Canyonlands, Havana, Iceland, Jack Daniels + California's Redwoods

Bucket list races for 2021 + Hollie's awesome holiday gift guide for runners

This week, I’m excited to turn the reins over to Hollie Sick, a longtime friend of The Half Marathoner who has put together her picks for holiday gifts for runners. This week, her list features gifts over $50 — as we get closer to the 25th, I’ll share with you her list of gifts under $50. Get her newsletter here and follow her on Instagram and Twitter👍 — Terrell

Whether you are splurging for a loved one or a running friend or buying yourself something nice, there are plenty of pieces of running gear that appeal to any runner. As runners, we know we are picky about their gear. What works for me might not work for you. 

Sometimes finding a useable gift for your favorite running friend can be the hardest of them all. 

Here are a few splurges to get your running loved one (or a friend) for the holidays: 

For the lover of comfortable (non-running) shoes: Oofos Sandals ($60-$70)

It's hard to buy someone running shoes, but you can buy them supportive shoes to wear outside their running. Oofos Sandals provide cushion and support during the day or inside the house. I've been using mine for years.

For the gadget-lover: Addaday Massage Gun ($200)

The Addaday Massage Gun is a big purchase but well worth it. If you know a runner who is constantly sore or loves the newest recovery gadgets, the BioZoom Massage Gun is a great idea. It's one of the quietest massage guns out there. If you are looking for a full review, I wrote one on my personal blog.

For the music/podcast lover: Aftershokz Headphones ($100-$150)

Aftershokz headphones are bone conductive headphones. What did this mean? Their open ear design allows you to hear traffic as well as your music or podcasts. This allows you to stay safer on the run. They are made for athletics, so don't have wires or don't move or bounce around. They have all sorts of models, including the XtrainerZ, which you can swim with (I do, and I love them).

For the tracking/data-obsessed: Strava Premium Membership ($60)

If you're looking to gift someone a great membership, think about the Strava Premium. While Strava is a free platform, the membership allows you to see more in-depth stats with your training and how you are improving. If you have a friend that loves running stats, the Strava Premium Membership is for them.

For someone marking a milestone: Erica Sara Jewelry ($50+)

Erica Sara makes beautiful pieces of custom jewelry for whatever milestone you've reached. You can find personalized one of a kind jewelry in silver and gold. She has mantras jewelry, race elevation map jewelry, and so much more! If you're looking for a one of a kind piece, Erica Sara is perfect.

For the T-shirt collector: Project Repat T-shirt Quilt ($100+)

Do you know someone who has too many race shirts? If they are like me and have accumulated shirts, consider giving someone the gift of a race shirt quilt. Project Repat will make beloved t-shirts into a giant quilt. You can choose the signs and the back of the quilt. It can be made with T-shirts or cotton, or both!

For the person with too many race medals: Medal Holders ($50+)

If you have a friend who has dozens of medals in an old box somewhere, consider getting them a race medal holder to proudly share their achievements. There are all sorts of designs from "earned never given" to "every mile is magical." 

For the run-commuter: Tracksmith Mission Backpack ($238)

The Tracksmith Mission Backpack is made to be comfortable and for the person who is run commuting. It has space for a laptop, hydration, spare clothes, and even groceries.

For the technology lover: Coros Apex GPS Watch ($300)

The Coros Apex GPS watch does it all, from pace, time, and distance, to accurately measuring repeats around the track. One thing that makes Coros different from many other GPS watches is the long battery life. It can last up to 30 days without a charge. 

Searching for the perfect gift for anyone can be difficult. If you are currently shopping for your running friends, what are you buying? 

— Hollie

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Races you might love running

Runners make their way along the Malecón, a sea wall that stretches 8 kilometers along the waterfront of Havana Harbor, at the Havana Half Marathon.

Canyonlands Half Marathon

Moab, Utah | Saturday, March 20, 2021

A stunningly scenic run in the shadow of the majestic red rock formations of nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, this race is now in its fifth decade of bringing runners through the breathtaking red rock canyons carved millennia ago by the Colorado River. Over the years, it’s grown from a field of just 22 runners (and a dog) to nearly 3,000 more recently, and it’s not hard to see why when you’re there — Moab’s skyscraper-like canyon walls are your constant companion throughout your 13.1.

$115 and up | Sign up here

Oak Barrel Half Marathon

Lynchburg, Tenn. | Saturday, April 3, 2021

Runners who make their way to this beautifully scenic small town in the hills of southern Tennessee, located along the state’s Cumberland plateau, get a chance to enjoy both its small-town charm and the irony that the county in which the world-famous Jack Daniels whiskey is made and sold is a dry county — so while the whiskey can be made here, it can’t be sold by the bottle or the glass. The race unfolds through the town of Lynchburg and along the tree-lined rural country roads that surround it, featuring plenty of green farm fields and the pastoral beauty of the rolling countryside of this part of Tennessee.

$135 for charity registrations | Sign up here

Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon

Weott, Calif. | Sunday, May 2, 2021

Run among the majestic redwood forests of California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park, along a course once described by Runner’s World as one of the nation’s most beautiful running routes. From the starting line at the park’s Dyersville Bridge, the half marathon follows the second 13.1 of the 26.2-mile race, along the Avenue of the Giants (Highway 254) — offering up the majesty of the surrounding mountains, and then back again to canopies of redwoods overhead. Organizers say that even in the non-shaded portions of the course, the elevation and the season of year combine to provide cool temperatures in most years along the entire course.

$70 and up | Sign up here

Iceland Volcano Marathon

Mývatn, Iceland | Saturday, July 24, 2021

Geysers, hot springs, lava fields and glaciers — you’ll get to take all of that in and more when you run along Iceland’s North Volcanic Zone at this summertime race. You’ll run on dirt roads and trails that surround Lake Mývatn near Reykjahlid, a tiny town of about 300 souls in northern Iceland, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates scrape against one another beneath the Earth’s surface, and pass by the massive Hverfjall volcanic crater around the half-way point of the marathon. The race is part of a six-day excursion that will also feature day trips to the capital city Reykjavík and a scenic drive along Iceland’s west coast.

$2,400 and up | Sign up here

Havana Half Marathon

Havana, Cuba | Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021

Runners get to run along the Malecón, a sea wall that stretches 8 kilometers along the waterfront of Havana Harbor, at this early fall race. Built in 1901 to protect the city from the ocean, today it’s home to fishermen by day and lovers meeting at night (which I got the chance to see when I visited the city a couple of years ago). Running here will feel like traveling back in time, as the architecture of the buildings as well as the cars hasn’t changed in decades — you’ll get to choose from 26.2 miles, 13.1 miles or 10K, and stay at a hotel in Old Havana, just a short walk from the start/finish line.

$2,850 and up | Sign up here

A song to run to today

10,000 Hours” by Dan + Shay (with Justin Bieber)

Listen to our full playlist on Spotify, with 8 hours, 55 minutes of music to run to.

Words to run by

“At one point in each of my twenty-six marathons as a pro I asked myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ (Yes, even when I won Boston.) I eventually learned that it’s always going to hurt, but most of the time you can come up out of that absolute pit. When you’re conditioned properly and your body and mind are on the same page, it’s a beautiful thing.”

— Meb Keflezighi