Santa Bests a Marathon World Record

John Stanton-Geddes, a Vermonter and senior manager in Data Science, recently beat the world record for running a marathon in a Santa suit. Besting the previous time by over four minutes, John ran a lightning fast 2:45:09. Better yet, he did it for a terrific cause.

John... Santa, congratulations on an incredible accomplishment! We hear this wasn’t purely done to set records, though. How'd this all come about?

The idea came on a dark cold November morning when I realized that in a town known for silly running events (check out the Ben & Jerry's Brain Freezer 5k if you don't know what I mean), one of the prime events, the Santa Run wouldn't be happening. The sight of hundreds of Santas running in Burlington is awesome. I knew that this event was a fund-raiser for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a camp for kids who have cancer. I realized that, like many organizations and people, they must be hurting this year and wouldn't be getting the fund-raising that they normally do. I was also pondering my own end-of-the-year goals. I recently turned 39 and was looking for something to do from a performance standpoint. My last marathon was in 2016. I had planned to do the Vermont City Marathon in the spring, and obviously that didn't happen. I was still looking to get out and do something as I felt like my run fitness was pretty high. So, I put in a month of marathon training, did a few trial runs with the Santa suit, and then waited for the first day with good conditions in December, which fortunately came last Saturday!

Now that I'm on the other side of the marathon, what I'm happiest about is how much the Vermont community rallied around my event. I created my fundraiser page for the run about two weeks ago, and shared it with friends, family, co-workers and the local Green Mountain Athletic Association running club. In that time, we raised over $2k for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, including donations from many people I've never met or haven't seen in a long time! I really feel honored to have been able to help and get the support of so many people. 

As a matter of fact, you could still donate if you feel inspired! Here's the link. 

Both of these are incredible achievements! Speaking of which, running a marathon in December in Vermont isn’t easy in the best of circumstances, let alone to add a Santa suit to the mix. Can you tell us a bit about the logistics — what was the route, the conditions, and how well the suit/hat/beard performed?

Totally. I wanted to minimize all other distractions so I picked the most convenient course available, which was a double loop on the Burlington Greenway bike path. I run stretches of the bike path multiple times a week, so I know it very well. A shout-out to the City of Burlington for repaving much of the path in the past few years, so it's about as smooth running as you can get in Vermont. The factor that would be hard to control was the weather. Obviously, if you're running in a Santa suit, it needs to be in December. To run fast times, I didn't want it to be too warm as the suit is surprisingly warm, but I also didn't want it to be too cold, and definitely no snow or ice if I was trying to run a fast time. Being Vermont, the forecast was all over the place from 40 and clear to a rain/snow mix, but I got lucky that event day, December 5th ended up being cool (37°F) gray and calm. My friend Jason Frank (fellow dad, cyclist, triathlete, kids hockey coach, and all-around good guy) signed on to be my "support bike" so I'd have water and nutrition during the run.

A training partner commented that this was the "most impressive run he'd seen... in a felt leisure suit" and that basically describes what running in it felt like. The hat and beard were slightly annoying, but the pants were definitely not ideal. I tried to minimally modify the suit provided by the event. I got a child's size and even those were plenty floppy, so I had to pin them up to keep them from falling around my ankles. Once I settled in, I stopped noticing the Santa suit though and just focused on my running pace.

Speaking of performance, what was your fueling plan or were you hoping you’d be able to stumble on some mid-run milk and cookies?

Jason brought a variety of nutrition items, including some UnTapped, because what else would Santa use to fuel a performance event other than maple syrup?! I ate some energy chews early and had my first Coffee UnTapped at about mile 20. It was the perfect energy boost that I needed, so I had him pass me a second UnTapped around mile 21 and then just hammered into the finish.

I did joke with friends that the "real" way to do a Santa Marathon would be to only fuel with gingerbread cookies and egg nog, but I think that's an idea better left for someone else.

Is Buddy the Elf as much fun as he appears in his biography?

Absolutely, though I'm not sure I'd take his training and nutrition advice.

And just for a little sense of relativity, in the best of conditions what kind of marathon time are you capable of running?

Honestly, on that day I don't think I could have gone much faster without a Santa suit. Everything just lined up perfectly. My best marathon was a 2:36 back in 2015 (before my third kid was born). 

Alrighty, thanks so much for the time. It's a busy season at the North Pole, we'll let you get back to it!


Here are the details in case you're curious of Santa's splits.

Top two photos courtesy Joshua Brown. Bottom photo from Jason Frank.