The annual Santa Runs Tacoma running event took on a slightly more serious tone this year with the addition of a half-marathon race.
Saturday’s half marathon was a first for the 6-year-old Santa event, in which hundreds of people dress up in Christmas-themed costumes — abbreviated for running — and race along Tacoma’s waterfront in 1K, 5K and 10K distances.
The new 21K (half marathon) event — called the “Donner & Blitzen” — increased the total number of participants to about 1,500, which race co-director Paul Morrison said was the most in Santa Runs history.
“We had at least 500 for that,” said Morrison who co-directed the race with Tony Phillippi.
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Michael Lynes of Tacoma won the half marathon with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 12 seconds. Kathryn Landau finished with the second best time: 1 hour, 21 minutes, 12 seconds.
Runners in all three of the longer races started together at 9 a.m. at South 10th and A streets in downtown Tacoma.
Before the start, runners dressed as Santa Claus, elves, reindeer and fairies packed the block between 10th and 11th streets. Some pushed baby carriages and held dogs on leashes.
The course took runners across the Murray Morgan Bridge, up the Thea Foss Waterway and then back down the waterfront along Ruston Way. Half marathon runners went all the way to the Tacoma Yacht Club before returning to the finish near the Foss Waterway Seaport on Dock Street.
“It’s a real showcase of the Tacoma waterfront,” Morrison said. “Basically we’re running all the way from one end to the other and back.”
As usual, most ran just for fun.
Melanie Faulkner of Bonney Lake finished the 5K dressed in red-and-white striped leggings and a red apron with bells on it.
“I’m dressed as an obnoxious party host,” she said. “It’s a Christmas apron.”
Faulkner said she runs the race every year with friends — once with 10 others.
“We go out to breakfast afterward, so it’s more of a fun day with friends than serious running,” Faulkner said. “I like the theme, and I like the home town feel of it.
“You have to be careful you don’t trip over jingle bells and parts of Christmas trees dropping off costumes. The people-watching aspect of it is really fun.”
Four female teachers from Lake Louise Elementary School in the Clover Park School District raced together dressed as snowmen. They finished their race as a group, crossing the line four abreast.
“We are not avid runners,” said Angela DeShields, who teaches fourth grade at Lake Louise. “We just do it for fun and exercise. Our kids hear about it and see pictures, and they think it’s great.”
“It’s promoting a healthy lifestyle for them,” added Janelle Wood, who teaches first grade at the school. “It shows them that running is fun and that anybody can do it.”