The fog horn blared and they were off — about 200 Santa Clauses sprinted down South Old Orchard Avenue. Wearing red Santa hats and white beards, contestants ran in the second annual Santas on the Loose 5K.
At last year’s Santa race, participants ran in 70-degree weather. But on Saturday, Dec. 7 — race day — the temperature was about 10 degrees, with snow on the ground from the day before.
“The cold was really bad in the beginning, I felt like I didn’t have feet, but after the first mile it was fine,” said Christine Eichhorn, first time Santa runner and Webster University student.
She finished the race in 27 minutes, an average time for participants.
The freezing temperatures did not keep these Santas from running 3.1 miles through the streets of Webster Groves for charity.
A portion of the proceeds from the race benefited Crisis Nursery, a St. Louis organization offering free services for struggling families open 24/7, 365 days a year. Val Joyner is the public relations manager at Crisis Nursery.
“What would a Santas on the Loose race be like without snow? Santa uses snow instead of gas,” Joyner said.
Donations of Christmas gifts from Crisis Nursery’s wish list were also accepted at the race. Donations included toys, baby formula and basic household supplies.
“The reality is, that while some families are at home and unwrapping items they hoped for all year, that have been very good for all year… we’ll be at the nursery rocking some babies that can’t be with their parents on the holidays,” Joyner said.
Photos by David Broome/The Journal
Taking first place at the race, Alex Noel finished in 18 minutes. Noel is the team leader of Outpatient Behavioral Health at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center, which was the presenting sponsor of the Santa run.
“Crisis nursery is a fantastic organization. I’ve done a lot of crisis-related work in different respects through St. Louis, and I think what they do is phenomenal,” Noel said.
Race participants Ellen Poast and Kelly Ward ran with their dog Jake in the Santa race for the first time.
“He loves it, it’s his favorite thing,” Ward said about Jake, who wagged his tail after just running 3.1 miles.
Poast said her favorite part of the race was the beards and the Santa hats. She said the race put her in the Christmas spirit.
“I liked seeing the proceeds go to a good cause, especially this time of year. It’s a great benefit for this race to support,” Poast said.
Joyner said she was excited by the support from the community. Even with the cold temperatures, parents and children still came out to show their support.
Children raced in the streets, dressed in antlers and a red Rudolph nose for the “Reindeer on the Loose” 100-yard dash.
The Webster Groves, Shrewsbury and Rock Hill Chamber of Commerce organized the dash.
“The best part is just seeing everybody dress up and have fun with it. It just creates a festival holiday aura,” said Rebecca Now, Chamber of Commerce executive director.
Now said Chamber of Commerce puts on the run to bring people to Webster Groves with the hope that they will stay, shop and dine after the race. Another is to bring the community together.
Fifty volunteers helped put together the Santa race. The volunteers came from Webster Groves Rotary Club, the Webster Groves Chamber of Commerce and various other community members. Webster University provided eight to ten street barricades for the race.
“There’s nothing better than when a community comes together and stands in solidarity for a mission, and our mission is the perfect mission for the holidays because we are all about keeping kids safe and building strong families,” Joyner said.