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Smiling faces filled the crowd on Ogden’s downtown 25th Street Saturday, as participants dressed in Santa suits came barreling toward the finish line of the sixth annual Santa Run 5K.
This year, Ogden’s Santa Run had more than 1,200 participants, exceeding last year’s registration numbers. Creator Joe Coles, owner of On-Hill Events and graduate of Weber State University, said the event continues to grow every year.
The event is not just growing in numbers of participants, but in locations as well. Salt Lake City just hosted its first Santa Run at The Gateway downtown on Nov. 23, and had more than 600 participants.
“For our first year, those are really great numbers and we are really excited about that,” Coles said.
Provo held its fifth annual Santa Run this year, and Coles said he hopes to get the event in many more locations throughout Utah and wants this to become a holiday tradition for community members.
Coles said the event is becoming something special to community members and that this is the one event out of the many On-Hill Events he puts on throughout the year where organizers have to put volunteers on a waiting list for next year, because they just have too many people signing up.
On-Hill Events is so named because of Coles’ grandfather, who ran his last marathon at the age of 80. Coles said his grandfather would always say he was “never over the hill; he was always on it.” That was what got Coles involved with running, so much so that he quit his job in Davis County to make On-Hill his main priority.
Sandi Weber, WSU nontraditional students senator, said she thinks the Santa Run is a great way to kick off the holiday season.
“I know that everyone has their different holiday traditions, but this is such a fun one,” she said. “I love to see that it welcomes all ages from top down. I don’t know where we sit as far as the other two Santa Runs, but it’s big here, and it’s so exciting to see the people on the sidelines cheering.”
This being Weber’s third time participating in the Santa Run, she said she enjoys how the event brings the community together and how she can meet other runners to hear their stories.
“It is so much fun. Being with a community is quite the place, and it is nice to have common values with people. Many people out there running are not born runners,” Weber said. “To hear the stories of what people have overcome to get to be there — and you thought what you had to overcome to start running was hard — to hear what everyone else has to share, it is so inspiring.”
Nick Berg, a WSU senior, has just recently gotten into running, and this was his first time in the Santa Run. His family has participated before, and he said he enjoys how it brings all ages in the community together.
“This is something Weber State students should do, for sure,” Berg said. “It is just a great way to represent Weber State and to integrate and unite Weber State and Ogden together as a whole.”
Berg said many people show up and that the event is very family-oriented. He said children and spectators enjoy it because they get to see all the participants dressed up as Santa Claus, and the participants enjoy it because they can get creative with their costumes.
“I watched a guy last year pull his entire family in a handcart,” Berg said. “They called themselves Rudolph’s Revenge. He had his wife and his kids dressed up as reindeer and he just pulled them the whole way, and I didn’t see that guy walk once the entire time.”
Many WSU students joined in. Heidi Jenkins, a WSU student who just had surgery on Wednesday and went to her grandfather’s funeral earlier on Saturday, said even though she couldn’t run, she was determined to walk the whole way and pass through the finish line.
The Santa Run has free admission for all children under the age of 8. Compared to other events, Coles said, it is relatively inexpensive. For the $35 registration fee, all participants receive a Santa suit they get to keep.
“It’s been a successful event because of the size it has grown (to),” Coles said. “That is a large reason why we have been able to keep the price down. From the original date, we haven’t raised the price since we started in 2008, which has given us the opportunity to give large donations to the Ogden’s Policeman Ball and Christmas Village.”
The Santa Run is held in correlation with Ogden’s annual Christmas Parade and the lighting of Christmas Village, which brings people from all over northern Utah to Ogden.
“It is a great way to get your kids out running, and then they transition right into the parade, where Weber probably has an entry,” Weber said. “I love to see the community come together, because Ogden has spent the last few years working really hard to rebuild, and I think it’s really great.”