The cars were all honking their horns and as I ran past, a woman wound down her car window and shouted at me. I adjusted my hat. And beard. And ran on to a chorus of car horns.
I was running with Warwick Rocks a friendly, informal running club in Warwick and I was one of nine Santas running from Warwick to Leamington to Leek Wootton to Kenilworth and back to Warwick. And we were stopping at 5 pubs for a mulled wine in each. Wine and Running. Two of the great pleasures. AND whilst wearing a Santa Suit.
|Route and Pub List thanks to Jodie|
I'd expected running to become more difficult with each pub and subsequent mulled wine, but I hadn't banked on struggling to get to the first pub …
I'd used my satellite navigation to reliably direct me plenty of times in the past and had no reason to suspect it had been at the Christmas brandy today. I'd typed in “Market Square, Warwick” and driving past the signs to Warwick, I had no misgivings, confidently expecting it to direct me capably and correctly to the the the Market Square in Warwick.
However after several mies of country lane and ending up in a tiny village, my satnav announced that I was at my destination. I looked around. I was in a small village, dressed in a santa outfit, with the locals looking at me suspiciously. This was definitely not Warwick. Royston Vasey possibly. Not Warwick.
I double-checked the satnav. Yep the satnav confidently told me. This is DEFINITELY Market Square, Warwick. Yet the lack of castle, pubs and LIFE begged to differ. I quickly looked up the address of the Rose & Crown and actually typed in the postcode. 11 miles away. I delivered my opinion of it in very unSanta-like language and turned the car around.
A hastily typed tweet to the organiser @jacklinstead read “Running 6 mums late.” Luckily he deciphered it as lateness rather than multiple maternal deaths.
Clear roads and little traffic meant that I arrived at the pub only 10 minutes late. My beard hastily dragged on and my hat jammed on over my eyes and there was a stressed – and rather effeminate - Santa pegging it down the lanes of Warwick in a mad search for the Rose & Crown. It must have looked rather as if having lost my reindeer and sleigh, I was in dire need of a brandy.
Finally arrived at pub, my beautiful white beard looking rather bedraggled, to find 7 other Santas waiting for me. The 8th Santa, Jo had been similarly misled by the satnav which must have been sharing the brandy with mine. I had arrived. The first pub: The Rose & Crown. A friendly and welcoming pub, it had recently been in the Top Ten Pub awards and also won Best Pub in the UK previously. Despite being dressed in a combination of Santa and neon, we were given a friendly reception and friendly smiles from the staff and locals.
We all started off – a ho of Santas running through the streets of Warwick in the search for a pub. A good run, in fancy dress, to a pub. It was a win whichever way you looked at it. We passed a group of children on horseback dressed as elves, mini-Santas and wearing reindeer hats. It was a relief to see other seasonal lunatics in Warwick. If any Scrooges appeared we'd send them after the kids first.
|Jo and Jack|
The next pub on the list was the Star and Garter. Tucked away in Warwick, we came in through the doors in a rush of Christmas, to find Santa hats on every table and a jazz band playing. My intentions were to have a soft drink in every pub but the thought of mulled cider – which smelled AMAZING – and which was served in an old fashioned dimpled half pint mug was too much to resist. The pub was lovely, old fashioned enough to feel like a proper pub but modern enough to welcome children.
The next section was a run to Anchor Inn in Leek Wootton, a 3.7 mile run through the countryside. There was a section along the main road, dull and dirty, but unexpectedly this was one of the most fun parts! Cars beeped as they passed us, children waved; thrilled to se a horde of Santas charging through the countryside. The fact that we were on a mission to find our third pub and more mulled wine wasn't disclosed. A woman wound down her car window as we passed and her shout of ”Meeeeerrrrryy Chrrriiiisssstmas!!” followed us as we ran on.
|(L-R) Brian, Jo, Jack, Tanya, Jo, Jodie, Chris|
This section of the run took in some very pretty sections of the Warwickshire countryside. A river, shaded by tall, ancient trees which were leafless in the winter sunshine. The road wound and we passed cottages tucked away, pretty and secluded, the Christmas trees visible through their windows. Most cars that passed us on the lanes were thrilled to see us as we passed, our red and white hats with their bobbles bouncing merrily, in rhythm with our pace. We were passed by a Scrooge or two in their cars who were NOT impressed to find us cluttering up their lanes but apart from the muttered unseasonal grumble and attempt to drown the Santas in puddle-splash they restrained themselves. However, our spirits were kept high by Jo who ran while singing Christmas songs which we joined in with like a group of seasonal Forrest Gumps.
|The Anchor, Leek Wootton|
The Anchor was at the top of a hill in Leek Wootton. Boasting such seasonal ales as ReinBeer, we were the first customers through the door although we were soon followed by others, dressed in their sunday best coming for a roast dinner while carefully avoiding the stinky runners. We retired to the bar and agreed that the food smelled amazing but we decided it probably wasn't a good idea to stop for a roast dinner only 6 miles into a run. Roast dinners halfway through would lead to slower running, toilet stops and possibly soiled lycra.
|The Almanack, Kenilworth|
After only 1.7 miles, we were in Kenilworth and had arrived at our next pub: The Almanack. This was a modern pub in the centre of Kenilworth with big squashy sofas, large enough for a sleighful of Santas. Sitting in the sunshine coming through the large windows, I was nice and comfortable. Well … apart from the itchy beard. Our only complaint was lack of mull. They hadn't yet put on the mulled wine or cider so we were mull-less. However a nice glass of Aspalls cider made up for it.
|Jo, Tanya, Jo|
Running along the streets of Kenilworth, we were surrounded by the locals doing their Christmas shopping. Anyone would think they hadn't seen multiple Father Christmas's running-like-they-stole-something through their town before. The best reaction was from a man sitting in a supermarket window. He stared open mouthed as I passed, my white beard streaming in the wind. He looked as though he had finally realised that Santa was real and that what had been told to him in the playground as a 10year old by his classmates was lies. A Santa-based moment of epiphany.
As we ran back towards Warwick, we passed a runner going the other way. Unlike the usual runner -shared greeting, he stared down as he ran, not making eye contact. Strange. Until Chris suggested he might have considered the sight of 9 Santas streaming towards him a hallucination brought on by a gel overdose or too many miles run. Poor lad. If anyone finds someone dressed in running gear in the Kenilworth area, rocking and gibbering about not sitting on Santa's lap because he couldn't catch him then, pat him on the back and take him home.
|The Saxon Mill, Warwick|
It was now just 3 miles to the Saxon Mill in Guy's Cliffe. This pub is a former mill about a mile outside Warwick. It's a beautiful and ancient looking building which is welcoming and comfortable inside. The bar staff were friendly and helpful despite there being 9 Santas all in varying states of drink-decisiveness and stinkiness after the 10 miles of running. Drinks obtained, Tanya found some comfy chairs for us all in a cosy corner and we sat. Bliss.
|Brian, Jo, Tanya, Jo, Jodie, Jack|
|Chris, Mike, Brian|
We had been rejoined by Mike, who having had to dash off to take a driving lesson had missed a pub. We decided this just wasn't on and insisted on him having an additional mulled wine to catch up. Mike – sensibly – declined although Chris who had managed a drink of some mulled variety in every pub (except the mulled-less Almanac) was leading the pack.
As I sat nursing my orange juice, the windows started rattling. This wasn't something brought on by excessive sprout consumption. This was a SERIOUS rainstorm. The windows were darkened by grey thunderclouds and the water pouring down the windows made the pub interior seem even more inviting. However, it was soon time to move and we darted across the car park, jumping over the massive puddles that had formed. The Santa suits were getting heavier and heavier and Santa was getting more bedraggled. However the christmas spirit was still evident. As we hopped and dodged on the pavements avoiding the deeper puddles, the cars beeped and people waved, cars let us cross the roads in front of them and people smiled. Jodie who had her first half marathon booked in for the new year was getting closer and closer to the magic 13.1 miles ... in a training run!
Brian who had had to wring out his Santa hat from exertion, to a round of laughter, after arriving at the Saxon Mill, had the satisfying sight of us ALL wringing wet after after thunder dash. Karma …
After only 1.7 miles were all back in front of the Rose & Crown which had been our starting pub. A welcome sight, windows glowing with yellow light and Christmas tree sparkling by the door. As we all trooped in, victorious, 12 miles under our thick black belts, the landlady welcomed us warmly … and bought us a round of drinks fas a well done for our run! I ordered a cup of coffee. Something warm and delicious and it came with big lumps of sugar and a pot of chocolate smarties. I settled back into the squashy sofa with a big smile and the feeling of a job well done.
|(L-R) Chris, Mike, Jack, Jodie, Tanya, Brian, Sarah, Jo, Jo|
This is likely to become an annual event so next year keep an eye out on Twitter for #12milesofchristmas or follow @WarwickRocks
The Pubs Visited:
0 miles Rose & Crown, Warwick @TheRoseWarwick
2.3 miles Star & Garter, Leamington @Star_Leamington
6 miles Anchor Inn, Leek Wootton
7.8 miles Almanack Kenilworth @The_Almanack
10.9 miles Saxon Mill, Warwick @TheSaxonMill
12.6 miles Rose & Crown @TheRoseWarwick
Disclaimer: somehow we ended up at a total of 13.2 miles!
Santas 2013: Jo, Jo, Jodie, Tania, Brian, Jack, Chris, Mike, Sarah.