Run, Run Rudolph: Holiday Races

Mix up your fitness routine—and burn off a few of those sugar cookie calories—with these fun holiday themed races around the region
runners at finish line

Break out your running shoes, jingle bells, candy cane tights, Santa hats and reindeer antlers for jolly good measure. The proliferation of annual 5K, 8K and 10K race events in Coastal Virginia has spawned quite a few with holiday themes, and many participants go big on the spirited attire.

And why not? These events are a fun way to make the Yuletide gay, be active with family, meet new friends, and, oh yeah, get a little extra fitness on during a time of year when many of us tend to opt for extra stuffing and stretchy pants over a trip to the gym. Heck, one of them even takes place on Thanksgiving morning, so you can get a good burn in before you binge on sweet potato casserole.

Included here are a few details about some of the holiday themed races we found in Coastal Virginia for 2023. A note on race pricing: Prices for races vary but generally fall in the $30-$100 range. That said, most races offer significant early registration discounts (the closer to race day, the more they cost) as well as special pricing for youth participants. Check race websites for the most up-to-date prices and discounts.

Glowing Gobbler 5K
November 22
Newport News Park at Deer Run
Before the turkey and the stuffing, take part in the “most lit holiday run of the season.” The Glowing Gobbler 5K (photo above) is an evening race that gives runners a unique opportunity to run through Newport News Park’s Celebration in Lights. All participants receive a glow-in-the-dark finisher medal, race shirt and Celebration in Lights ticket. The race starts at 6:30 p.m. on Clubhouse Way just off of Fort Eustis Boulevard and goes towards the front gate of the park on Constitution Way where it u-turns and heads back towards the start, finishing at the Deer Run golf course clubhouse. This allows participants a chance to enjoy the lights in both directions on the course. 

Tidewater Striders Turkey Trot 10 K & Mile 
November 23
Mount Trashmore, Virginia Beach
The 46th Annual Turkey Trot 10K and 1 Mile Run on Thanksgiving Day, organized by the Tidewater Striders running club, is a traditional running event for families and runners of all abilities. All proceeds go to the Tidewater Striders Scholarship fund. The 10K Race begins at 9 a.m., starts at the Mount Trashmore YMCA in Virginia Beach, loops through Windsor Woods, Mount Trashmore City Park and finishes back at the YMCA. The 1 Mile Run begins at 8:15 a.m. and is also an out-and-back race, beginning and ending at the YMCA. Race participants receive a colorful long-sleeve t-shirt and finisher’s medal. And, yes, it has turkey on it, and everyone at your Thanksgiving dinner later in the day should be suitably impressed with your efforts. 

All photos Courtesy of the race organizers or promoters
From left: The Tacky Sweater 5K, Surf N Santa 5 Miler and Christmas Town Dash: Photos courtesy of the race organizers.

Tacky Sweater 5K
December 2
Smartmouth Brewery, Norfolk
The Seventh Annual Tacky Sweater 5K is a festive holiday themed event that features a 5K run and a 5K walk. Participants are invited to “Live, Love, & Run Tacky” in their most outlandish, bedazzled and brightly colored holiday jumpers (that’s British for sweater). The race begins at 9 a.m. and will start and finish in front of Smartmouth Brewery in the Chelsea District. Much of the course is along the scenic Elizabeth River Trail through historic West Ghent, over the Midtown Tunnel, through Plum Point Park on the Elizabeth River and back to Smartmouth Brewery. The race raises money for EVMS Dermatology and the Dermatology Student Group and promotes melanoma awareness. In addition to prizes for top finishers, there will be prizes for the tackiest sweaters, so bring ’em on. 

Christmas Town Dash 
December 3
Busch Gardens, Williamsburg
You can’t get much more festive than Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, which transforms the park each year into a holiday haven. This popular event, featuring an 8K and a half-mile dash for the little ones, returns to the “World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park” for 2023. Participants can take in the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas as they race through the Busch Gardens campus. All 8K runners receive one free ticket to Christmas Town in 2023 and a discounted day ticket to Busch Gardens good for the spring 2024 season. Plus, kids of all ages will enjoy the Dasher ½ Mile, an exciting opportunity to join the fun and run a half-mile at Busch Gardens. 

Reindeer Trot 7K, Reindeer Rally 5K, and The Kids Christmas Mile 
December 9
Mount Trashmore, Virginia Beach
You’ll want to join in the reindeer games for this multi-race event presented by Road Rage Events starting at Mount Trashmore Park in Virginia Beach. Take your pick of the Reindeer Trot 7K, Reindeer Rally 5K or, for the real runners at heart, the Christmas 12K Combo Challenge (a combination of the 5K and 7K for which finishers receive all three medals). And for the wee ones, there’s the Kids Christmas Mile. All participants receive an event t-shirt and reindeer themed medal (or medals for combo runners). The 5K starts at 8 a.m., the 7K at 9:30 a.m. and the Mile at 11 a.m. Antlers and other festive attire are not required but encouraged. 

Santa Claus Shuffle 
December 10
Olde Towne Portsmouth, Waterfront
For more than 25 years, the Santa Claus Shuffle has brought the community together during the season of giving to support Tidewater Youth Services Foundation. This fun, family-friendly 5K for individuals of all ages takes particpants from the Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion and back along Olde Towne’s historic waterfront. All 5K participants will receive finisher medals, t-shirt, great refreshments and a sleigh load of family fun. The after-party features a costume contest, coffee/hot chocolate bar, DJ, face painting, photo booth and visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Plus, new this year: Spend an exciting day in Olde Towne to enjoy special deals when you show your bib at local businesses. 

Surf N Santa 5 Miler 
December 15-16
Virginia Beach Convention Center, Boardwalk
Your best Santa-inspired running gear is a must for the 2023 BayPort Credit Union Surf N Santa 5 Miler presented by Bon Secours, back with a brand-new theme and your favorite traditions. This evening run allows you to experience the magic of the season at the beach as you run through the holiday lights on the Boardwalk before you celebrate at the post-race party, which includes a luau complete with festive live music, Hawaiian beer, food and the man in red himself. In addition to the main 5-Miler Race on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., there is Rudolph’s 1K on Friday at 6:15 p.m., great for kids, both starting at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Organized by J&A Racing, this popular annual event set a Guinness World Record in 2016 for the World’s Largest Santa Run.  

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