle

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Will Durant

Dear all my friends in running,

I just wanted to take a moment to say a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you. For taking the time to read this newsletter, the personal notes you send my way, for taking the time each week to participate in our live discussions, and just for everything.

Writing and sending this out to you each week has been the highlight of my life as a writer and a runner — there’s been nothing else I’ve ever done in my career that’s been even halfway as gratifying as this, and each and every one of you are the best audience any writer could hope for.

My hope is that you’re getting to take some time to spend some well-deserved downtime with your family, friends and loved ones — and to get some great running in! We’ll be back next week on our regular schedule for sure.

(We’ll probably take this Friday off from our open thread discussions, but if you guys would still like to, let me know — and feel free to suggest a topic!)

Thanks so much and have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Your friend,

— Terrell

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To everyone who’s signed up for a paid membership to The Half Marathoner, thank you SOOOOO much — you help make this whole thing possible. If you haven’t yet, sign up today and save $15 for your first year, and get more of everything we do.

Get 30% off for 1 year

Blue Ridge Half Marathon

Roanoke, Va. | Saturday, April 18, 2020

“America’s toughest road marathon” is how the organizers describe this race, which takes a challenging (to say the least!) climb through Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Park, whose 568 acres are home to a zoo as well as miles of mountain trails. Runners will climb some 1,900 feet over the course of the half marathon, as they make their way just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the nearly 470-mile highway that unfolds along the Blue Ridge Mountains and through some of the most scenic parts of Virginia and North Carolina.

$85 and up | Sign up here

Salt Lake City Half Marathon

Salt Lake City, Utah | Saturday, April 18, 2020

Run this scenic, point-to-point route that takes runners through the heart of Salt Lake City, offering beautiful views of the surrounding snow-capped Wasatch mountains. Starting at an elevation of just over 4,800 feet — at the Olympic Legacy Bridge at the University of Utah, where the 2002 Winter Olympic Games took place — the half marathon is mostly flat and downhill, with a net elevation loss of just under 600 feet. You’ll run through the city’s famously wide streets and finish in Washington Square, next to Salt Lake City’s historic city hall building.

$75 and up | Sign up here

Jemez Mountain Trail Runs

Los Alamos, N.M. | Saturday, May 23, 2020

The single-track trails and dirt roads that make their way throughout New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains are the setting for this race, which includes a 15-miler in addition to a 50K and 50-miler (which organizers say is one of the toughest 50-milers anywhere in the country). You’ve gotta be ready for steep hills and high elevation, as you’ll run between 7,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level. The scenery is breathtaking, however — trails run through wooded, rocky forests are followed by runs along mountain ridges, which in turn are followed by runs along smooth, fast dirt trails through meadows between the mountains.

$55 and up | Sign up here

Fontana Days Run Half Marathon

Fontana, Calif. | Saturday, June 6, 2020

Famous as the fastest half marathon in America thanks to its gradual downward slope, this race got its start with just a couple hundred runners back in 1955 and today draws in the thousands. From the starting line at Applewhite Campground in Lytle Creek just north of the city, the race unfolds through portions of the San Bernadino National Forest, running a combination of steep and more gradual downhills to the finish line at Fontana’s City Hall — with an overall elevation drop of 2,125 feet during the course of the race.

$55 and up | Sign up here

Duff’s Skagway Half Marathon

Skagway, Alaska | Saturday, June 13, 2020

The runners who’ve crossed the finish line the past few years at the Skagway Marathon know why this race advertises itself with the tagline, “5% tough, 95% brutal.” With a course that unfolds hills, mountains, portions of glaciers, and through forests and past streams, this race isn’t the one to choose if you’re looking to PR. Starting from the downtown area of this small southeastern Alaska city, you’ll run into the wilderness that beckons just outside the edge of town, running the Klondike Highway as you look out onto the Skagway River and Nahku Bay below.

Signup TBA

A song to run to today

Jammin’ Me” from the album Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Want to hear all the songs we include in our newsletters? Listen to our full playlist on Spotify here.

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