How fast can Santa run?
When, in late November, my friend Jan left a message on my Facebook wall, telling me that within 45 minutes of getting her message 500 Santa Clauses would be on the starting line in the middle of our forest, ready to run five kilometres, you can imagine my reaction.
“Kids!” I bawled unceremoniously, “You have precisely five minutes to be kitted out in hats, gloves, mittens and thick coats worthy of Sir Edmund Hilary. Hundreds of Santas are lined up on a starting line in the forest right now!”
As we drove past the supermarket there were tell-tale signs that something was afoot. One young Santa was pushing a push chair. Another had an expensive leather handbag slung over his shoulder. A third sported state-of-the-art running shoes.
Someone had planned this run and they were coming. A swarm of Santas, converging on the forest, a red and white army of affable bearded gentlemen.
Except it became quickly obvious that not all of them were gentlemen.
Ladies of all ages and sizes sported beards. It was a scene paralleled only by that wonderful Life of Brian sketch. You know the one: Jewish stoning had to be carried out by men, but the joke goes that the really bloodthirsty ones in Brian’s society were the women.
So they all dressed up in men’s clothes and beards, and tried desperately to talk in deep registers.
Today, these women might have beards, but they had only festive cheer and athletic prowess on their minds. I wondered fleetingly what it must be like to run 5k in a ticklish beard.
We turned into the car park, and against all the odds, we found a parking space. Had all these Santas really walked here from town, I ruminated?
There was no time to consider Father Christmas’s parking policy because the moment we got out of the car, all we could hear was a roar; the sound of five hundred Santas preparing for battle.
We followed our ears.
And nothing could have prepared us for the sight which met our eyes.
A sea of festive red and white. False beards the like of which you have never seen. Women, men, children, even dogs sported Santa suits, trimmed with fake ermine.
A voice emanated from a public address system in the marquee: “If you are a reindeer – that is, if you are running the race in under half an hour- will you please make your way to the starting line.”
The atmosphere was electric. You could cut it with a knife. The reindeer headed off, preening slightly.
My children sported broad grins as we weaved through the Santas towards the starting line. This was a photo opportunity, and both Felix and I had our cameras on hand. We would not miss this for the world.
Then someone squeaked: “Maddie! Felix!”
Santa had children, and they went to my children’s school. I turned and struck a conversation with their father, who at over six foot, towered imposingly, but with infinite good humour, over all the other Santas.
“There’s about double the Santas we had last year”, he confided happily. “And it was raining then. Beautiful weather for the run today!”
And it was. The sun dazzled amongst the leaves as children skipped round happily. The runners were urged to get into place at the bright red inflatable starting line.
And they were off. All human life was here. Every conceivable shape, size and gender and incarnation of St Nicholas: every age, some accompanied by their dogs. They all shot off, savouring those first vital minutes, finding their pace and rhythm, getting the breathing right, sorting out the itchy beards.
We clicked and clicked. We got shots of the Weasleys, freeze-frames of the front-runners, pictures of our tall Santa friend, Santas in sunshades, happy St Nicks every one.
As a jubilant Santa in a wheelchair completed the hectic procession, we heaved a satisfied sigh. Felix reflected that he had some amazing shots. December or no, this was a breathtaking beginning to our festive season.
And as we headed back to the car park, having wished the fleet-footed Father Christmases well, an announcer issued an interim message: ” Will the Christmas puddings on bicycles please report to the marquee.
“Christmas puddings on bicycles to the marquee, please. Thank you.”
This is a repost, as regulars will have ascertained by now….I have started confessing to this at the end, not the beginning, of the post. I find it is far more conducive to ratings.