A THOUSAND Santa-suited and antler-topped joggers hit Lydiard Park to raise funds for Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Swindon hospital charity Brighter Futures.

It was the first time the annual Santa Run and Reindeer Run – usually held at different locations and raising cash for the air ambulance and hospital respectively – have come together for a single event. The Santa vs Rudolph Run was expected to raise thousands for the respective causes.

Kenressa Stratford, a fundraising manager for Wiltshire Air Ambulance, said of the runners: “It’s people like this who keep us flying and saving lives.”

For breast cancer survivor Angie Kearns, 54, Brighter Futures’ radiotherapy appeal was a cause particularly close to her heart. The runner, who lives in Badbury Park, said the trip from Swindon to Oxford for regular treatment had been totally miserable: “If I can help just one person have an easier treatment experience that’s good enough for me.”

Emily McManamon, from Old Town, had come along with an eight-strong group of runners she met through club Emily’s Run-a-long Gang. The group took on the race carrying a home-made sled. Wearing an inflated Santa suit, Emily said: “Last year we had the ‘fat Santa’. This year we thought: ‘How can we top that?’”

Adrian Jefferies, 40, from the town centre, said: “I’m raising money for Brighter Futures. It’s the second event I’ve done this year. My two children spent a lot of time in hospital when they were younger. It’s a cause close to my heart.”

Joshua Crannis, seven, was sporting a full white beard – and red Santa trousers that had to be rolled up to prevent them from dragging in the mud. “I like it because it’s a fun run,” he cried when asked why he enjoyed the race.

Jack Ellis, 24, was one of around 20 runners from communications firm Excalibur. He posed for a picture with his boss’s dog, Luna: “We take part in a lot of charity activities. This was one we thought would be a good idea – until it got so cold.”

Dr Moby Joseph, a liver specialist at GWH, was running in aid of a £40,000 Brighter Futures campaign to buy a new liver scanner: "It will make a huge difference. It's all about early detection of liver disease."

John Fisher, secretary of the Swindon Phoenix rotary club, took the role of Santa – posing for pictures by his sled. In character as the bearded favourite, he said: “This is the most important thing to happen in Swindon at Christmas and it’s wonderful I’ve been able to come along and help the Rotary Club and Brighter Futures raise some money.”

Swindon mayor Kevin Parry said: “It’s fantastic to see such a brilliant turnout. The runs are raising money for two great causes. It’s overwhelming to see and it’s going to make a massive difference.”

Kevin McNamara, acting chief executive at Great Western Hospital, said: “For me, the hospital and the service it provides exists for the community. This is one way for the community and the hospital to come together.”

The air ambulance helicopter treated runners to a flypast before the run.

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Runners at the Santa vs Rudolph Run. For more pictures, scroll through the gallery at the top of the page