Hundreds of Santas and Father Christmases storm through Leeds for annual Santa Dash for St Gemma's Hospice

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Over 1,000 Santas stormed through Leeds city centre this morning as they prepared to go the distance for charity.

Red and white costumes are abound for the annual Santa Dash which is organised to raise funds for local charity, St Gemma's Hospice.

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It is said to be the biggest version of the event yet and the 5k race set off from outside WH Smiths on Lands Lane at 9.30am.

Around 1,100 men, women and children of all ages dressed in Father Christmas suits and white beards for a 5km Santa Dash in aid of St Gemma’s Hospice earlier today.

Organisers hoped to raise about £25,000 from the 12th event, enough to fund the charity’s care of the terminally ill for 24 hours.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Jane Dowson, gave runners a pep talk at the starting line outside WH Smith in Lands Lane before a red and white sea surged forward to get the event underway.

This is a race in which everyone wins and organiser Alice Coggan said: “Everyone’s really got into the spirit.

“Obviously Christmas is a really important time, if we can pay for a Christmas Days’ care then that would be great."

St Gemma’s offers care for over 3,000 people a year in its day unit and in people’s own homes.

Among the runners was Guiseley’s Sally Parker-West who took part with her family of four and springer spaniel Elsie.

She said: “We’re doing it in memory of Steph, who passed away. She was at St Gemma’s and they do really amazing work.”

Ted Theaker and Tom Powell from Halifax were dressed as festive-themed Stormtroopers.

They said: “It’s a bit of fun, a good charity and it makes people smile.”

Ben Clark, 36, from Alwoodley, was taking part in his second Santa Dash having previously run one in Skipton. He ran whilst pushing his three-tear-old daughter Katherine and, alternately, 18-month-old Emma along in a pram.

He said: "It was really good. A lot more people than I was expecting and it's good fun, a lot of good support on the course which is nice and the marshals have been great. It's incredible the amount of Santas that have turned out."

The Lord Mayor, Coun Downson, said: "It's the biggest Santa Dash that St Gemma's have ever had - 1,100 runners coming out on a freezing morning to take part in this spectacle in the middle of Leeds.

"They are trying to raise £25,000 from today's dash but £25,000 only keep St Gemma's going for one day so it's really vital that we keep this support going throughout the year.

"To raise money in such a good way, such a fun way and appropriate way for Christmas, and to do it with all the family and the pets as well is absolutely brilliant. What a fantastic event and I just want to urge everybody, put it in your calendar for next year, sign up, come and do the Santa Dash."

to the Fletcher family, especially William, who is celebrating his 9th birthday today by running with his Mum, Dad and sister"