LIVERPOOL had never seen anything quite like it; 6,000 Santa Clauses parading through the streets of the city in a bid to set a new world record.
The occasion was the Liverpool Santa Dash, held over a 5km course around the city centre and which raised more than £100,000 for charity.
Waking up in a Knowsley hotel early on Sunday morning, it was anything but festive weather. It was tipping it down outside, and a quick dash to the car in my cheap and cheerful Santa outfit discovered the rain was cold, and very wet.
I was taking part in the event with my son Ross, who has joined me in a number of races this year in his specially-adapted sports stroller. He also had a Santa outfit to wear, and I was greatly concerned by how much he might suffer in the wet and the cold while being pushed around the streets of Liverpool.
Fortunately, by the time we had arrived in the city centre, the rain had eased off and for most of the morning the streets remained dry.
Ross and I had arrived in Liverpool on Saturday morning with Sally Hillyear and Gemma Harvey from the Hampshire Autistic Society who had wanted to come along to cheer us on. We had headed for the Adelphi Hotel first thing on Saturday to pick up my Santa costume, before Sally and Gemma waded in for a bit of shopping.
They just about managed to get out of their beds early on Sunday morning since we had to be in Liverpool before 9am for the 9.30am start.
Driving into Liverpool was surreal.We were passed by a white minibus containing a dozen red costume clad Santas. As we drove through the city centre trying to find a car park, a string of Santas crossed the road by the pedestrian crossing. Anyone who had been out on the razzle on Saturday night and who had no idea what was happening in Liverpool first thing on Sunday morning must have thought they were still in a trance!
We lined up for the race near the Albert Docks, and at 9.30am we set off on the 5km run. Progress was extremely slow. This wasn't a race, but a run, and so Ross and I set off at a gentle trot. There was no point trying to get anywhere fast.
We spotted Sally and Gemma taking photos by the start and I pushed on. Many of the Santas were reduced to walking within a quarter of a mile of the start, and frustratingly chose to walk right in the centre of the narrow streets. So progress was difficult.
I soon got the hang of it, and as the route travelled around the side streets and thoroughfares of Liverpool, Ross and I soon picked up pace.
We passed several people pushing either babies or disabled folk. We ran for a time with one fella pushing a disabled chap who was carrying a CD player blazing out Christmas carols.
I tried to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the run. Ross seemed content, and for the final mile we were starting to pick our way through the field. We crossed the finish line back near the docks in 27-and-a-half minutes, and we were the first pushchair finishers. We even got an announcement over the Tannoy with the Hampshire Autistic Society getting a big mention, which pleased Sally and Gemma no end.
There was a t-shirt, medal and goodie bag for Ross and I, before we headed off to Burger King, dressed in our Santa outfits, with Sally and Gemma to grab a well-deserved hot chocolate.
The world record figure of most Santas in one place was achieved. It was a wonderful day.