Ogden Santa Race starts Christmas season off on right foot

Monday , November 23, 2015 - 10:06 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN – The Santa runs held in Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo are possible because one merry man found his passion in organizing races. 

Joseph Coles of Morgan County has always been a planner. In high school and college, Coles was always busy — he was the president of the Weber State University Wildcat Club, president of his Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and many other things. After college, he worked with the Davis County Convention Center and even after he left, he still did side work to help organize events.

But it was a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie, which showed a Santa running down the street, that gave him the idea to create and organize the Ogden Santa Run.

“Utah is an unusual crowd and I knew the idea would work in Ogden,” Coles said. He said he knew how many people watch the Holiday Electric Light Parade during the opening of the Ogden Christmas Village and decided the fun run would be a perfect way to usher in the crowds. (Plus, the road would already be blocked off for the parade.)



  • Packet pick up 4 to 7 p.m. Gold’s Gym 2261, Kiesel Ave.

SATURDAY, Nov. 28 (Race Day)

Packet Pick up 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. 22nd Street and Washington Blvd.

  • 4:00 p.m. – Race line up on 22nd Street and Washington Boulevard
  • 4:30 p.m. – Race starts
  • 5:30 p.m. – Holiday Electric Light Parade begins

The city loved the idea, Coles said, the Ogden Santa Run was born.

The race began in 2008 and had about 200 runners.

At the time, Coles had organized a couple of other races through his company, On Hill Event, so he knew how to put a race together.

The Santa Run isn’t a typical runner’s race: instead of water, there’s milk and cookies along the parade route and, instead of an event T-shirt, organizers give out Santa clothes with paid registration. The inaugural group got red long sleeved T-shirts but then Coles found beards and Santa suits and knew they had to be part of the race.

The cost was high, so he worked to get more racers involved to keep costs low. As of last year, the Ogden race boasts about 1,200 paid racers plus 200 to 300 kids (kids race free). 

He also now holds races in Salt Lake City and Provo and has high numbers at those as well.

Racing is Coles organizes about 22 races a year and manages 5K races as well as half and full marathons. He organizes the Layton Marathon, Drop 13 Half Marathon and the East Canyon Marathon to name a few.

He loves the Santa Runs because it’s a nice close to the road race season. He also loves watching people run the Santa Run.

“In regular races you see the pain of the race sometimes. In the Santa Run, you see people happy and smiling because it’s fun and brings joy to people,” Coles said.

A few of Coles’ own kids run in the Ogden event and this year he hired his daughter to be an official race photographer. Her job will be to get a photo of each runner so they can download their picture from a website. 

It costs $36 to register in advance for the Santa Run. The price increases by $5 the last week of the race. Coles is now offering $5 off registration if you use the code, STANDARD as you pay online.

People can also sign up the day before or the day of Coles said. He has extra Santa suits, too.

For more information, visit the website.

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