Merry Christmas

This would have been awesome to watch, and I’m not talking about the race.

Santas run right out of Christmas spirit
By Simon de Bruxelles

THERE was no shortage of suspects matching the description when police were called to a fight in a small Welsh town.

More than 30 drunken men dressed as Father Christmas were slugging it out in the main street after the world’s biggest gathering of Santa Clauses ended in a mass brawl.

Officers used CS spray and drew their batons to break up the fighting Santas after the record-breaking fun run.

More than 4,250 runners had donned their Father Christmas suits to raise thousands of pounds for charity. But after taking part in the 2½-mile run a few of the Father Christmases headed straight for the pub.

Amid scenes that would not go down well at the North Pole, five men were arrested for alleged public order offences. Four officers suffered minor injuries during the fight in the centre of Newtown, Mid Wales, on Sunday.

PC Gareth Slaymaker confirmed that many of those involved were still wearing their Santa outfits. “Behaviour like this justifies our reluctance to extend licensing hours for public houses and bars for this type of event,” he said.

The fun run set the world record for the largest gathering of Santas in one place. The Guinness Book of Records states that in order to qualify all the Santas must wear the full regalia of red costume and hat, white beard and black belt. The original record of 3,200 was set at last year’s event, but this year’s run attracted 1,000 more Santas from all over Britain.

Dougie Bancroft, organiser of the Santa Run, said: “The trouble happened seven hours after the run . . . If we find that people connected with the run were involved, they will not be involved in the race next year. We don’t want anything to tarnish the reputation of the event or the charities which benefit from the Santa Run. We support the police in their action.”

The five men arrested were released on bail while Dyfed-Powys Police continue inquiries. Police said that a number of other Santas had been interviewed.

Emma Jones, 25, from Brecon, Powys, who took her children to watch the event, said: “It was great fun to watch a sea of red and white jogging around the town. We went to get my two young children into the Christmas spirit and they want to take part in next year’s run, but they won’t be going if it turns into a drunken brawl. “You could see that a lot of the older male Santas were heading for the pub straight after the race. It is such a pity that a few of them had too much Christmas spirit and spoilt it for everyone else.”

Mick Bates, the Welsh Assembly member for Montgomeryshire, who took part in the run, denied that the annual event was becoming an excuse for a pre-Christmas booze-up.

He said: “More than 200 charities will benefit from this year’s run and the organisers do a wonderful job planning the event. The problem with excessive drinking is not the responsibility of the Santa Run but of pub landlords and individuals.”

Last year runners raised £80,000 for charities.

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