Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chasing Santa

What could possibly be better than a Santa sighting? How about running alongside dozens of Santas in a beautiful downtown? Now we're talking. Last weekend a friend and I headed to the quaint village of Paw Paw, Michigan to run the inaugural Santa Run 5k.  Instead of a t-shirt we were given Santa suits to wear during the run. It was a true fun run - no timing. It turns out that running in a Santa suit is hard work. 

Santas suiting up for the run
We arrived in Paw Paw when it was still a little dark out.  Paw Paw is about an hour and forty minutes away from Lansing, but we didn't hesitate when we were asked to come do the race. Sometimes you just can't (or don't want to) say no - I'm looking at you @pawpawlarry! Downtown Paw Paw is adorable. As we drove in the Christmas lights were gorgeous, and there is a beautifully lit nativity next to Grape Lake in the downtown. It was a beautiful Christmasy morning for a run.

Lovely downtown Paw Paw at Christmas (photo courtesy of the Village of Paw Paw)
We joined the other Santas at registration. This is one of the things I love about doing a smaller race - there were snacks before the race. Everyone was just hanging out chatting and relaxing before the run. When we walked outside it was raining, but the rain stopped quickly. It didn't rain during the entire 3.1 miles.

My friend Nikki and I rocking our Santa gear
We ran right through downtown Paw Paw. Let me tell you - it's the quintessential American small town. Main street has few (or maybe no - I tried to look but can't be sure) vacant storefronts. There are some fantastic looking restaurants and lots of small local shops. For a small race there were lots of spectators including a cheerleading squad. (As a former cheerleader I always have a soft spot for them).

Paw Paw is known for promoting great local businesses including St. Julian Winery. I may or may not have several St. Julian bottles in my wine rack. Seeing the downtown in person only reiterated the importance of local businesses in building communities. Paw Paw is doing it right.

As we were starting the run one Santa said "Nobody has ever run a PR in a Santa suit". While that may not be true, we'll never know for sure because the race wasn't timed. It is so refreshing, however, to run just for the fun of it with no pressure and no expectations. Plus both Nikki and I lost our Santa belts during the run. That definitely slowed us down.

I really did love Paw Paw's small town feel, and I've love to go back. I saw this cute restaurant on the race course - LaCantina - that sits right on the water with outdoor seating. I'm thinking that'd be a great place to go next summer and sit right outside on the water. I've got an August birthday, so I'll have to plant that seed with my husband.

Downtown Paw Paw in warmer times (photo courtesy of the Village of Paw Paw)

The Santa run is a really fun and unique idea.  While I love running races of all sizes, sometimes it's nice to step back and enjoy the town and have a greater appreciation for a run.  I am glad I got to see Paw Paw for the first time, and I'm thinking we must go back for wine tasting and some delicious Italian food. If you see my husband, drop a hint.

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