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Organizers push virtual Santa Run amid pandemic

Organizers push virtual Santa Run amid pandemic

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Runners participate in the Santa Run on the state Capitol grounds in Bismarck on Dec. 8, 2018. Hundreds of walkers and runners registered for the event to raise money for Runners Against Destructive Decisions, a local running group formed to help people recovering from addictions.

The seventh annual Santa Run is both growing and shrinking amid the COVID-19 pandemic as organizers promoted virtual participation aimed at keeping numbers smaller at the physical run on Dec. 12.

The event is a fundraiser for Runners Against Destructive Decisions, an organization formed by South Central District Judge David Reich as a way to support people recovering from substance abuse. The group gathers three times a week to provide those in recovery a healthy activity and that mixes exercise with socialization.

Santa Run is a nonprofit organization and its annual race draws hundreds of St. Nick-costumed participants. Organizers partnered with the Bismarck Larks to promote the virtual event, through which runners can participate until Dec. 22. Runners from as far away as Austria and Micronesia are participating this year, Reich said.

“We want to get as many participants as we can and keep the numbers lower on race day,” the judge said.

Virtual participants can submit a time if they choose. They are also encouraged to submit photos as costumes will be judged in a contest that is part of the event. Registration for the events can be completed at

The 2020 Santa Run starts at 10 a.m. Dec. 12 on the state Capitol grounds. It will include changes to limit social distancing and the recommended COVID-19 protocols will be in place. The usual gathering the day before the race will be replaced by a virtual program. Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon, will speak to participants from her home in New Zealand.

The pandemic also put a stop to the RADD group’s local gatherings for a time. RADD members organized Zoom meetings and virtual chats but after about six weeks “we kept running,” Reich said.

“Isolation is the big enemy of recovery,” he said. “I just think that’s an important part of the program, to talk and socialize.”

The RADD group grew from an average of 15 to at times 50 participants this summer, Reich said. Warm weather this fall has helped, as has the group’s reputation.

“The word is out there,” he said. “I hope we maintain our momentum and have a good base in the spring.”

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or

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