1st annual Santa HO HO HO 5k Fun Run/Walk a success

ST. JOSEPH - On the way home from a marathon/half marathon race in Indianapolis, Max Painter and members of his running group lamented how the event was the last race they would run in 2018.

During the discussion fellow runner Brenda Hixon suggested the possibility of taking another road trip. Maybe to Chicago or running in Indy again at either city's Santa Hustle. The group of avid runner decided they would indeed run one more race before the end of the year.

However, the next morning Painter, a veteran who started running while serving in the Army, woke up with a better idea.

"Why don't we just do that here?"

Painter presented the idea to the group and it was a hit.

Combining efforts Hixon and Painter created the 1st Annual St. Joe Santa HO HO HO 5k Fun Run.

Runners start their run during the Ho Ho Ho 5k on Saturday. Over 300 runners took part in what may become an annual event in St. Joseph. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

As they planned the event, they expected, at best, a modest turn out of maybe 50 to 100 Santa-ly cladded runners making their way through the streets of St. Joseph. To their surprise and delight, registrations started rolling in and the field of runners and walkers quickly rose over 200.

"It exploded into this," Painter said while scanning the finish line as runners and walkers crossed the finish line to receive their medals from Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges and other finish line volunteers. "We love it."

And by this, Painter meant the 325 participants and nearly that number of spectators, family members and well-wishers along the 5k course on Saturday.

Gregory Poe give two thumbs up as he crosses the finish line. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The near freezing temperatures did not keep runners away.

"It wasn't too cold out there once you got running," said Dwayne Schlabach, who started running to stay in shape.

For Peyton Wendell the race one more opportunity to put on his holiday best, a royal blue two-pieces Christmas suit.

"My aunt bought it for me last year. I wore to school a few times and I thought this would a great time to wear it one last time," he said. "It (the run) was really fun. There were a whole bunch of people out there cheering for you."

Rhonda Littlefield, who crossed the finish line capturing her finish with her smartphone, enjoyed the race.

"I wanted to support the community and do something fun," she said echoing the sentiments of other runners as the sun peeked from behind the clouds through the crisp December air. "I didn't fall down and hurt an ankle so it's a great day. It was a lot of fun!"

Coming off a recent injury that limited his running, Gregory Poe was happy to be able to run and spend quality time with his two sons, Nick and Eric.

"I haven't been able to run for a while," he said. "I really enjoyed it and had a great time."

Hidden behind sunglasses and her Santa beard, Sara Meyer said she also enjoyed the atmosphere and holiday cheer along the course.

Sara Meyer poses for a photo with The Grinch after running in the Ho Ho Ho 5K. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

"I'm use to competing in more competitive races," she said before heading over to have her picture taken with someone dressed in Grinch costume. "It was something fun to do today and a great day for it."

Former St. Joseph-Ogden high school running star Chelsea Blaase was the first competitor and female runner to cross the finish line. Brandon Mattsey was the first male runner in and Kendrick Johnson was the first runner in the youth division to finish the inaugural race.

St. Joseph-Ogden High School 2024 baseball seniors