FESTIVE runners in Liverpool have sleighed the American oppositon to finally snatch back victory in the World Santa Challenge - although numbers on both sides of the Pond were down on previous years.
Undeterrred by a weather bulletin forecasting armageddon, 8,500 people took to the streets on Sunday morning for the 10th anniversary BTR Liverpool Santa Dash – winning back the world title from Las Vegas.
It was 1,800 people DOWN on last year when 10,299 payed the £20+ fee to run the city centre 5k.
But the the Las Vegas event, held the day before, which in 2013 saw 11,221 participants, could this year only drum up 8,000 people to pound the palm-fringed boulevards,
This year's event has not been without its controversy after cash-strapped Liverpool City Council sent organisers BTR Liverpool an £11,000 bill for lost parking revenue, demanding payment ahead of the race, in November.
BTR complained that it had already paid £6,000 to the council for road closures, taking the fee to £17,000.
In a statement, Mayor Joe said: “Previously we have been able to support events of this kind, but the council simply cannot subsidise a private company when we are trying to balance the funding needs of services like children’s centres, adult social care and libraries."
The war of words led BTR director Alan Rothwell to say this year's race could be the last. In the end, Mayor Joe Anderson pledged that the council's £11,000 in lost parking revenue would be donated to Alder Hey. He said he hoped race organisers would match the sum from its "hefty profits".
But all that was forgotten amid the sea of red and white on Sunday. This year's event started at the Pier Head and took a route through the city centre, before finishing outside Liverpool Town Hall where runners were greeted by stilt walking characters and snow.
The event also featured the biggest ever Mini Dash 1K for youngsters aged 12 and under, with 750 under 12s enjoying their own race from Castle Street shortly after the main 5K Santa Dash had been completed.
Finishers in both fun runs received a special 10th anniversary commemorative medal.
Santas had travelled far and wide to take part, from across the UK and overseas, with participants hailing from the United States, Ireland, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, South Africa and Switzerland, say organisers.
Mr Rothwell says here: “It is very fitting that we have regained the World Santa Challenge title on our 10th anniversary. We are absolutely thrilled and we could not do it without the support of our thousands of Santas – they are all what make this day so special. We are now not only the UK’s biggest festive fun run – but now also the world’s. That’s quite a coup! Well done Liverpool, you have done yourselves extremely proud."
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