7 Things That Runners Can Learn By Watching 'Elf'

He wears tights in public. He loves carbs. (Well, sugar.) He has incredible endurance, having once traveled from the North Pole, through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, to New York City—on foot. 

He is Buddy the elf, lead character in—we think—the best holiday movie of all time, Elf.

Not only is this a classic comic film, and one of Will Ferrell's greatest performances, it is chock full of lessons for runners like us.

For example...

1. Sometimes We All Fall Off the Pace, and That's OK

Elf imparts this lesson early on, in a scene in Santa's workshop, when Buddy admits that he just can't keep up with the others.

Buddy: "Hey, Ming Ming. Umm. I'm gonna be a little bit short on today's quota."
Ming Ming: "It's all right, Buddy. Just how many Etch-a-Sketches did you get finished? ... C'mon, Buddy, how many?"
Buddy: "I made, uh... 85?"
Ming Ming: "Eighty-five? That puts you... 915 off the pace."
Buddy: "Why don't you just say it? I'm the worst toymaker in the world. I'm a cotton-headed ninny muggins."
Ming Ming: "No, Buddy, you're not a cotton-headed ninny muggins. We all just have different talents, that's all."

Ming Ming is right. Just because you can't keep up with others doesn't make you a cotton-headed ninny muggins. It's all right. Do what you can.

p.s. Did you know that Ming Ming is played by Peter Billingsley, i.e. Ralphie from A Christmas Story, in an uncredited role?

2. "You See Gum on the Street, Leave It There. It's Not Free Candy."

Truth. This advice, delivered to Buddy by Ed Asner's Santa, is just as relevant today as it was 12 years ago—and just as important. Same goes for gum under handrails.

3. At Some Point, We All Need to Take a Leap of Faith

When you're embarking on a journey to find your biological father, for instance. Or when you're thinking of signing up for a marathon.

4. Give Raccoons a Wide Berth

Do not try to hug them. Especially if you encounter one during the day.

5. Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

Remember: The yellow ones don't stop.

6. Don't Be Shy When They Play the National Anthem—Sing!

When you hear the National Anthem before the start of a race, do you just stand there? Do you half-sing/half-mumble, self-consciously? If you take either of these approaches, consider taking a page from Buddy's playbook. Sing it!

Buddy: "The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear."
Jovie: Thanks, but I don't sing."
Buddy: "Oh, well, it's just like talking, except longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down."
Jovie: "I can sing, I just choose not to sing. Especially in front of other people."
Buddy: "If you can sing alone, you sing in front of other people. There's no difference."
Jovie: "Actually, there's a big difference."
Buddy: "No there's not. Wait..."

7. Smiling Is Good

"I just like to smile," Buddy says. "Smiling's my favorite." Research suggests that this could actually help Buddy during a race or workout, making the effort seem more manageable. (This has to do with perceived effort, the idea of effort vs. pain, and so on. You can read more here.) So next time you're grimacing in a race or hard workout, try smiling. It can't hurt. And, hey, you never know—maybe you'll help spread some Christmas Cheer to those around you. Even if it isn't Christmastime.