27 Nov

O Run All Ye Faithful

Santa Run

The rush has started. The panic is starting to kick in. 'Do you manage to get one?', 'Make sure you don't leave it too late, or they will sell out.' The shopping is one thing, but also in high demand are places at Christmas races.

Almost 200 running events are set to take place in the coming weeks across the UK with a Christmas or New Year theme. The rise of the Santa Runs over the last decade has been a winter phenomenon with thousands merrily donning a white beard and red coat to run for a charitable cause. Elsewhere, running clubs the length of Britain have embraced the joys of the season by hosting themed races with names such as Turkey Trot and Jingle Bell Run. The enthusiasm for these races is huge and I can perfectly understand why, because I share it.

Personally, Christmas doesn't seem complete without a race. First and foremost each Christmas event is fun, pure and simple. Even if you are a runner who takes the sport very seriously then a Christmas race is an event to relax and just enjoy the atmosphere.

Often they are over unusual distances such as 4 miles, 7 miles or further and also with an off-road element. So there are no personal bests or particular times to really go for, it's just the challenge of the course and your fellow runners.Each event also seems to have more of a party atmosphere than at other times of year. Even if it is not a Santa-costumed run, there are always plenty of runners with tinsel tousled in their hair or crowned with reindeer antlers.

Keeping with the spirit of the season, food also seems much more plentiful at Christmas races, with stalls of all sorts of goodies frequently in attendance. I have even been awarded a Christmas pudding rather than a finishers' medal at one particular race, which I am sure cannot be alone in this tradition.

But I think the greatest draw of all is the utter guilt of not running over Christmas. The lazy time, the eating, the drinking, the endless hours watching TV - it's all the perfect recipe to get fatter and slower in a short space of time. British athletics legend Daley Thompson was famed for training on Christmas Day.

But even an ordinary runner like me can relate to the desire to exercise over Christmas. It's only when you've slogged through 10 miles in the December mud that you can truly enjoy that extra mince pie. So hand it over Grandma! Oh and pass the port whilst you're at it.