The History of the Christmas run

The Christmas run of 2023 will happen for the 48th time. For many years, the race was called the New Year’s Run, but after the restoration of Lithuania’s Independence it was often timed to coincide with Christmas, so it was eventually renamed the Christmas Run.

The first race was organized in 1975 to celebrate the New Year among running enthusiasts. 77 runners took part in the race. The idea of the event remains the same today. Hundreds of running enthusiasts come together for the last time of the year to meet friends and fellow runners. The ones who seek thrill, come to compete among others.

Pranas Baublys was the first winner of the 12 km New Year Run. The women competed in the 6.5 km race. Bronė Šablevičiūtė was the fastest.

Vytautas Stanevičius, a physical education teacher, is the only participant who has not missed a single competition. Last year Vytautas has successfully ran 6 kilometers.

There is a tradition of running dressed as Santa Claus or Snow White during the race. It was born out of the blue a little over a decade ago. The organizers have noticed that some slower runners get disturbed when passers-by point fingers at them as they run down the streets in the freezing cold. They were then invited to “hide” under Santa Claus costumes. Passers-by started congratulating, wishing good luck, and supporting such runners, so the original idea caught on.

Hundreds of amateur runners are now taking part in the race wearing their unique costumes. First and foremost, the Christmas run is a celebration, so the main goal is just to enjoy running in winter.

One of the coldest days of the event was in 1979. At the time, it was -30 degrees celsius.

The youngest participant of the Christmas Run was a three-year-old boy named Tadas Gerulskis, who completed the 5 km race in 2009 with his mother. The oldest veteran of the event, Vladas Levickis, was 87 years old on the day of the competition.

The largest number of runners took part in the race between 1985 and 1988. At that time, around 2000 running enthusiasts took to the streets of the capital.

Until 2010, the main initiator and organizer of the competition was Jonas Grigas, a well-known athlete and the director of Žalgiris Stadium. Since 2011, the Christmas Run has been organized by the Vilnius Marathon team.

The main distance was 12 kilometers. This number represents 12 months. Those who wanted to could also complete a distance almost half as long. This year, runners will be able to run 12, 6, or 3 kilometers. The little ones will compete in the “Elf Run”, which is over 200 meters.

The start and finish of the Christmas (formerly New Year’s) run used to take place at Žalgiris Stadium.

The start has been moved to Vilnius Old Town.

It’s cold in winter, but it’s warm to run!