Santas on the run for St Wilfrid’s Hospice

Warm up session in the market square before the race''111982-10 Chi santa run
Warm up session in the market square before the race''111982-10 Chi santa run

There were plenty of shattered Santas on Sunday when they took to the countryside for a bracing run around the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.

More than 350 people got up early on a cold and drizzly morning to take part in the Santa Sprint and Stroll in aid of St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

Those feeling competitive were able to take part in the five-kilometre sprint at 10.45am – while those who preferred a lie-in and a more leisurely pace gathered for the Santa Stroll at midday.

Although the day stated with a couple of downpours, the rain managed to stay away so the Santas did not get soggy. There were plenty of sprint finishes, and even a skid finish for one runner, but above all there were lots of smiles as people of all ages as well as family dogs donned the distinctive festive outfit.

Watching all the action was the real Father Christmas, assisted by some elves in his grotto in the Market Square. He was saving all his energies for the mammoth journey he will be make on Christmas Eve.

Special guest was Wave 105 radio station’s breakfast show presenter and Selsey resident Steve Power, who provided a voice-over for the runners and strollers, and provided much encouragement for everyone.

St Wilfrid’s Hospice’s ukulele band also played for the crowds, while staff led all the Santas on a warm-up before the event.

The first Santa to cross the finishing line was Mark Lancaster, a fireman at Chichester Fire Station, who decided to take part following a suggestion by his wife Louise.

“It was lots of fun, and there were some nice pleasant hills,” he said.

“He’s done runs before, but this is his first win,” added Mrs Lancaster.

Second back was Jonny Watts.

“I run a little bit, I work for Wileys and we’ve got a team of about eight or nine of us doing the run,” he said. “It’s good fun, but it was a bit slippery coming down off the hill.”

Third place went to Stephen Sedgley, who was hoping to raise at least £100 in sponsorship.

“My family have always supported St Wilfrid’s and I took part with my brother. I didn’t think it would be so hard up on the slopes.”

Organisers said they were thrilled with how it went, and they were very pleased with the numbers taking part, topping last year’s total threefold.

Jill Dennison from the hospice’s fundraising office said: “It was brilliant, it went really, really well. We are pleased and the museum is really pleased as well and we can’t thank the museum staff enough.

“I do think the venue added to the occasion, and people were having their refreshments and singing along to the ukulele band.

“There were so many children taking part and some serious runners, who I think found the terrain quite difficult.

“Everyone enjoyed it and we are really pleased with the turnout and everyone was very cheerful, despite the lousy weather.”