What do we usually expect from Mother Nature in the month of December in New England? Cold, wet weather. But that was not the case on December 7, when Santa-suited runners of all ages and all capabilities took to the village streets of Mattapoisett. The temps were chilly hovering in the low 30s, but the windless brilliantly clear blue skies and warming sunshine made it feel good to be outside.
This holiday-themed event is the brainchild of well-known marathon runner Geoff Smith. Smith had held the event for about a decade in New Bedford where as many as a thousand runners participated. But he said that dwindling numbers and rising costs associated with putting on an event that includes street closings made that venue untenable.
“It’s a difficult transition – but such a beautiful location,” Smith said looking around at the harborside scene. He said that he is confident the annual run will attract more participants over time. He also said that a donation to the American Legion Hall located in the community would be made to help offset building renovations.
The new location for the Santa Run was at the Mattapoisett Town Wharf. The route began and ended there, with a loop east to Ned’s Point and back through the village streets.
As for the runners, with holiday songs blasting, the collection of ‘Santas’ was in a jolly mood. Donning Santa suits – included in the fee to join in the fun – men, women, children, and two miniature horses waited for the signal from Smith.
At 12:30 pm, the shorter children’s run, with little ones as young as five years old, sped off with Smith like a piped-piper leading the way. Overall first place winner was seven-and-a-half-year-old Grayson Eames of Marion with a time of 27:14.
Speaking to some of the children before the race was like trying to herd cats, but a few shared their thoughts. Ben Ulshoeffer was there to run in the kid’s race and support his dad, Mike. The first-grader from Mattapoisett was happy to be running the race, he said. Later in a follow-up with Mom, she commented that he’d been running “since before he was born.”
Many of the younger children were participating in a race for the first time, as noted by Ana Pereira, 5, of Marion, and Hannah Blake, 5, of New Bedford. Nine-year-old Leah Blake came in first place in her category. All the children were excited about doing it again next year.
A number of the adults were participating as teams, such as the teachers that formed ‘Team RMS’, Rochester Memorial School. The group of women said they took physical fitness very seriously.
“We are health-minded,” they chimed.
Shaundra Griffin bested the team with a time of 35:18, followed by Susan Audette at 35:20, Julie Cabral at 35:51, and Tracey Forns at 45:31.
Ali Leary, 17, was running with her aunt, Karen Mayer. Mayer said they have been running the race for about five years and enjoyed being in Mattapoisett this year. Leary’s time was 34:44 and Mayer’s was 36:22.
A truly inspiring group of friends who support one another as members of a weight loss group were a mix of those who had done the race before, and those who were first-timers: Krystina Weston of New Bedford with a time of 58:22, Cara Rego of New Bedford in at 36:16, Janice Hughes of Westport in at 58:25, and from Swansea was Allison Vulerant and her husband, Brian, with respective times of 33:03 and 58:56.
Husband and wife team Peg and Gene Schultz, newcomers to the area and living in Fairhaven, were first-time runners. Peg crossed the finish line at 39:34, and Gene at 51:00.
The Shovel Town Growlers from Easton were represented by runners John Buterbaugh, 25:37, John Poirior, 24:44, and Peter Godek, 24:41.
Cedar Rock Farms’ tiny horses named Pez and Rolo added to the festive feeling of the day by bringing up the rear of the race with the clopping of their tiny hooves.
By Marilou Newell