Sometimes I create a theme for my runs, kind of like a scavenger hunt. Maybe I count squirrels, red trucks, barking dogs, or other runners. Today, in the spirit of Christmas, I chose to make it a holiday theme. For this run, I decided to count the number of Christmas wreaths I saw on houses throughout my 6 mile run.
The problem with these games is that sometimes they can become a bit complicated. Last year I lived on the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border. One day on a four mile run – which crossed evenly between both states – I thought it would be fun to count the number of MA versus RI license plates. It was fun at first, but then it became complicated when I crossed into the other state and thought maybe I should not only count if it was MA or RI, but also if it was in the other state. So then I really needed four categories: MA plate in MA, RI plate in MA, RI plate in RI, MA plate in RI. Then I further complicated it by counting the number of plates other than MA or RI, which I also sub-categorized depending on which state I spotted the out of state plate. Then there was confusion when there were vehicles coming in both directions, and figuring out what to do when an oncoming car didn’t have a license plate on the front of the car. I nearly killed myself spinning mid-stride to see the car’s plate after it passed me. This simple game became quite complicated and after about mile 3 I gave up.
Today’s game seemed simple enough, right? I thought so, until the game started. Turns out, counting wreaths can become quite complicated. A mile into my run, I realized this was going to be a problem, and like any good project manager and strong believer of structure, I created ground rules. The following is a list of rules for my wreath counting game:
1. A wreath can be any size. Larger wreaths do not get extra points
2. All wreaths on the house are counted separately.
3. Only wreaths are counted. Not swags, not globes. A wreath is defined (in my crazy little one-person world) as being:
a. Circular in nature
b. Holiday themed (pine branches are optimal, vines are ok if garnished with a holiday bow or other Christmas-type decorations)
4. Wreaths must be reasonably attached to a building, such as:
d. Fence adjacent to the house
e. Gazebo (I struggled with this one)
5. Wreaths attached to free-standing hangers in the front yard are disqualified
6. Only residential wreaths are covered; not business wreaths
Now that the ground rules were established, the games could begin. (I was a real hoot as a child, can't you tell?) One interesting observation I made was that wreath decorating occurs in clusters, kind of like chicken pox. If one house on the street has a wreath, everyone has one. In some neighborhoods, one wreath isn’t enough. On one house I counted half a dozen wreaths. The next house, not to be outdone, donned no fewer than sixteen wreaths. Who knew the number of wreaths could be such a status symbol? On the flip side, I ran through another neighborhood where not one single house was decorated with a wreath. I guess none of them had caught the bug.
Wreath-counting sounds like a pretty low-intensity sport, right? Think again. Today was a busy day, being the day before Christmas. I had a morning full of errands, including shopping, wrapping, and cooking. The weather was a beautiful, sunny 36 degrees and I longed for a run. With the ham safely tucked in the oven at 2:30pm, I finally got my chance. I jumped into my running gear and headed out for my usual 6 mile run. I’m not used to running this time of day, since I usually either run early in the morning or on my lunch break. This time of year, with the days being so short, 2:30pm means sun is getting low in the sky. As I ran down the streets of Mendon in search of Christmas wreaths, the sun was casting long, steep shadows. The sun, in fact, became a serious challenge. In order to see any of the houses to the west of me, I had to slow down and put my hand above my eyes like a makeshift visor and scour their property for wreaths. It occurred to me after some time that I may look a little odd and possibly even villainous; a dangerous thief posing as a runner but secretly mapping out my next target. After that realization, I tried my best to count wreaths discreetly while still maintaining the integrity of the game. The reality is though; there are some I may have missed due to intense solar glare. I hope the Census Bureau doesn’t check my figures.
There were also several times throughout my run that I was so busy counting wreaths that by the time I looked ahead, I found myself near the middle of the road. Drivers seemed to be accommodating though; I’d like to think they were in the “spirit of giving”. Maybe it was just me, but everyone seemed a little happier today. Drivers didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t using the snowy sidewalks. Brown Dog was bouncing happily around his front yard, munching on snow balls. Pedlar and Skip were sunbathing in a warm corner of their paddock. And for the record, there were 171 wreaths counted on my 6 mile route, with a 95% accuracy rate. Merry Christmas! J