IT was a sight to make you rub your eyes in disbelief - hundreds of Santas in red and white suits, racing around Sheffield.
Passersby could be forgiven for thinking it was a surreal dream but they needn’t have worried - instead they were witnessing the city’s annual charity Santa Jogs.
Hundreds of fundraisers young and old donned Santa costumes to take part in runs in the city centre, Weston Park and Beighton Welfare Recreation Ground, collecting thousands for good causes.
The first to start was the British Heart Foundation’s one-mile festive jog, which began in Tudor Square.
More than 400 Santas sought refuge from the chilly winds, sipping hot drinks in the Winter Garden and listening to seasonal music from the Dearne Big Band before they had to brave the cold for a warm-up of the exercise variety outside.
Keith Barraclough, aged 63, was taking part with wife Liz, 49, for the first time, spurred on after Keith needed three stents fitting for a blocked artery.
“I had it for several years before they found it,” said Keith, who lives with Liz in Mosborough and runs a firm which produces motorcycle barriers.
“My dad got to 41 and suffered a coronary thrombosis so it brings it all home to you. It’s a good cause and gets you into the festive spirit. I think the charity does a fantastic job.”
A family history of heart disease encouraged Sally Timperley, 39, and her partner Gareth Hockey, 41, from Greystones, to sign up. Their son Rhys, five, had dressed as a combination of Santa and a reindeer, while daughter Jessica, one, wore an elf costume.
“My stepdad died of heart failure around 16 years ago, it was on December 13 so it was fairly near to Christmas, and it was quite quick,” said Sally, a sales manager for an insurance firm.
“Heart disease is something which touches so many people’s lives, so it’s good to raise money for a really good cause.”
Gareth, operations manager for an online travel business, added: “The Santa Dash has a good, positive message, it reinforces the charity fundraising with the need to exercise.”
Some of the runners had brought along enthusiastic four-legged friends. David and Carol Pugsley, from Totley, took part with their enormous black Newfoundland dog, Kayna.
“She loves it, this is the second time we’ve taken part,” said Carol, 67. “It’s a brilliant cause. David had a double heart bypass a couple of years ago so that’s how we’ve got involved.”
Carol said David, 72, a retired civil servant, initially put his problems down to old age as he was getting out of breath.
“We’ve lost too many people to heart disease so the more money we can raise the better,” she said.
The race started in a flurry of fake snow following an address from the Lord Mayor, Coun John Campbell, and a tearful speech from Emma Gosling, mum of 11-year-old Tom Procter from Bawtry, Doncaster, who has rare genetic disorder Di George Syndrome.
Scores more Santas completed seven laps of Weston Park for another jog in aid of children’s cancer charity Amy’s Retreat, which gives the families of poorly children the chance to take a break.
Among the costumed runners were first-timers Joanne Whitham, 33, and her partner James McDermott, 30, from Thurgoland near Barnsley.
“Amy’s Retreat is such a good charity and helps so many young people,” said Joanne, a secretary at Sheffield University. “It’s a very Christmassy thing to do this as well.”
James, a bricklayer, added he had been playing rugby earlier so was having a very active weekend.
He said: “My knees are aching a bit so I hope I’m going to be okay!”