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Holiday-themed sports are a fad even Santa can get behind

By Tracey Savell Reavis

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring . . . except the tens of thousands of people who get up before dawn to participate in offbeat holiday-themed sports. If you’re a Sonic Hatchback owner, you’re game for new adventures. So here are three that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping. Who knows, you might even see Santa (his deliveries completed) in a late December marathon near you.

The Santa Hustle (various locations)

This 5K race in which runners are supplied with Santa hats, white beards and red shirts started in Chicago four years ago and now attracts 40,000 participants across six states. “There’s something about seeing an army of Santas,” says founder Aaron Del Mar. “The atmosphere is very festive. We have candy and cookies at stations along the race route and volunteers dress as elves. It’s the kind of event where everyone, from the fastest to the slowest, has the same experience: You dress like Santa and feel like a kid.”

The Ugly Sweater Run (various locations)

If donning a St. Nick suit isn’t your cup of tea, sign up for the 5K Ugly Sweater Run. This event, held in more than 30 cities around the country, features thousands of runners in their unique, unfashionable worst. Holiday music and decorations help keep the mood festive throughout the course, and hot chocolate comforts everyone at the finish line.

Polar Bear Plunge (Brooklyn, New York)

Chilly temperatures and snow on the ground provide the perfect swimming conditions for polar bears. And if you happen to be an adrenaline-rush-loving human fan of diving into freezing water, you too can share in the thrill. Throughout Europe, Christmas is the day of choice for this annual ritual, but here in the U.S. it’s New Year’s Day. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club has observed this tradition since 1903, with thousands now taking the dip into the icy Atlantic Ocean. “I used to say, ‘Who would want to do that?’” recalls Marcia Charles. Then she accepted a friend’s challenge and loved it. “I screamed at the top of my lungs because the water was 35 degrees. But I felt joyful, like a little girl. It was great to see so many happy people. It was the perfect way to start the New Year.”

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Tracey Savell Reavis is a freelance sportswriter who has worked for Sports Illustrated, the NBA and CBS Sports. She’s currently writing a book on the career of David Beckham.

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