GALVESTON, United States, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Ever seen Santas running on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico? Come to this Texas coastal city, where thousands of runners dressed like Santa hit the streets Sunday to celebrate the fast-approaching Christmas holiday.
With more than 3,000 Santas from across the country, the "Santa Hustle Race" also drew participants all the way from South Africa and Britain.
Flanked by rundown Spanish-style flats, Galveston's dilapidated "Old City Square" was literally a sea of red, with most of the crowd wearing red shirts, red hats and white beards.
Some boasted gaudy costumes, some were topless to show their muscles, and some brought pet dogs dressed in Santa costumes.
Santas of all colors and races gathered at the starting line in the square, trying to elbow their way to the front. Toddlers in their prams looked at the crowds curiously, and grannies bantered with old acquaintances.
The event was divided into a half-marathon and a five-kilometer race. Half a dozen rounds of runners took part in the 5k race, running or walking their way through the city center.
Another 1,000 runners ran the half-marathon along the sullen, wavy sea. The air off the beach, cold and damp, reeked slightly of rotting fish and seaweed.
Mark Herrman, 36 from Maryland, said while jogging he was happy to be here. "I love running. I love the sea. I enjoy my time here, Merry Christmas!"
On a deserted beach far from the marathon line, a couple surnamed Williams gave up their race and picked seashells with their daughter. "It doesn't matter. We are just for fun," the father said.
However, 28-year-old Sean from the Texas capital Austin, was more keen on the race.
"My result is 24 minutes and two seconds," he breathlessly told Xinhua at the finishing line of the 5k race.
"I feel happy that I finished it without passing out. It is a really good run. I will be back," he said.
His girlfriend, Ann, who ran faster than him, also enjoyed the race.
"I love the event. It's the perfect distance," she said.
It was the couple's first time in the race.
Organized by Adrenaline Sports Management, based in Illinois, the one-day event is also staged in five other U.S. cities, including Chicago and Indianapolis.
With outrageous holiday decorations, festive music, and a large after-party offering a buffet of food and drink, the event has won many hearts since its debut last year.
Standing in front of a huge ballooned Santa Claus, volunteer Katherine Manning explained why so many were fond of the race. "It's competitive but it's also relaxing. Everyone in town shows up. And you talk with people. You have fun. That's Christmas, isn't it?"