We were still in the first mile when we passed Santa Claus. He was briskly walking the course which wound through the streets of Seneca Falls. A woman running near us in the race started chiding him:
“C’mon Santa. You can run,” she said. “Start running Santa!”
Now, there are many moments in my life where my sarcastic and dry sense of humour have created my very own karmic debt. But even I have rules. Never, ever, would I consider smack talking Santa Claus. Especially in the race named after the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” held in the town that inspired the setting of Bedford Falls. Especially two weeks away from Christmas. For real? You’re gonna tempt fate like that? At the very time of year when fate is playing big for all the world to see?
I made my friend Linda pick up the pace a bit at that point. Because we needed to get away from the bad juju that woman had created. This time of year, I’m leaving nothing to chance.
Saturday was the annual It’s A Wonderful Run 5K — a race I have always wanted to do. So when the opportunity came up not only to do the race but also run it with my friend Linda, it was all win-win. I was the new girl in the group of six which piled into Linda’s van and drove to Seneca Falls on Saturday afternoon but when you can speak running, you can fit in with any group of runners, even those who do things like a warm-up run before the actual race while you finish crunching the candy cane you picked up at registration. We arrived in Seneca Falls mid-afternoon and after procuring our bibs, timing chips and t-shirts (and aforementioned candy cane) we went to the Hotel Clarence to meet ZuZu. The actress who played George and Mary’s daughter, Karolyn Grimes, comes to town every year to sign copies of her books and other movie memorabilia. And I practically skipped up the hill to go and meet ZuZu, who uttered one of my all-time favorite movie lines ever: “Look Daddy! Paste it!”
We stood in line to meet ZuZu (because luckily Steve, part of our Bert and Ernie brigade, was as excited as I was to meet ZuZu) and I got my picture taken with Karolyn Grimes. She said I was sparkly. ZuZu said I was sparkly! The rest of the day was merely icing on that cake.
The race begins at 4:40 p.m., the time in the movie when George Bailey was contemplating jumping off the bridge. The sun had just set and the Christmas lights were beautiful. I decided to run with Linda. I was here for fun, for the total enjoyment of the race, the celebration of one of my favorite movies and to get into the holiday spirit. “If I’m holding you back, you can go ahead,” Linda said to me. “I haven’t been able to run at all this week.”
Nope. I stayed with Linda, checking to make sure that carrying on a one-sided conversation and signing Christmas carols as we ran wouldn’t annoy her. She loved the distraction and I loved taking in the beauty of the streets and the support of the townspeople who came out to see the spectacle run by. I wished every single spectator and volunteer I saw a Merry Christmas with a big wave. I chatted about the lights. (One house looked as if a candy cane threw up all over it.) I sang “Buffalo Gals” from the movie and a host of other holiday classics. Near the end of the race I broke into Mariah Carey’s classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” which did not endear me to other runners in our immediate vicinity. But that didn’t matter to me so much.
The final part of the race is a steep decline to the finish line. I took the free speed while Linda was more judicious in her descent. I have to say, it felt great to help Linda through the race. I’ve been in her spot many times with friends who have chatted and encouraged and pulled me through. I felt as if I returned the favor, just a bit, to the universe. And yet it didn’t feel like much of a favor, because I had a marvelous time just running and taking in the sights and sounds of a Bedford Falls holiday.
To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I so enjoyed a Christmas-themed event. Maybe it was because ZuZu said I was sparkly. Or because I knew better than to taunt Santa Claus.