Gift Guide 2011

Unless you live in a nation where the War on Christmas has already been fought and won, you’ve probably noticed it’s that time again. The lights are up. Silk Nog is on grocery shelves. Giant, inflatable yard Santas are yukking it up inside giant, inflatable snow globes. And all my battery-operated Star Trek ornaments have been shuttled to a Bajoran refugee camp at the back of the tree.

For some, these holiday harbingers announce the arrival of winter party season, family stress and frenzied retail situations set to the harrowing tune of “Carol of the Bells.” For others, it’s a time of nesting, vacation and rest.

But just because the days are short, and the weather has dipped into the freezing range, doesn’t mean that special runner in your life is ready to hang up her Asics and take up permanent residence in front of a Dragon’s Realm jigsaw puzzle.

No way. She’s out there running. In the rain, in the dark, in ratty old yogawear, Garmined to the teeth. Wearing a headlamp, like she’s some kind of miner extracting Clif ShotBloks from deep beneath the earth’s surface. Launching headlong into temperatures cold enough to permanently alter the mountains  on a Coors Light.

Because she’s a runner. Because she’s a fighter. And because she needs you to give her warmer stuff for the holidays.

So here’s my guide to telling your favorite runner, “Hey, I noticed it’s Christmas or the equally important holiday your family insists on celebrating. Please accept this token of my love and encouragement, and promise me you’ll never run free and unfettered by ‘warmth-activation’ performance equipment again.”

Runner’s Gift Guide for 2011

1. Smartwool Toe Socks, $12

After months of running in Vibrams, they’ve become unexpectedly comfortable—like sleep-number, Tempurpedic mattresses for my ridiculously high-arched feet. But there’s not a chance I’m soft-shoeing around town in toe condoms while there’s snow on the ground—though my feet may be immune to societal judgment, they’re still vulnerable to the elements. Solution? These unsettling socks, which are great for insulating extremities and, most importantly, cracking up my mom.

2. Face Thing, $6-15

When the “Feels Like” index substitutes “dying atop Everest” for degrees in Fahrenheit, it’s probably a good time to start covering exposed skin. This cool face thing lets you keep frostbite at bay while looking as mysterious and badass as marathon runner/bank robber Johann Rettenberger. Who wants to be visible while running when you can slide through the landscape unnoticed, like a Nike-sponsored, moisture-wicking ninja?

3. Appetite for Reduction Cookbook, $13

 For my money, Isa Moskowitz is the best vegetarian cookbook writer (if not best vegetarian chef) in the game. I’m not that great at cooking, but Vegan with a Vengeance and the Veganomicon have served as excellent entry points into making easy, animal-friendly stuff that doesn’t taste like crap or require expensive meat and egg replacers (*coughHowitallVegancough*). Appetite for Reduction, Moskowitz’s latest, is less a weird diet book and more a guide to making quick, healthy vegan meals. Someone please buy it for my significant other!

4. Race Registration, $25-100

You’ve probably noticed the Sagittarians in your life getting older recently. Those hilarious, adventurous delights. They bring so much compassion, charisma and impulsivity to the world and ask so little in return. Well, here’s your chance to give back: Start a December-birthday’s  new year right by signing ‘em up for a 2012 race. It could be any race—a 5K, a 10K, a marathon—so long as it’s within the realm of said Sagitarrian’s abilities. (And seriously, what isn’t? These aren’t Pisces we’re talking about here…) Races can be incredibly fun and motivating, but the fees make it hard to commit in advance. Light a supportive fire under your noble archer’s ass, and throw a few bones at a race registration (and most likely, a worthy charity). Here’s a good place to find a race near you.

5. Powerjam Playlist, $0-20

If you can’t afford the outlandish fees levied by even the fivest of K’s, I feel ya, bro. Times are tough out there. But here’s a cheap gift option that may or may not be equally motivating: a workout mix. More specifically, a workout mix FILLED TO THE BRINK WITH POWERJAMS. I tend to favor hip hop, so I choose sites like from which to harvest fresh jams, but the Internet is awash with options. Or perhaps you already have a hit roster of your own, in which case, you should be making me a birthday/holiday playlist. I promise to reciprocate, provided you hate dub step and the Millenial generation as much as I do. Together we can subvert the dominant Rocky paradigm in 2012!

6. Any Sort of Hoodie That Has Thumbholes

How else can you high-five postal workers without your sleeves riding up?

Thus concludes the greatest gift guide you’re likely to encounter this Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Sagittarius-birthday season. If you need more ideas, let me personally invite you to peruse Gear Guides #1 and #2, hailed by critics as game-changers in the field of “amassing stuff for the purpose of practicing an ostensibly minimalist sport.” Or perhaps you have your own additions?

Happy holidays, and keep it runnin’ in 2012!