Santa was, evidently, training for his December circuit around the world last Sunday, Oxmas Eve, with a 5k in University Park. Over 200 Fathers Christmas, elves, and reindeer participated in Oxford Raise and Give’s (RAG) Santa Dash. The red suits and snowy beards concealed hearts of gold as these students ran to raise money for four Oxford and UK charities. The half-hour run raised over £1000 and just as much holiday spirit. Ben Farmer, President of Oxford RAG said, ‘We wanted to spread some festive cheer this Oxmas and we thought the sight of hundreds of Santa running through Uni Parks would do the trick.”

Holiday spirit was in the air as students gathered in the morning of the 24th to receive their outfits. The crowd was a festival collection of Christmas jumpers, gingerbread and snowman patterned pyjamas, elf ears, reindeer horns, and, of course, Santa gear. “I’d never worn a Santa suit before,” said Keble student Sophia Konanc. “It was a lot of fun,” The Oxford Santas donned fluff-trimmed nightcaps, scarlet coats and pants, fat black belts, and bushy beards. They gathered around an elf in a neon-green, reflective vest who led Christmas-themed stretches. The 200 collected Santas were quite a sight. Konanc described the experience as a “Santa Immersion.” The two waves of runners left at 12:00 and 1:00. They ran two laps around University Park. High spirited young children thronged the route with their parents, cheering the Santas on. The runners were hindered only by the occasional wardrobe failure (Santa does not, as it turns out, wear Lululemon).

Upon finishing, runners were treated with a candy cane and a selection of sweets from Deliveroo. The fastest runners finished in less than 20 minutes while the average runner finished in just under a half-hour. The run itself was very beginner-friendly. Several of the runners had never completed a 5k before. One such runner, Sarah Yang, described the event as “very fun.” Konanc, a more experienced runner, also found the event different and enjoyable. “I would highly recommend it,” she said. RAG is well pleased with how the event turned out. “The weather stayed dry for us and there was a fab atmosphere in the event village,” said Farmer. “Raising money for charity whilst having fun is what we’re all about and it was great to see so many people get involved!” RAG is the Oxford Student Union’s fundraising organization. They plan events yearround to raise money for their four charities. These charities are selected annually in an Oxford University-wide student election.

Each year two local charities and two national or international charities are elected. This year, students voted Beat, Meningitis Now, KEEN, and Oxfordshire Mind as RAG’s beneficiaries. Beat is a national organization working to support people affected by eating disorders. They provide helplines and online support as well as leading campaigns to change government policy and the public’s awareness of eating disorders. Meningitis Now aims to end meningitisrelated deaths and to provide quality support to those suffering from meningitis. They run specialist support lines and help encourage research and the implementation of new vaccines to fight meningitis. KEEN is a volunteer-run organization that advocates for Oxfordshire community members with special needs. They support local organizations in making their programs more inclusive as well as hosting community-based sporting and social activities throughout the year. Oxfordshire Mind is a west Oxfordshire charity supporting those affected with mental health difficulties. They provide peer support groups, free courses, and expert advice on taking care of one’s mental health.

RAG is a student-led organization that hosts a variety of events. They are currently preparing for their popular Hilary term events: Blind Date and Jailbreak. Last year, over 1100 students participated in Blind Date, where students are set up on blind dates with other students across the university. They raised over £5,500 with that event alone last year. Other events are challenges, like Jailbreak. Participants of Jailbreak must travel as far as possible within a day and a half without spending any of their own money. More information on these two events will be available early next term. RAG also hosts a variety of other social events and balls.