- FUN FEATURES
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The Christopher Martin Christmas Run for Children in New Haven drew its typical crowd of participants last year. More than 2,000 runners from all over the region turned out to participate in the fundraising event, that seeks to bring some holiday cheer to needy children, almost all in the usual athletic garb expected for a race on a chilly winter day.
There was, however, one group of runners that stood out from the rest. Cheshire High School cross country runner Tesni Phillips and 10 of her friends, dressed up in festive holiday costumes, took to the streets for the event, drawing attention because of their wardrobes and enthusiasm.
“Everyone really enjoyed seeing us out there, and we had a lot of fun,” Phillips reflected. “It was a great event.”
When she first began thinking about running in the race last year, Phillips was expecting to be joined by only a few of her friends and raise a small amount of money. In the end, 10 of her fellow runners joined in, and the group raised well over $100.
That spurred Phillips on to make the Christopher Martin Christmas Run for Children an annual tradition for herself and her friends, and this year she is hoping to expand her group of runners in impressive fashion.
“We want to double the amount of people running and, also, the amount of money raised,” said Phillips. “People saw the pictures from the race last year, and heard the stories, so there has been a lot more interest.”
While the race is still a month away, scheduled for Dec. 12, Phillips has already fielded requests to be a part of the event from more than 20 people. That number actually grew to near 30 recently, but some friends who had expressed an interest realized they had prior commitments that weekend.
“We are getting a lot of people who want to run, but they have to check and see if they can,” explained Phillips. “We expect we are going to have a really good amount of people.”
The Christopher Martin Christmas Run for Children raises money to buy toys for needy children in the New Haven area. Over the years, the race has provided for more than 50,000 toys for children during the holiday season. Participants provide a registration fee that is used to purchase the toys, and many people register in order to donate the money without ever running in the race.
Last year, to make the race more enjoyable, Phillips and her friends decided to scrap their usual running gear in favor of more festive attire. Some of the runners dressed as elves, while others were in Santa costumes. The most original, however, was Phillips and a friend who dressed as Christmas presents, something she hopes to duplicate this year.
“We asked Stop & Shop and Everybody's about getting boxes so we could have a three-person present,” said Phillips, laughing. “They have been really great about it and provided all the boxes we would need. We might not run all that fast, but it will be a lot of fun.”
Phillips stated that one of the more enjoyable aspects of the race for her last year was the preparation. Before the day of the event, all the runners met to put their costumes together for the race.
“We had so much fun,” remembered Phillips. “That was honestly one of my favorite parts of the whole thing.”
That kind of fun atmosphere is one of the reasons why so many new participants are signing up to get involved, along with an understanding that the race isn't exclusive for only those who are experienced runners. Phillips admits that many people she has spoken with stated that they were concerned the event was only for cross country runners, but when Phillips explained that the purpose was not to record any specific times, only to run and finish, a lot of people began to sign up.
“I think it made people feel a lot better,” said Phillips. “They thought they had to be able to do a six-minute mile or something, but it isn't about that.”
Over the next few weeks, Phillips hopes more people decide to join. The race provides an opportunity for students from different clubs and even different social clicks to meet and get to know one another, she remarked.
But, mostly, the event provides an chance for teenagers to give back to children who aren't assured a happy holiday this season.
“To know that, because of what you are doing a child can get a toy, that makes you fee really good,” said Phillips.