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Runners: it’s OK to be sad during the holidays

"If you’re still here, cut yourself off a thick slice of slack," says David Roche, co-author of The Happy Runner

Running coach and author David Roche of the Boulder, Colo.-based SWAP Running has developed a reputation for compassionate coaching that’s quite different from what you may have experienced in high school track. He believes the best results come from radical self-acceptance and self-belief, along with the usual hill training, hard intervals, long runs and rest days. And his profound understanding of how humans (including runners) feel, especially at this time of year, is summed up in a piece he wrote for the current issue of Trail Runner magazine.


The message is that being a runner means being human, which means that sometimes life, like running (and the holidays) is complicated. We may think we should feel a certain way, but we may not. “Coaching has let me have a little peek through the keyhole into people’s lives,” says Roche. “Our inner worlds can be weird, messy, gross and beautiful all at once.”

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He goes on: “Coaching showed me that it’s not just complicated in my own head… Christmas is a great example of that complication in action. Michael Buble tells me over and over that it’s the most wonderful time of the year… Well… screw Michael Buble.”

There’s more good stuff in the article about why the holidays are so hard for so many people. Roche’s conclusion? “Emotions are really freaking complicated.”

Roche’s approach is informed by equal parts positive psychology, mindfulness, and if you believe that teachers teach what they most need to learn, his own experience. He recommends running if it helps, and talking to a loved one, or your dog, or connecting with a mental health professional if it doesn’t.

And if all is well and you’re having a great time, go with that.

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