Over 1,700 Santas turned out for the biggest Santa Run to date, a festive event which allows runners to raise money for Manchester United Foundation, or any charity of their choice.
Treble winner Irwin took to the stage on the Old Trafford forecourt at 11.30am to start the 5K Serious Santa Run, before joining the race himself, on a route which takes runners past the sights of the Imperial War Museum, The Lowry and MediaCityUK.
United legends Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs and Bryan Robson have all previously kicked off the Santa Run but keen runner Irwin is the first to run the race, completing the 5K course in under 25 minutes. The route takes runners past MediaCityUK, the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum before they cross the finish line at the Theatre of Dreams.
Following the 5K race, Irwin returned to kick start the 2K family fun run at 12.30pm. He commented, “Well done to everybody who has taken part today; it’s been a great day that has raised a lot of money for various charities, the weather has just about held as well.
“As a Foundation Trustee it’s great to come out to events like this, as I know they take a tremendous amount of organising and it’s great when everyone has such a good time. The Santa Run is for young and old, fast and slow; it’s a day for everybody.”
Other Christmas activities taking place around the stadium included a brass band playing favourite festive tunes, the Manchester United Foundation street dance crew performed ahead of each race and Father Christmas was giving out early Christmas gifts in his grotto.
The winner of the 5K race was 25-year-old Aaron Bauer, who is visiting Manchester from Ohio, USA. He was presented with a signed Manchester United pennant and commented, “This is my first ever Santa Run, and my first race at Manchester United. My mother, father and brother are big fans of the club. It was a good course, a lot of festivities, more than I’m used to so it was great to win.”
Mike Critchley, 47, from Swinton won the 2K race along with his 15-year-old son, James. Whilst most runners dressed as Father Christmas, Mike was dressed as Batman: “Today was great fun; I’ve brought all my family here, my two kids and my wife have been cheering us on. I like to run and we also did the Santa Run last year – we were the ones carrying the sleigh and our youngest was dressed as a reindeer!”
Chief executive of Manchester United Foundation, John Shiels, said, “This is a great Christmas event for the Foundation and has grown massively over the years. It is fantastic for community spirit and makes a huge difference to charities, including the Foundation for all the young people we work with across Greater Manchester.”