LITTLE ROCK — Christmas cheer can clog anybody's calendar, so just imagine the scheduling snafus faced by marathoners.
These endurance athletes prepare to race 26.2 miles by training for months at progressively longer distances. From Thanksgiving to New Year's, those aiming for the March 2 Little Rock Marathon will catch a break as their coaches have planned a few rest weeks with reduced mileage.
But they still face weeks packed with workouts.
Unless you move as quickly as a Kenyan, that long workout on your schedule for Saturday morning will gobble up hours - hours that could be spent shopping, cleaning the house, recovering from Friday's party or enjoying beloved company.
Skip training and you lose fitness.
What's a marathoner to do?
"We don't have holidays. We're training. Holidays are for sissies," jokes Tom Singleton, runners' coach for the Little Rock Marathon Training Team. Really and truly, he is joking.
"I would try to rearrange my schedule to accommodate my holiday; that would be my real answer," he says. "In the event that I couldn't do that, I'd work in what [running] I could and resume my training the next week."
Singleton says first-time marathoners often don't realize that their progressive schedules include some wiggle room.
Tuesday's workout doesn't necessarily have to be done Tuesday. And it's OK to skip a long run - if you don't freak out and try to make up the lost time all at once the next week.
Jonesboro's Little Rock Marathon adviser Jeff Owens agrees: "It's early enough that missing one of your long runs isn't going to kill you. But," he warns, "training has got to be part of your schedule. That commitment has just got to be there. ... Little Rock is a tough course."
It's also OK - sometimes - to run part of your scheduled distance in the morning and the rest later in the day, he says.
"The best advice if you've got such time constraints is at least get some training done. Get a little bit versus not doing it at all," Owens says.
And marathoners can look on the bright side. If you have to travel, maybe it will be warmer where you're headed.
You'll have a fresh route to experience.
"The good thing is you're running so much you can pretty much eat all you want," Owens adds. But really, he's joking.
More information about the Little Rock Marathon is at www.littlerockmarathon.com.