My antlers twitched and I kicked up a bunch of golden leaves, as I strolled across Marlay Park this morning for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…
It’s a special day. A friend of mine has been training hard for the 1K. It’s been a while since they did anything like this, and the amount of effort and perseverance they’ve put in for today’s one kilometre Santa Saunter, far outshines the amount of training I’ve been doing for my 5k. That brings with it two inescapable facts – I’m very proud of my friend for being here, and I’m not so sure about my own running ability later in the day!
Bumping into the organisers we share grins and congratulations as hundreds of people pour into the park, which is rapidly filling up with reindeer cladded men, women and children of all shapes, sizes and physical abilities. At this point we’ve just heard that there are over a thousand registrations. This is one of the things I love about fun runs – everyone feels welcome, and you get lots of runners, trotters and walkers who might not usually turn out for a run in the park. I’m always saying to just get out there and run; you don’t have to be an athlete to start – get active and the fitness follows. But days like this are such a wonderful encouragement for getting started. The cause is pretty special too, and one close to my heart. The RNLI save so many lives as their brave volunteer crews negotiate some of the roughest sea conditions around Europe.
I’m actually a bit nervous, because I’ve been asked to handle the warm-up for the first race and I haven’t done that before – not in public. I helped our teams warm up on the set of Setanta TV’s ‘Get Off The Couch’ – and I’ve been part of plenty of warm-ups with my own running club, LeCheile AC but I’m suddenly feel out of my comfort zone.
As I line up with my Megaphone on the grass in front of the start line, I take stock. I’m surrounded by a ‘sea’ of red-shirted reindeer – and I’m wearing furry ears and a pair of antlers. I stand for a moment looking at the front row of tiny runners, standing knee high to their parents and looking back expectantly. I glance nervously sideways at my trusty sidekick, the 6ft tall RNLI Reindeer ‘Rookie’ – and finding my voice I ask my reindeer runners to lift their left arm and wave to Santa. We raise our knees and ‘step in and out of Santa’s Sleigh’, we roll our shoulders – because it’s Santa’s favourite after carrying his magic sack with all those presents, we see how well Rookie can balance on one leg… and finish running on the spot in the ‘Santa Stampede’ before wrapping up with a round of applause for Rookie who now knows which side is right and left.
Walking over to my friends who are cracking up laughing, I sigh with relief thankful my 5 minutes of fame are over, when Niamh Stephenson from the RNLI dashes over to ask me to do it all again for the next race. Erm – judging from the comments later it appears I may have inadvertently changed warm-up tradition forever for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…..
*Disclaimer No.1 – sorry Santa if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
*Disclaimer No.2 – sorry Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises