Heading out for a family walk on Christmas Day to work up an appetite (or shake off post-turkey sluggishness) is a tradition many of us have embraced – but thousands of Brits take things even further with a festive run.
Around 53,000 people in the UK logged a run on the app Strava on Christmas Day last year, and the most popular time to don our trainers was 9am. This represents just a snippet of the runners getting out and about in the great outdoors on the 25 December.
HuffPost UK spoke to five running enthusiasts who will probably convince you to try a new tradition this year.
Alex Mills, 24, from Oxfordshire, says running on Christmas Day gives him a chance to breathe and clear his head before a hectic day. “It’s also great for increasing your hunger and adding space for that extra bit of turkey,” he jokes.
“It’s usually on my own and I stop in at my friend’s house in the local village nearby. Sophie [pictured below] became my first Christmas Day run attendee two years ago and now she’s hooked on the idea, too.”
For Joanna Earle, 35, from Kings Hill, Kent, running is a way to make Christmas feel less overwhelming. She has depression and Borderline Personality Disorder, “So much is said about exercise improving mental health and I 100% believe in it,” she says.
“Running on Christmas Day makes me feel ready to take on the busy festivities ahead. It also makes me feel a little smug that I’ve been up and out before anyone else – I feel like a different person to the person I was before I left.”
Some say a run on Christmas Day feels totally different to any other day. “There’s a special feeling about it,” says Ben Sheppard, 25, from Brecon in South Wales. “It doesn’t feel like a normal run. I’ll always go in the morning, clear my head and reflect on the year.”
His usual five-mile route tends to consist of half road and half trails, with some stunning views of the Wye Valley.
“It definitely gets you ready to deal with all the family, and who doesn’t love their recovery meal to be cheese and wine?” he adds.
Mollie Millington, 39, from London, will be working on Christmas Day as a lab manager at a scientific research institute. She ran to work two years ago, and this year she plans to run home.
“Work would pay for a taxi but I like being out in the crisp air in the peace and quiet for my eight-mile commute,” says Millington, who also works as a personal trainer.
“This year, I’m home alone in the morning (my husband will be driving back from his family’s in the afternoon) so I’m taking a taxi to work and running home at a leisurely pace. Fingers crossed it will be sunny so I get my vitamin D in before pigging out on a roast.”
Meanwhile Anna Harding, 31, from Warwickshire, ran for the first time on Christmas Day in 2016 because she didn’t want to interrupt her marathon training. She’s since made it an annual tradition and plans to join the Parkrun in south London this Christmas.
“The thing I love most about running on Christmas Day is seeing all the other runners, with their friendly smiles, nods of encouragement and ‘Merry Christmas’ wishes,” says Harding, who runs The Running Channel on YouTube.
“It’s a chance to get out of the house and into the fresh air,” adds Harding. “You can also time a Christmas Day run around the cooking – get the veg prepped and the turkey in the oven and then pop out while dinner starts cooking back home.
“It feels great knowing you’ve been active and means you can indulge a bit more than you normally would with some festive treats!”