Santa Run Sparks a Holly, Jolly, Good Time


Twas the week before Christmas, and all near the Beach,

the winds that were whipping, all warmth it did reach,

All the Santas were stretching, near the new fallen snow,

waiting to run, and the signal to go,

Down the boardwalk they flew, that Rockaway bunch,

Some for the thrill, some for the brunch,

No matter their fitness, nor age, or their dream,

All were our winners, this Rockaway team.

On Saturday, December 16, a brave group of runners, defied the winter chill, the surly winds, and the Bah Humbugs of injuries past, to run the Rockaway Santa Suit 5k Run and Pub Crawl. This annual cold weather exercise filled with holiday cheer, has become a fixture in the local racing scene. A 5K race, approximately 3.1 miles, is on average, ran in 16 minutes to less than an hour for those just starting to get interested in running. As a 5K it’s perfect for kids, adults, first timers, avid runners, and Santa fans far and wide. This annual tradition has been making spirits bright since it started in 1999, according to race coordinator, John Edwards.

Participants met at Community House to receive their Santa Suits that are provided with the $40 entry fee. Proceeds went to the Curley family, who is dealing with the tragic aftermath of an apartment fire on December 3, so all participants were running for not only good fun, but a good cause. Inside, the feeling was warm, and had the subdued excitement of Christmas Eve. Folks of all ages were changing into their Santa suits, over their high-end running gear, that some avid runners prefer. There were the cheerful voices of kids from four years old, excited to be around so many Santas, to the Graybeards, working on making their run time better than the last 5k. Kids like the Corvi sisters, Jeanne Marie, Sadie, Anna, and Cassie, giggling, then shy, were excited for a run on the boardwalk despite being too young to wear the suit. Once everyone got their suit and last minute instructions, participants headed out to the starting point on Beach 102nd Street.

The blistering winds coming off the ocean, combined with the previous night’s snow on the ground, gave everyone a jolt that no coffee could match. Other than that, the runners couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day to race. Matthew Marten, who was old enough to wear the Santa suit for the first time, has been running the 5K since he was small. Jamie Schneider, with an ankle encased in an orthopedic boot and driven around in a wheelchair by her friends, kept that “never give up” attitude along the course. When Paul O’Neill (not the NY Yankee) was asked why he runs, he said, “In December, when it gets cold, I get bored. So this is a fun way to get out, enjoy the holidays, and maybe lose a few pounds. Plus there’s a Pub Crawl.”

The starting horn blew and a sea of Santas went on their merry way uptown toward Beach 126th Street, where everyone turned around and headed back to the finish line at Beach 102nd Street. After the run, participants warmed up with some libations at Community House and other local pubs.

According to Edwards, the hardest part of putting this race on year after year, is the season itself, but the rewards are great. “Dealing with Rockaway weather in December makes it a tough call. It's a healthy, fun thing to do. The suit makes it,” Edwards said.

 The suit makes it, indeed. Next year, when the memories of Thanksgiving past, and Netflix binging ghosts are a screaming, remember, there’s a Rockaway Santa Run waiting to make the Nice list, raising funds for a good cause and sparking smiles all around, and maybe that is the best Christmas gift of all. 

For race results and information about future runs, head to

Photos by Jammi York.

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