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updated: 12/4/2010 8:38 PM

1,140 Santas run Rotary charity race

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  • Nick Szczechowski of St. Charles runs Saturday in the Arlington Heights Rotary Club´s third annual Santa Sleigh 5K Run in downtown Arlington Heights.

       Nick Szczechowski of St. Charles runs Saturday in the Arlington Heights Rotary Club´s third annual Santa Sleigh 5K Run in downtown Arlington Heights.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • More than 1,100 runners braved the first snow of the season Saturday to participate in the Santa Sleigh 5K Run in Arlington Heights.

       More than 1,100 runners braved the first snow of the season Saturday to participate in the Santa Sleigh 5K Run in Arlington Heights.
    George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

  • Donna Strum of Elk Grove Village holds a sign urging on a participant in the Santa Sleigh 5K Run in Arlington Heights on Saturday.

       Donna Strum of Elk Grove Village holds a sign urging on a participant in the Santa Sleigh 5K Run in Arlington Heights on Saturday.
    George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

At the Santa Sleigh 5K Run in Arlington Heights, the actual running was far from the main attraction.

The holiday fun of dressing up as Santa took center stage for participants like the Noonan family of Streamwood.

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"It's all about the costumes and preparation," said Ryan Noonan, who ran with his wife, Allison, and their kids Calvin, 10, and Cassidy, 13. "The run is kind of secondary at this point."

Trying to raise $35,000 was first priority for the Rotary Club of Arlington Heights, which hosted the third edition of the annual race.

Intrigued by the combination of a costume and a workout, 1,140 runners and walkers registered to participate in the event, which raised money for Rotary's local and international charity efforts.

Many runners put their own spin on the Santa costume that came with race registration. Given a Santa hat, beard, coat, pants and belt, some chose to skip the pants and wear swim trunks, or let their natural beards take the place of the furry, white Santa ones.

Others rolled up the Santa pants and stuck ponytails through the Santa hats. But Calvin Noonan said he liked his costume as issued.

"It's really actually pretty warm and it fits good on me," Calvin said before dashing off dressed as Kriss Kringle. "I'm probably going to get tired and probably walk a little bit, but I'm going to try to run for as much time as I can."

Shannon Legge's shoes made her Santa outfit stand out. With snow on the ground and flurries falling, she ran close to barefoot, in Vibram FiveFingers running shoes she bought during cross country season at Stevenson High School.

"I actually have more traction, but my toes are very cold," said Legge, 16, of Buffalo Grove.

Another Santa, Rotary member David Schultz, gave a "Ho, ho, ho" and "On your marks, get set, go!" to start the race.

"We do have the perfect weather for it," Schultz said. "Two years ago we had snow and everyone had a great time running."

As the first runners crossed the finish line well before the 20-minute mark, some said they had trouble keeping the Santa costumes intact.

Eric Becker of Schaumburg, an early finisher, has run plenty of races, including the Chicago Marathon, but none in a costume. His Santa suit stayed in place thanks to three safety pins in the jacket and drawstrings in the pants.

"I showed up five minutes ahead of time and just started running," Becker said.

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