(NOTE: Due to difficulties in filming, the Weekend BRB video segment will be primarily in writing.)

BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — We all know that December 24th is the evening that Santa Claus comes to town… but it would seem that he — and a few friends — ran through Bismarck this weekend. But it wasn’t just a wayward ride: this time, Claus is in town early for a cause.

The Bismarck Santa Run began in 2014, after Judge Dave Reich decided to raise awareness for drug addiction and recovery. He and his wife decided that the best way to do just that was to host a fun run in December, where racers dressed up as Santa Claus to raise money for RADD (Runners Against Destructive Decisions). Since then, it’s grown into a classic that brings runners from across the city and state together for a morning of hot-blooded fun in the cold.

“I think it’s kind of a unique run,” explained Judge Reich himself, “There aren’t many runs that take place in December, and the Santa suits make it fun. The fact that it’s for a good cause is also a great motivator. I always enjoy seeing the people have a good time.”

RADD promotes running as a healthy alternative to hobbies for those in recovery to do along with their families to keep healthy and have fun, and nowhere is their message clearer than the week of the Santa Run. On the night before the Saturday sprints, a presentation took place at the North Dakota Heritage Center featuring Dick Beardsley, a former marathon champion who shared his own story of his battles through traumatic events, unfortunate circumstances, multiple injuries, and struggles with drug addiction. As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Boston Marathon — during which he rose to higher fame by losing — it only fits that she told tales of his faith, perseverance, and hope in the face of despair. It is this idea of ‘hope’, in the first place, that the Santa Run has always been about.

“This event is something that sheds a different light on something that’s normally very dark,” continued Reich. “Recovery from addiction doesn’t always get positive press. This is an opportunity to show that everybody can run as one, and contribute to the cause. Beardsley’s story is a wonderfully heartfelt story about being able to stay the course, get up every day, and find some joy in life. He’s an amazing individual, and we were overjoyed to have him speak.”

Prior to the Santa Run, attendees could participate in a breakfast and opening ceremony at the center (now dubbed ‘Santa’s Workshop’), before participating in their choice of a full 5K Marathon run or the longer Cool Mile. This isn’t to say that only those who could go the distance were permitted to enter the event: both the 5K and the Cool Mile can be walked or run, and a special ‘Dasher and Dancer’ race was held for young children who hoped to partake in the festivities.

At the end of each race, all participants from the races — regardless of their time or place — each received a medal (so long as they wore their Santa suits), as well as an invitation to the Santa Run after-party back in the Heritage Center. Here, they could discuss the race, talk with other Santas, and enjoy complimentary baked goods, fruit, hot cocoa, coffee, and hot cider.

While everyone enjoys the thrill of the Santa Run, the excitement leading up to the race, and the relief and runner’s high after it, at the end of the day it’s important to keep the original message of the day in mind. Substance addiction is a difficult issue, and unfortunately, one that does not end when one tries to kick the habit. It’s the hope of RADD that the community rallying together during the Santa Run, combined with the powerful testimonies of its guest speakers, will help show those struggling with addiction that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“We started the running program and the Santa run for people in recovery.., to give them hope, especially at the holidays,” Reich concluded. “This is an event that’s a joyous event, it does help people have some hope and a little fun, and see that the sun will come up tomorrow, that there will be a brighter future.”

To learn more about the Bismarck Santa Run or sign up for the 2023 event, visit its website by clicking this link. All paid entries will include a Santa Suit.