Santa Claus was definitely coming to town on Sunday as just under 7,000 people took part in Liverpool's famous annual Santa Dash. Runners as far as the eye could see lined up at the start near the Pier Head and completed the 5km course in a variety of Father Christmas outfits, including blue Santas for Everton fans. Organisers confirmed the official number as 6,952, just 62 less than their 2008 total.
There was an element of festive competition in the air as Liverpool tried to outdo the same event in Las Vegas with its number of dashing Santas. The rivalry has been running for some time, with the Las Vegas Santa Run’s website calling Liverpool its biggest annual competition in the World Santa Challenge, but Vegas had the edge again this year as they drew the biggest crowd.
Liverpool's roads were closed on Sunday morning as the fun-run began on Canada Boulevard before continuing down Dale Street, over the Churchill Way flyover, through Old Hall Street, along Moorfields and finishing outside the Town Hall in a flurry of artificial snow. Those who completed the course received medals as they crossed the finish line.
One Santa said at the start: “It’s great, I’m doing this for Cash for Kids and it’s my first time so I’m really excited. I do a lot of running anyway but it should be interesting doing it dressed as Father Christmas.”
The atmosphere at the starting line was one to remember with thousands of Santas laughing, joking and stretching in preparation. Batala Liverpool, a Brazilian percussion group, provided the motivation for the red and blue congregation before they set off to the sound of Chariots of Fire. The amount of entrants meant that it was a delayed start for most, but they soon picked up pace as they got into James Street.
Another pair of Santas said: “We’ve just moved into the area so thought we would give it a go. It’s absolutely amazing to see a sea of red and blue. It’s incredible, it really is, such a good atmosphere.”
Running in a Santa suit proved to be a difficult task, most entrants choosing to shed their fake beards and iconic red hats by the finish line. One of the most memorable sights will be the Santas filling the Churchill Way flyovers with the backdrop of the big wheel at Liverpool One in the distance.
Santa Dashes have been taking place right across the country for the past few weeks. Battersea and Las Vegas ran on Saturday December 5, whilst there were 33 other festive runs joining Liverpool on Sunday, including Hampstead Heath, Cardiff and Aberdeen. None manage to compete with Liverpool's numbers.
Entrants ranged in age, their outlook on finishing times and number of legs as a few chose to bring their dogs along for the fun. While some seasoned runners led the way with an impressive pace, most were happy to enjoy the occasion with friends and family, posing for photos at various stages of the course.
By Sean Fell & Danny Masters, JMU Journalism TV Picture special by Vegard Grott
JMU Journalism TV: video report from Santa Dash; Gallery: click on a thumbnail to enlarge an image