The start of meteorological winter is marked by a flurry of...Santa Runs. There is no getting away from it – the jolly, portly, white-bearded chap is getting in some training for the big night with appearances all over the South this first weekend in December.
Whether your preference is for Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle or plain old Santa, it is the distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur that makes a Santa Run such a joyous spectacle as hundreds of Santa lookalikes battle for the honour of being the first to deliver their gifts, or receive whatever is in their festive goody bags!
On Saturday (2 December) you can channel your inner Santa over 5k or 10k in beautiful surroundings at Old Down Estate, near Bristol. This is a Santa Run with a difference. Its tough, hilly, muddy and will no doubt be a tad slippery. Santa suits will be available but organisers recommend trail shoes rather than Santa's black boots.
Another unusual take on the Santa theme is available at Trinity Park, Ipswich on Saturday, where one of the UK's only Inflatable 5K Santa Runs will be held. Competitors have to hold onto their hats as they pit their wits against 10 giant inflatable obstacles in full Santa regalia. Runners will flip, bounce and boing their way round the course before being rewarded with a brilliant medal and tube scarf. Our photo, courtesy UK Running Events
, shows the zen-like calm of one Santa runner as he flies through the air without the assistance of his sleigh.
Sunday's (3 December) Santa action includes the Unbeatable Car Santa Chimney Challenge Fun Runs at Southsea. This is the 10th annual running of the Pudding Mile, Tinsel Tree 10K and Santa's Present Plod 5K. The races are scheduled so it is possible to complete all three runs for the Chimney Pot Challenge and a commemorative fourth medal.
Also on Sunday is the Roc Search Reading Santa Run 5K from Forbury Gardens. This charity run passes through Reading town centre and alongside the River Kennett and the Santa suit included in the entry fee should ensure a spectacular sight as hundreds of Santas dash through the streets of Reading.