It’s still a bit stunning to me that the major shopping day in America is called Black Friday.
Perhaps it is proof that Americans have really short memories. Do people really not recall that the term Black Friday was originally coined (no pun intended) to describe the horrific date of September 24, 1929 when a market collapse signaled the start of the Great Depression?
The shoppers I watched charging out of K-Mart during a news clip on Thanksgiving didn’t seem to have irony on their minds at all. They were running, literally, out of the store with items they had purchased the day before official Black Friday sales begin.
None of those people running out the door looked like they had run for any other purpose in their lives for a very long time. Yet here they were, jubilantly sprinting across a storefront threshold with excited expressions on their faces like they’d just won a marathon or something.
It’s an Event
So we must stop to consider that Black Friday really does mean something to people other than a chance to buy things they want, need, or desire to give to other people.
To millions of Americans who wait for the day after Thanksgiving to come around each year, Black Friday is an Event, with a capital “E.”
It takes training
That means that for many people, a whole lot of planning goes into preparing for Black Friday. I hesitate to say they actually train for the event, but they come close.
I’ve witnessed a Black Friday Athlete in training. She plotted for weeks which stores she was going to attack, and when. It was as if she was laying down plans to run a marathon or complete a Century on a bike. She would start at midnight, shop through the morning hours, hit a food station at around 9:00 and then head off for a new set of locations.
The Black Friday mindset: Like a world class athlete
This woman was obsessed, dumping phone calls at work as fast as she could to provide more time to go online and search for places to buy gifts. Her goals were to pick up presents for all her kids and her husband. She also had in mind a few items to pick up for herself. This is called, in Black Friday terms, “rewarding yourself” for the effort. That award might be something the Black Friday shopper knows no one else will think to give them. And heck, if the savings are big enough on the items you find during Black Friday sales, who says it’s so bad to buy yourself a little something for the effort?
Hitting the wall or bonking
Of course, like any marathon or other endurance event, there is always a risk of bonking or hitting the wall. You see those people leaning against the store wall surrounded by bags and boxes. Their posture sags. Their eyes glaze over.
If they’ve lost their kids during the day, they don’t really care that much. There are plenty of other kids to go around. Find some more and take them home. They’ll probably like what you already bought as much as your own kids.
Black Friday can do that to you.
That’s why its important to warm up before you start your Black Friday shopping. Spend the weeks leading up to Black Friday putting in shorter shopping stints that raise your heart rate but do not require use of your full VO2 Max. Train only at 80% lest you peak too early. You might even want to just drive around to the best shopping areas and not actually buy anything. It’s still best to know your course on race day.
Give it all you’ve got
Of course, if you’re only just now reading this, it’s a little late to begin training for Black Friday. So like Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You don’t go to war with the army you want. You go to war with the army you have.”
Same goes for any distance race, bicycling competition or Black Friday shopping marathon. If you did not have time to prepare, you’re going to have to pace yourself wisely, don’t go out too fast, save a little energy for the middle of the race and try to kick it in if you have any juice left in the engine at all.
Beware your competition
It will be frightening out there, we want to warn you. Black Friday brings out a brand of competitor you likely do not encounter in your local 10K or marathon. For one thing, they are entirely unfit. Some of them may even be obese, or the size of NFL offensive lineman, and we mean that allegorically. If you do not understand what you are about to face in your first Black Friday competition, we suggest you check out this website: www.peopleofwalmart.com.
What is frightening about these types of competitors is that they find strength and endurance in places well-trained runners and cyclists only wish they had. It really is an aberration of nature to see a person who normally sweats just getting up from their chair traipsing tirelessly around giant stores pushing shopping carts full of presents. Perhaps these people know how to access The Force, just like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. It really is remarkable.
Yes, to see a full-on, full-sized shopper tearing about a department store is a wonder of nature, like watching former Olympic shot-putter Brian Oldfield run the 400 meters. Understand, Brian was actually very fit in his day. He’s the model for all huge people who exceed natural expectations.
Black Friday Gladiators
These people are fearless, determined and inexhaustible, for the most part. So if you think all the running and riding is going to give you an advantage in Black Friday traffic, think again. Your typical Black Friday competitor is meaner, tougher and more acquisitive than any person you’ll ever encounter at the adidas, Nike or Puma booth at your local running expo when they’re giving way free tee-shirts to the first 100 registrants.
No, Black Friday is way more serious than some little running or cycling expo, where your competition weighs about the same as you and actually has a polite bone in their body. That’s how we sportsman are taught to behave, with a little respect for the competition.
But those rules go out the freakin’ window on Black Friday. You might as well be running a marathon with a pack of fully-armed gladiators. Or riding your road bike on a highway with those crazed lunatics from Mad Max, the Mel Gibson movies. It’s been that way for millennia. People out shopping are crazy.
Better to chill out. Relax. Go for a run or ride instead. Shopping will still be there come Monday and beyond.
In fact, I hate to tell you this at so late an hour, but you are much better off forgetting about running out to shop on Black Friday at all. You should kick back on Black Friday, watch the tragic news reports of people who didn’t find what they wanted to buy or just absolutely had to have, and then head out to Shop Local. Spread a little money around in your own community. Support your neighbors and friendly mom and pop stores.
Don’t worry. Sears and JCPenny and Kohl’s and Macy’s will all still be there on Monday. There are 30 shopping days until Christmas. The big box stores will certainly welcome you with open arms well after Black Friday has passed.
Pace yourself. Go for a run or a ride.
Instead of all the madness, bundle up and go our for a run or a ride in the country. Think through your shopping list, and what it means to buy someone something they really like. If all else fails, buy gift cards. Make a handmade card to go with them. You family and friends will love you for it.
That’s like Black Friday anti-matter. So be brave, and be part of the Dark Energy of the Holiday Season this year.
But watch out for the Black Hole of eggnog. It can put 5 lbs on your cosmic dumper in a heartbeat.