Thursday, 24 January 2019

‘Mrs Christmas’ revives fun run

‘Mrs Christmas’ revives fun run

MORE than 130 children and adults took part in Henley’s seventh Santa fun run.

The event took place on Sunday for the first time since 2016 after being revived by town councillor Sarah Miller and “Mrs Christmas” Pam Phillips, who started it when she was Mayor in 2011.

It was called off last year due to the running costs.

Runners of all ages gathered in Mill Meadows, where the run started and finished.

They then either ran or walked the two-mile circuit along the Thames towpath, through Henley station car park and around the perimeter of the Invesco offices off Reading Road.

Many came dressed as Father Christmas or other festive figures such as Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer or Santa’s elves and everyone was given a Santa hat to wear.

Pupils from Henley Music School, which provides subsidised tuition to children, played Christmas carols as the participants gathered.

The run was started by Henley Mayor Glen Lambert and was initially led by Mrs Phillips, who was on a bicycle and dressed in a reindeer suit. She was soon overtaken by some of the younger runners.

Some participants carried babies or pushed them  in buggies while others walked hand-in-hand and children accompanied their parents. Members of Henley Lions Club and Henley Rotary Club marshalled the race.

The first to finish was 15-year-old Adam Hunt, who is a member of the Tri Henley youth triathlon group.

After initially gaining a lead, he fell back several places when he took a wrong turn but was able to regain first position before the finish line.

Adam, from Tokers Green, said: “It’s shorter than most runs I take part in but it’s nice to be part of something that’s a bit less serious. I’m hoping there’ll be more club runners next year.”  The fastest family were Joanne and Peter Harrison, of Greys Road, Henley, who carried their 15-month-old daughter Hattie.

The prize for the best-dressed family went to Peter and Anya Mikulski, of Crisp Road, Henley, who went round with their daughter Mia, three, on foot and carrying her sister Elena, one.

It was the second time they had taken part in the event. Mrs Mikulski said: “It was great. There was a lovely atmosphere and it just needs to be advertised more so that more people take part.” They each received prizes of vouchers for butchers Gabriel Machin in Henley market place. The second- and third-placed runners were Will Hutchins and Jonty Shipley, while the first two under-14s were Will Hunt and Gabriel Andlauer-Turner.

All finishers were given mince pies donated by Waitrose in Bell Street and children received bags of sweets to take home.

The run was cancelled last year because the town council believed it cost too much to run and there had been complaints about the route not being scenic enough.

A substitute event was organised at the last minute by Henley parkrun and 75 people took part. Councillor Miller said: “It was very much missed last year, which is why we wanted to get it going again.

“I’m so glad that Pam was able to take part as she’s seen as ‘Mrs Christmas’ after starting it in the first place.

“Everyone got stuck in, from town councillors to sponsors and supporters, and we’re so grateful for all that help and to all the families who showed up and had a fun morning. It was a great success. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and I was so glad that the weather held after a few showers in the hour leading up to it.

Fellow councillor and keen runner Will Hamilton, who took part, said: “This is a great community event and isn’t particularly hard so it’s open to everyone. I’m really happy that it’s back and so pleased to see everyone out enjoying themselves in the fresh air on a Sunday morning.”

Mrs Phillips said: “I was disappointed when they didn’t run it last year and delighted when Sarah said she wanted it back on the calendar. It’s a good community event and one that’s more accessible to children than other towns’ longer runs.

“I wasn’t only delighted with the turnout but also the fact that everyone really entered into the spirit of the event and made a fantastic effort with their costumes. There were lots of children and lots of new faces. It was great fun cycling with them, although it’s hardly surprising that I was overtaken as the leading runners were all fit young things and I’m a pensioner! I had a lovely morning and I hope it will continue to run every year.”

The event raised at least £400 for the Mayor’s three chosen charities for his year of office, Gillotts School, Henley Music School and the campaign to revive the town’s Bluebells dementia group.

It was sponsored by IBS Office Solutions and Higgs Group, publishers of the Henley Standard.

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