Henley is well and truly racing into Christmas after this weekend’s Santa Fun Run. Sunday morning saw 135 festively dressed participants flood Mill Meadows with Christmas jumpers and Santa hats, all for the highly anticipated return of ’Santa On The Run’. Having not taken place in 2017, the merry 2 mile race was a welcome reappearance in the town’s Christmas Calendar.
The occasion attracted a huge range of runners, from seasoned triathletes to families with push chairs. Even dogs came to race in Christmas jumpers, keeping with the event’s tradition of being open to any and all walks of life. Prizes were handed out for the fastest and the best dressed runners, giving the jolly joggers extra motivation to cross the finish line. For the less competitive participants, there was the promise of a warm cup of Heinz tomato soup and mince pies to spur them on. The Sax & Clarinet group and Senior Jazz Band from Henley Music School provided a proper Christmas atmosphere by playing finishers over the line with everyone’s favourite festive tunes.
The event was originally created in 2011 by then Mayor, Pam Phillips. “We started off with 37 people, including a 2 year old on a scooter and 4 dogs, and every year it doubled in number,” she said. Pam was one of the many people involved in bringing the race back for 2018, alongside Councillors Sarah Miller, Laurence Plant, Stefan Gawrysiak, David Eggleton and the Henley Lions. Pam was thrilled to see the race resurrected, commenting, “Everybody has fun; as soon as they arrive they start to laugh because of what other people are wearing. I was sad it didn’t happen last year but well done Sarah for getting it back on board this year.”
Councillor Sarah Miller was integral in the return of Santa On The Run to Mill Meadows, after last year’s alternative Christmas Parkrun event. “I think there were so many disappointed people last year,” she stated. “It was great that it was at Parkrun, but I think this is where it’s been traditionally. I knew that Pam was the person to speak to so I contacted Pam. Laurence Plant has also been helping us, and Stefan helped with the website. Dave Eggleton helped, so it’s been a real combined effort. I’m delighted — it’s a great turnout.”
The fastest Santa to complete the race was 15 year old Tri Henley member, Adam Hunt. Used to running at least 5k (plus a swim and a cycle), the Fun Run was a change to Adam’s usual running routine — and attire! “It was a bit of a shorter one, and it was cold, but it’s a good one,” he said, reflecting on his win. “We’ve done it once before a few years ago. It’s a good one for the town. It’s a bit more fun. We were meant to make it as a club today but a few people couldn’t make it, but hopefully next year it will be an all club.” Will Hutchins came 2nd and Jonty Shipley in 3rd. The Harrison family (Jo, Pete and Hattie) were the fastest family to finish, whilst the McCulsky family scooped the prize for best dressed.
The prizes were awarded by Mayor Glen Lambert, whose chosen charities will benefit from the total raised by the event. “I think it’s wonderful,” he enthused. “I think it’s great that we brought it back; obviously last year it went and a lot of people were disappointed so it’s great that it’s back. It’s raised several hundred pounds for the Mayor’s charities, which is brilliant and better than I had hoped for. I just want to thank Sarah Miller and Laurence for bringing it back and helping run this today, and Pam and the rest of the Henley Lions for marshalling it and providing soup and mince pies. It was really, really good.”
Santa On The Run could not have happened without the help of the Henley Lions and the supporting businesses. One of the event sponsors was IBS Office Solutions, whose team turned out in force to tackle the 2 mile course. Managing Director, Caleb Southwell, said, “I think the Henley Fun Run is great. It’s great to see people walking down to the river on a Sunday morning dressed as Santas ready for the festive event. We sponsored the hats — a bit controversial being blue, but it’s a bit different and fun. It’s a nice event for everyone in Henley and everyone can participate.”
More than just a fun festive occasion, the race raised £600 for Henley Music School, Bluebells Day Care Centre, and Gillotts School. The fantastic family event was enjoyed by all the speedy Santas who took part, whilst also helping to give back to the community this Christmas season.