story and photos by April Robertson
FAYETTEVILLE – Families and friends chatted quietly in the soft glow of the early morning sunlight, painting faces, straightening tutus, adjusting Santa hats and pulling up candy cane stockings as Christmas carols swooned in the background.
More than 200 people attended the Jingle Bell Jog 5k and Reindeer Fun Run with special guest Jeff Galloway at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks Saturday morning.
“This is our first official event. Last year it was just a fun run,” said Tabby Holmes, race director for the Hogeye Marathon & Relays. “We award the top finishers and other awards go to people within a 10 year age brackets.”
Race contestants and their families enjoyed a breakfast of donuts and coffee, cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows, orange juice and other treats while perusing the Botanical Gardens, the site for the casual weekend race.
“People were really dressed up and we didn’t give them much notice (about wearing costumes),” said Angie Albright, development and technology coordinator at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. “So, I imagine it’ll be (even) better next year.”
Runners wore Grinch shirts, coordinated group costumes and other festive attire while covering the 3.1 miles on the Fayetteville City Trail. Families participated together by running as couples, others pushed their children in strollers ahead of them and some brought beloved pets as trail companions.
A first, second and third place were awarded to race participants by age bracket. Other awards and mentions went to those with unique costumes. Overall winner of the 5k was Jason Corral, a biological engineering graduate student at the University of Arkansas, coming in with a time of 17:30. Nancy Mitchell, who wore cherry red long johns and reindeer antlers, was awarded for the best costume at the Jingle Bell Run 5k.
Jeff Galloway, Olympian and columnist for Runner’s World Magazine, was a special guest of the event and conducted a workshop following the race.
“This event goes to a great cause,” Galloway said. “I’m looking forward to coming back in April for the Hogeye marathon.”
Members of the Northwest Arkansas Garden Railway Society and Master Gardeners of Northwest Arkansas turned out to help things go smoothly.
A number of fans stood diligently at the finish line, cheering in contestants with shouts of “You got this, you own this!” and sweet and surprising sentiments, like “He beat his time!”
A large group attended to support contestants from Central Junior High School and Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan was present to cheer on all participants, as well.
A number of running guides were available for sale and for browsing, including guides to running your first half marathon, a personal running guide, how to get started running and how to keep at it well into elderly age.
The Jingle Bell Jog 5k was sponsored by Adventure Subaru, Arkansas Medical Imaging, The Bank of Fayetteville and Walmart Neighborhood Market. Proceeds were donated to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.
Next year’s Jingle Bell Jog 5k and Reindeer Fun Run will take place Dec. 14, 2013.