When there is a saying from your city that goes, “I’m not mad. I’m from Philly.” and when it has a rough reputation (I still say the Hitch-Bot had that coming) and there is a proclivity for boos (and booze) from the fans supporting the local sports teams, it may be a little surprising to find something as festive, good natured and kind hearted as the Holiday Lights Run that happens in South Philly each December.
That something this joyous and all inclusive began with a thought Donna Searer had back in 2009 should not be too surprising. The first run was mainly a small group of South Philly Striders and then in 2010 is when the Fishtown Beer Runners were included and it kept rolling from there. Adding Philabundance as a charity partner was the perfect fit.
As someone who has been participating in races in the Philadelphia area for close to 20 years, it has only been in the last 5 years that I joined in with any of the various running clubs. Since then, I have learned much and made many new and fantastic friends not only here but in cities around the country. What makes a free event like the Holiday Lights Run all the more special is how all are welcome. From what I am gathering, this is very much a Philly thing that does not seem to happen on a scale like this elsewhere.
With the first real cold front hitting our area since last winter, here we stood on December 15th in the parking lot of Toll Man Joe’s with a temperature of 18 degrees but real feel somewhere south of zero ready to soak in the warmth and luminations of South Philly. Approximately 400+ runners dressed in all kinds holiday attire including one smart woman running in a Christmas Tree outfit that seemed rather warm and then the ever festive Yoshiko Jo had on her Santa print tights she bought from Walmart Juniors for $3.75. Having Neil Brecher there running as a particular Jewish carpenter recognizable by many is becoming a tradition.
Donna has since founded a committee to help with the organization of this run since it has become so big. It is no longer just SPS and FBR. There were members from West Philly Runners, Fairmount Running Club, Torresdale Beer Runners, Manayunk Beer Runners, November Project, Philly Achilles and you can add another dozen or so because Fred Druding was there. With all of this cross over from so many clubs, the holiday spirit was certainly felt most especially with the food donations as well as the virtual food drive that was set up on the Philabundance website that has already surpassed the goal of $1,000.
So the city who is known for throwing snowballs at Santa turns out to have a rather big heart after all. With someone like Donna wanting to toast to good health and living life leading the way, let us hope that more and more follow in her footsteps. That is as long as those footsteps are not on anyone’s lawn who happens to be on the route.