Rambling Roads: December’s Story

By George A. Hancock

Thursday begins December’s 31-day run. This first December day begins meteorological winter. Weather scientists use the December 1 to February 28 time frame for official weather-keeping purposes. All winter records are noted during this time span.

Most folks regard December 21 as the first winter date. This day marks our Winter Solstice. Our astronomical winter season is now underway. The Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday follow shortly thereafter.

Daylight begins the slow but steady growth process after this December 21 date. Morning runners will not notice the growing daylight but evening runners will note the change. Also, the sun begins climbing higher in the sky after this date. Sunny January and February days will melt snow and ice from roadways quickly.

December’s story is traditionally delightful Christmas decorations and bright twinkling display lights. At one time, the retail sector ruled with the shopping frenzy associated with the Christmas season. These days online shopping has surged. I see numerous delivery companies dropping off packages during my early morning run. 

Some package companies are so busy these days that they hit the roads before me. It’s a strange sight running by delivery trucks dropping off packages before 6 a.m. I remember a Friday morning run through Windber last December. The temps were cool but a steady light rain was falling. I ran by many homes and businesses that had packages delivered already. Many packages were under roof by some were not. These were out in the rainy elements with me.

Even the U.S. Mail folks are out and about early along my running routes. I’ve witnessed regular mail and packages being delivery in the pre-dawn dark. Last year I started checking my mailbox for anything right after my run. Occasionally I find something in our mailbox. Sadly, I’ve never found any fresh baked Christmas cookies or other tasty holiday treats.

December’s story is frequently the weather. December 2021 was mild in my region. I love looking back at my running log books. There’s fascinating running data there.  My coldest runs last December were two mornings at the same 19-degree temperatures. However, this point is balanced by the eight mornings with temperatures 40 degrees or warmer. Plus, I had two morning runs in the 50s including my early Christmas Day run at 50 degrees.

However, all these great warm temps were dwarfed by this point. I was able to run comfortably in shorts on 17 December mornings. Normally, these are morning runs at 32 degrees or warmer minus winds and cold rains. December 2021 was probably the warmest December running in my long road history. I enjoyed every December mile.

Looking back even further to a Christmas Day 1983 run reveals a cold-weather record. I ran eight  miles at -13 degrees F. That temp would remain as my coldest run until January 7, 2014. That morning run was at -16 degrees F. The previous record stood for 31 years. My new record lasted one year. On February 24, 2015 I ran at -18 degrees below zero. That record still holds seven years later. And, I hope never to match or break that cold-weather number.

Okay, so I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas. Yet, many enjoy this experience on Christmas day. I went back and examined my running log books for a white Christmas. My running log books date back to 1992. Locally in Greater Johnstown we had 13 white Christmas mornings.

But, that point comes with an asterisk. Five of those Christmas mornings were just a dusting. It was white but the snow wasn’t everywhere. Our last white Christmas was in 2020. Personally, I hope our mild green Christmas Days continue in 2022. Santa can arrive on a mountain bike wearing shorts. I’m OK with that picture.

December’s story is also the gala holiday season enjoying Christmas and the New Year holidays. We celebrate with family and friends. Many groups now offer holiday runs or races. These are always a nice way to either begin or end that special holiday.

I enjoy my December runs viewing those fantastic Christmas displays. Many homes and businesses are decorated for the season. These are a great sight during any cold December morning run.

One byproduct of the New Year’s Eve holiday is reviewing your running-log data. We completed another running year. Studying that data is fascinating. We see how many miles and races were completed. Racers examine their finishing times and places. We study our warmest and coldest runs. Streak runners note how far along their running streak is now. 

The psychological boost from compiling and examining this data is enormous. Running every day despite the turbulent daily life cycle is inspiring. One is left with the thought, why yes I can just like the Little Engine That Could!

For me, 2023 will be an exciting running year. I’ll be running my 50th straight year as a road runner. I’ll also be entering my seventh decade. Life continues on!

Run well, run smart, and stay alert! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Cambria County!

Runner visits the North Pole during a December run. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Barrera)

Categories: Race Coverage

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1 reply

  1. Hi George,

    I hope all is well with you and your family. Thanks for the wonderful December story.

    Congratulations on your great achievements of 50 years of running and seven decades of life.

    All the best to you and to your family. HEALTH, PEACE, and good running in 2023.


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