8:00am, we stepped out of the front door onto the street. As we reached the corner shop a bemused African lady stopped, smiled and then wished us Merry Christmas. We ran down the road to the yellow bus stop and waited. The only two Santa's there. Some passengers wished us good morning. Others just ignored us, it was, after all, only December the 3rd.
Did you know that Santa rides for free* on Liverpool's buses? The driver just nodded us on and upstairs we climbed. Top deck, back seats. We'd made the difficult bit. As they say, the hardest part of any run is getting out the front door.
As we meandered through the misty, freezing, grey streets of Liverpool we saw pedestrians going about their early morning business. Suddenly we spotted our first 'other' Santa, then another. Over there, four more, only these ones were all in blue. This is, after all Liverpool. Everton fans, old rivals, would not be seen dead ever wearing red, even in Santa garb. One of the things I love about this crazy city. Blue Santa, there, you saw it here first!
We jumped off near the waterfront and walked to the Liver building. Suddenly we were not the oddities. Anyone not wearing full jacket, trousers, hat and belt (beard optional) stood out as an outsider. Time to fasten our race numbers, straighten hats, get the beard and moustache just right. Nearly ready...
...and then the last minute trip to the Portaloos. It was brass-monkeys and a preemptive wee was definitely in order.
We walked over the cobbles of the old dock area to the start. A few hundred people in front, many hundreds behind. Jovial chatter, banter and laughs.
9:30am and we all join in "five, four, three, two, one!" The horn sounds and we're off. A happy group of old, young, fat, thin, red, blue, the occasional dog, push chair, buggy and even a Grinch, Chewbacca and a semi-naked shirtless bodybuilder.
Six thousand Santa's make a lot of noise and have a lot of fun running along streets closed to the traffic. We smiled and cheered. Children high-fived my son as he jogged along. We passed the sights and sounds of this amazing city. Random people shouted "Well done!", "Keep going!" "Good lads!"
Half way round and we see some proper scousers, they've stopped off for a pint. Only in Liverpool! We pass choirs and bands. The city bells peal. Everyone is smiling.
It's only a 5k fun run, but it feels so great. Despite trepidation and doing something new and out of my comfort zone, I'm grinning from ear to ear. You can't see this though as the beard is in the way. And it's getting damp from my breath. And I keep getting stray acrylic hairs from it stuck in my mouth.
As we approach the last leg we hear a drum band willing everyone on. They're bashing away, the beat helping to lift tired feet. We see the finish line and then as we finally pass under the gate we're covered in fake snow. We've done it. Our first Santa Dash, the biggest in the UK. We've raised money for a good cause, we've blown out the cobwebs on a cold Sunday morning, we've made a special memory together. We've got medals!
It's cold now we've stopped running. So off to a Costa for a bacon roll and hot chocolate to warm up. Father and son chatter about our achievement. A few snaps to share with the family. Time to admire our medals.
And then back to the bus stop, to the odd looks from fellow passengers as we wait, and then board our bus for home. The same nod from the driver, as Santa rides for free.
*to be absolutely honest, he only rides for free when going to, or coming from the Santa Dash, but hey, it makes a good title...