Motcombe was filled with Christmas colour today. 500 people ran or walked a 3km or 6km circuit of the village wearing Santa hats. Alfred joined the school fundraiser and heard how the second Santa Run has been more successful than last year’s.
“We’re raising money for the school,” explained race organiser Molly Irwin, who started the event with Christine Pedersen last year. “Our local primary school is such an amazing asset for our community. It is struggling. Funding is difficult. We just want to be able to provide extra cash to buy some things that they need.
“The money has gone towards magnificent projects like iPads that the kids are using, the spiritual garden, the outside play area and the building of forest school. We are hoping to contribute to all of those projects,” she added.
Motcombe Primary School Headteacher Matthew Barge threw his weight behind the Great Motcombe Santa Run. And he had a lot more girth to offer today. He ran the 6km course wearing an inflatable Santa suit. “It’s quite uncomfortable and extremely warm so I might drop a few pounds by the end of it, hopefully,” Matthew joked.
He was running alongside Mick Clements, who was also in festive attire, dressed as a reindeer. Mick’s role was to push a wheelbarrow, overladen with carrots, around the course. “It’s not easy to control,” he warned.
Locals had been encouraged to buy a bag of the vegetables to add to the pile on the barrow. 1kg of carrots required a £10 donation. “We brought 50kg with us. Every time somebody has put in more money, we are adding more carrots, which is making me even more nervous,” said Mick, as he considered the prospect of adding to the load.
His American employers had offered to add to the funds raised. “I work for a company called Autodesk and we have a foundation that will match whatever I can contribute, whatever people will sponsor. We’re hoping to raise around $3,000 which we will convert and my company will match.”
The event had attracted entrants of all ages – from babes in arms and children in pushchairs to the most senior participant, 82-year-old James Saumarez. “I’m going to rather elegantly walk around,” James explained when I asked him whether he was running the circuit. He took part last year but didn’t quite finish. “I think I opted out after getting halfway round. I’m going to see if I’m going to get around this time,” he smiled.
He has been in training – of sorts. “I had a whiskey last night and the night before. And I had a curry the night before that. Does that count as training?” he asked.
By 9.45am, the field at the side of the Memorial Hall was packed with people sporting a sea of red and white Santa hats. Almost 500 people had registered, which is almost 200 more participants than last year’s inaugural event. They ran out of Santa hats. “They are way up. We were astounded last year when we had nearly 300 runners,” said Molly.
“People are coming from all over so that’s good,” said Carol Saumarez, a member of the committee that oversaw the new hall space, which has increased the capacity of the Memorial Hall, the start and endpoint of today’s run and walk
“There are a lot of people from the school. There are a lot of people from Motcombe and there are a lot of people from the surrounding area, which is lovely,” Molly observed. “Motcombe is a very friendly village and we are well known for our village fete which has thousands of people. I think people know that Motcombe is a fun village and that everybody is welcome.”
Some participants had come from all over the world, although not this weekend. 100 pupils of Port Regis School, which has many international boarders, joined in.
Just before 10am, Molly grabbed a headset microphone and thanked participants for, ‘braving the cold today on this beautiful morning’. Charity Tidbury and her Jazzercise crew led a warmup on the field and as the serious runners set off on their 6K, with its two circuits of the village, the rest of the entrants continued with the preparatory warmup.
Whilst residents and visitors flooded down The Street, which had been closed to traffic for the occasion, Molly explained that the event had been quite an undertaking. “I won’t lie. It was quite a lot of work. We started getting into it in September, organising things like road closures, the first-aid and the check-in systems and in the last six weeks there has been quite a lot of work getting everything ready.”
The first man home was Sedgehill resident Kim Little. He completed the 6K circuit in 21 minutes and 30 seconds. “I’m pleased with that. It’s good. A nice little run-out and a wake up in the morning. I enjoyed it and I’m getting a mince pie afterwards. It’s an incentive,” joked Kim, who added that, ‘a mulled wine would have swung it even more’.
Kim enjoys fitness activities as a member of the Gillingham Wheeler Cycle Club, and he runs regularly, too. “I try to get out at least a couple of times a week and get a 5k or a 10k in.” And he was making the Santa Run into a family affair. “I brought the girlfriend and the baby out as well. They are doing the 3K.”
The first woman to finish was another keen runner. Ali Blaney crossed the line in 24 minutes and 36 seconds. She moved to Motcombe from Somerset earlier this year and has already joined the Dorset Doddlers Running Club. “I’ve had a little bit of practice getting the hill sessions in, but this was fairly flat. There is a bit of undulation,” Ali said.
She was spurred on by the crowds and the sense of camaraderie. “There was a nice sense of atmosphere here. Loads of people dressed as Santa. There are lots of smiling faces. The warmup was really good and there were people all around the route to cheer you on.” Ali says she already feels a part of the village. “I’ve already been accepted into the fold.”
There’s no doubt that events like this help bring the community together, whether people are new residents who have chosen to live in Motcombe or born-and-bred villagers. The good news is that Molly reckons the run will be held for the third time next year. “I think we would like to keep it going. We’ve caught peoples’ imagination. They enjoy it. We’ve had two fantastic years so we probably we’ll do another year, but we would like to hand over every three years from one team to the next, so you get a fresh take on it. That’ll be positive.”
Before the race started, Molly sat out her fundraising expectation. “We would love it if we raised £4,000. That would be just amazing,” she said. And after counting the cash this afternoon, organisers have discovered today’s run generated almost £5,000. That’s better than amazing. That’s marvellous, but this is Motcombe.