WHAT do you call this week between Christmas and New Year? Yuletide? Twixmas? The Great Abyss? Purgatory? The Flaming Planes of Hell? Whatever works for you, I suppose.

For many, the New Year is when slates are wiped clean, and anything that occurs between Boxing Day and Hogmanay simply doesn’t count. However, go out for a walk in the park this week and you’ll be met by flotillas of luminous, un-besmirched hi-viz running jackets, you’ll be splashed by the bright, bouncy, brand-new running shoes being christened in every puddle on the round of the loch; sound-blasting ear buds and flashing running apps on wrist-worn gizmos will delay, distract and derail those jostling joggers enough to smash into you and your unsuspecting brood, who themselves are working out the intricacies of the scooters and bikes festooned upon them by Santa.

Yes, the yearly, roughly two-week-long pilgrimage of the hapless holiday-season runners is the bane not only of the bastion of park-walkers at this time of year, but also those who pound the pavements in all four seasons. Genuine running freaks have their routes planned, target times; they know when they want to speed up and when they can slow down to catch their breath before a sharp incline. They check the weather forecast and dress accordingly, they simply tap “start” on their running watch and the GPS system kicks in. They may have a preferred running playlist that they have curated for weeks, months, even years on end. Yes, it’s a slick operation, and one which normally allows for a smooth coexistence with other park users – for 11 and a half months of the year, anyway.

During a recent visit to the local park, having watched open-jawed as my new mustard-coloured corduroy trousers were splashed by a stray strand of mud belching out of a brilliant-white Adidas trainer, to the soundtrack of a dance version of Hungry Eyes belting out of my assailant’s headphones, I took some respite on a park bench to cool down with a steaming cup of coffee. As the mud seeped in and started to dry into an uncomfortable crust, suddenly it was I who had the hungry eyes: a new sport was being played out before me.

Like Neo in The Matrix, suddenly I could see, between the general hubbub, this insane race before me going round the loch. Easily distinguishable were the genuine runners galloping along, swerving every family group, sidestepping cyclists, slaloming past scooterists. Like Agents thrashing through The Matrix, however, the dilettantes were just as conspicuous. Bounding around with gay abandon, these nuisances were making almost as much headway as their careful counterparts on account of their neo-liberal approach to sharing the natural space.

Then suddenly I realised they were actually competing.

Closing behind every rickety pair of Reeboks were fluorescent air-bubble-bopping Nikes. Yes, the upstarts were trying to overtake the seasoned athletes. What they hadn’t factored in, apparently, was that old runners’ adage: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”. Three times round the loch plus an extra 500m to the car park was the route.

It was just like the Premiership season. Three rounds of fixtures plus an extra five plopped on for good Old Firm-accommodating measure at the end.

Now the Scottish top tier has, of course, recently come out of its hiatus following the unseasonal World Cup in Qatar. Since then, little has changed at the summit: Celtic still hold a nine-point lead going into the New Year derby. Rangers, however, have a brand-new manager and Michael Beale has managed to dust off the cobwebs with four wins on the trot since the restart – equivalent to a good 400m bend round the loch. But with 3-2 comeback victories against Aberdeen and Hibernian and a 1-0 win over Ross County preceding a more routine 3-0 win over Motherwell in midweek, this surge has involved more than a couple of shoulder barges past unsuspecting blockages in their path.

For Celtic, meanwhile, it has been business as usual. Yes, their 1-0 and 2-1 scorelines against Aberdeen and Livingston respectively could have been more emphatic, but there is a steady assurance to Ange Postecoglou’s side. When Hibs tried to take the game to the Scottish champions, they were kicked to the curb in a 4-0 loss on their own patch.

Just as in the park procession, the real runners have a sure plan, they have been over the course before, and they know how to make it to the end without stopping. Yes, they might be side-tracked by the odd stray wheel, a marauding pooch or a toddler’s reins stretched across the path like a clothesline. But they are going to make it in their own time. And it will be the same in the second half of the Premiership campaign – unless Celtic somehow conspire to crash into the loch itself, there is simply no catching them this season.

Just as the real runners were coolly supping from the same steaming swill purchased from the kiosk that I was grudgingly guzzling down while the pretenders doubled over in heaving, lung-splitting agony, Celtic will be able to kick back with their green ribbons tied to the trophy with plenty of time to spare.