“And how much are you going to donate?”
“I don’t know. A tenner?” I offered the woman filling out the form allowing me to collect my Santa costume. I was only saying that, though. I’d already paid £15 for the oversized piece of red felt with cotton-wool trim.
Together with tens of other Santas, my group and I suited up in a pub decked out to the eyeballs in gold fairy lights and a real fire blazing at the far end. We loitered for a bit, joked about how strands of our strap-on Santa beards caught like spinach between our teeth, and made our way out front in time for the warm-up where hundreds more Santas had gathered for the St. Albans 5k Jingle Bell Jog.
The warm-up was really a set of simple dance moves performed by some nobody on a small stage. Mariah Carey’s “All I want For Christmas Is You” bounced out of the speakers and we flung our arms up, slid to the left and right, clapped, marched, and jumped in time to the tune for a couple of minutes before setting off. I’ve had better warm ups on the toilet.
Seconds later the streets were overrun with short, tall, fat, thin, manly, girly Santas, beards flailing like scarves in the wintry breeze and Santa hats bobbing with every footstep.
I was going okay for about one-and-a-half-kilometres; the start was downhill and all the traffic was honking and hooting encouragement (or so I like to think). Then the backside of my trousers started to sag.
At first this wasn’t really an issue because I’d safety-pinned the front of them to my T-shirt and Santa jacket so, ultimately, they weren’t going anywhere. But eventually I felt like (and probably resembled) Clucky from Disney’s “Robin Hood”, the way she’s constantly clutching her habit to stop it from slipping. I feel your pain, Clucky, you poor, formidable chicken.
Having said that, the rest of the race flew by without fault. I was chasing the leading pack pretty much the whole way as smaller, more light-footed people skipped away from the off. One girl tried to clinch me at the end but the afterburners kicked in on the final straight to leave her a few feet behind. I grabbed my medal from an outstretched volunteer’s hand and stood waiting for the others. Jess Ennis and Mo Farrah who? I say. They haven’t got a patch on my medal.
I can’t say the same about the Santa suit, though. Mine ended up in a nearby bin. A gaping hole in the “crotchal region” – which happened getting dressed – had developed to reveal leg flesh and under-garmentary; safe to say I’d never wear it again.