NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 14, 2013

Q&A with 'Santa's Toy Trot' special events coordinator Jim Banyas

By Tim Lima
Sports Reporter

---- — MERRIMAC – The Winner’s Circle Running Club is going to hold its annual Santa’s Toy Trot to collect toys for children of Merrimac tomorrow at Sweetsir School.

The race is very casual in the sense that once you start running, you can choose your personal finish line. Those competing in the race have the option of stopping after two miles, or continuing on to run three 2-mile loops, running a total of six miles. The race promises to be a fun event for people of all ages, including young children who can partake in the “Santa’s Elves’ Fun Run,” a quarter-mile dash around the Sweetsir School. Registration for the Race is held at 11:30 am tomorrow. The Santa’s Elves’ Fun Run is held 20 minutes before the actual race begins at 1 p.m.

Special Events Coordinator Jim Banyas took the time to answer questions on his organization, the race and the benefit it has on the Merrimac community.

Can you talk about the Winner’s Circle Running Club and what it does for the community?

“We are based out of Salisbury, and we have donated just around $14,000 to $15,000 this year to local charities. We are a non-profit organization so everything we make in our runs and our events we donate.”

Has the race been rescheduled or is it still taking place on Sunday?

“As of right now, the race is still on track for Sunday. The storm looks like it will end in the morning so our race that begins at 1 p.m. should be right on track.”

How many miles is your race?

“A 2-mile loop. So you can run one, two or three loops for up to six miles total so there are essentially three races in one.”

How many years has this race taken place?

“Over 10 years.”

How many runners are registered?

“About 175. In good weather, we typically average around 350 runners.”

What is the cost to register?

“The cost of the race is $15 if you bring a toy, and $25 if you do not. The extra $10 donated will be put toward buying toys.”

You have an age category for people over the age of 80. Do you have any runners in that category?

“I believe we do. Lou Peters is running the race, and he is over the age of 80. I think he is 82.”

What is your age range for this year?

“We have a free Elf Run so anybody can bring their children and run with them. We have kids from 3 or 4 years old run the track that is just about a quarter mile and is a loop around the Sweetsir School. For our normal race, we have kids as young as 9 years old run.”

Can you explain the track – where it goes, what type of terrain it is?

“The terrain is pretty flat and fast. It is very doable.”

What are the prizes for top finishers?

“For our top finishers, if you break the course record you win a pair of running snow shoes. Winners of the 2-mile race, the 4-mile race and the 6-mile race get ski gloves and ski liners for the gloves. For division age winners you get a one pound jar of fresh honey grown by me, and those who finish in second place get a one-half pound jar of honey. That’s about 70 different awards we give out.”

How many toys have been collected because of your race, and what are your goals for this year?

“We average about 200 to 250 toys because a lot of people will bring extra toys. Last year we donated $750 to Toys for Tots to buy toys for children who are going through special circumstances.”

Where do the toys go after the race and who receives them?

“They all stay and are distributed in Merrimac.”

Can you explain what the Santa’s Elves’ Fun Run For Kids is?

“It’s good for young children. It is a quarter-mile loop around the Sweetsir School. When they complete the race, they all get a certificate of completion and a medal. For somebody that’s very young its a great accomplishment. They feel good running to the finish line and getting cheered on. It starts 20 minutes before the race starts (12:40 p.m.).”

How many races are held throughout the year by your organization?

“Eight races.”

Is there anything else you would like to get out there regarding the race and your overall objective?

“The race is going to be held as scheduled despite the storm. It’s all about the children. You can check the status of the race and if anything changes by visiting our website at RunTheCircle.Org.”