Rudolph didn’t make an appearance but there were plenty of other reindeer, elves, menorah sunglasses and, of course, Santa Clauses to set a holiday atmosphere at the Ho, Ho, Ho 5K run in Bethpage on Saturday.
The organizers from the Greater Long Island Running Club, which hosted the event, said about 1,200 runners registered for the race. Despite the slippery conditions after a Friday snowstorm nearly as many showed up festively dressed against the cold to take on the 3.1 mile course. A costumed holiday parade set off just before the 9:30 a.m. race, when the temperature was at a frosty 28 degrees in nearby Farmingdale according to the National Weather Service.
First over the finish line at John F. Kennedy Middle School on Broadway was Bethpage resident Scott Bickard, 28, with a time of 16:33. Bickard, who moved back to the area after living in Texas and Illinois, decided to run the race despite the cold temperatures. He last participated in the race 10 years ago when he was in high school.
“With running to get better you gotta do it all year long, so it’s an excuse to exercise in the winter and get out, you gotta do it in the winter otherwise you won’t be fast in the summer,” Bickard said.
The female overall winner was Jessica Donohue, 22, of Glen Head with a time of 19:10.
Bert Jablon of Syosset had a time of 47:08. The 90-year-old said he is a member of the Greater Long Island Running Club and did a similar race in Wantagh last week. He said he doesn’t focus on the timing or the competitiveness so much.
“It’s a fun run, the people get in the right festive mood and thoroughly enjoy it,” Jablon said. “They run, walk, jog whatever they do they enjoy getting out here at the end of the year.”
For Kerwyn Pantin, 34, who placed first in his age group, and came with his team from Jamaica, Queens, the conditions were a little different from his native Trinidad where he started to run three years ago.
“We came out to do some training while we run so they motivated me,” he said. “It was different but worth it.” . . .
Maria Romano, 59, also of Jamaica, Queens, said she recently found out she qualifies for the Boston Marathon. But there is something about a December fun run.
“I love this race, love this course,” she said. “It’s a great community race, they did a very good job of cleaning up, the setup is nice and it’s a friendly course and it’s Christmastime, we’re here to have fun.”
At the race, toys were collected to benefit Wantagh-based John Theissen Children’s Foundation, which provides families with financial assistance to defray medical expenses among other services.