Running from addiction


RADD. The group runs three days per week and trains for the upcoming Santa Run. The Santa Run has been going strong since 2014. “The purpose of the Santa Run is to raise awareness of addiction issues,” Judge Dave Reich said.

Scott Gotta, Entertainment Editor

The annual Santa Run has been a tradition since Christmas 2014. To spread holiday joy, the goal of the event is to dress up in a Santa suit and run a 5k. 

Judge Dave Reich and his wife have since brought together the community every year to spread holiday cheer and spotlight the topic of addiction recovery.

“The purpose of the Santa Run is to raise awareness of addiction issues in our community, and to raise funds for entities that support addiction recovery, including RADD (Runners Against Destructive Decisions),” Reich said, “RADD is a running group formed specifically for the purpose of helping individuals in recovery from addiction.”

This running group meets with the motive to help people find an alternative healthy lifestyle for those in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse. RADD meets three days a week and also participates in the Santa Run.

“RADD provides a healthy lifestyle activity for individuals in recovery,” Reich said. “It provides a safe and judgment-free social support system. By helping individuals maintain their sobriety, RADD helps them as individuals remain law-abiding, productive members of society.  They are able to be better parents, better employees, and better and healthier individuals overall.”

Anyone in the community is welcome and encouraged to train weeks prior to get ready for the Santa Run. Running in the Santa Run is a great way to push yourself and set goals towards being a better person.

“The Santa Run is a 501(c)(3) charity that funds RADD,” Reich said. “RADD is formed to provide a healthy lifestyle alternative for individuals in recovery. RADD runs 3 days each week year-round. Runners and walkers of all abilities are welcome. Participants set a goal of completing a 5K run or walk and train with RADD for approximately eight weeks before their 5K.  RADD runners set goals, train to achieve those goals, and take pride in accomplishing those goals.  RADD also provides a time for socialization in a non-judgmental setting.  Participation in RADD benefits participants physically, mentally and emotionally.  No matter what walk of life we come from, when we put on our running shoes, we are all just runners.”

The Santa run also requires that everyone dress in a Santa suit. It is a unique way to bring attention to the issue of addiction in the Bismarck-Mandan community. 

“The 2020 in-person Santa Run will take place at 10:00 AM on Saturday, December 12, on the State Capitol Grounds,” Reich said. “The Santa Run 5K and the Cool Mile event both start and finish on the east side of the Heritage Center. The Santa Run is a very visual event where everyone 13 and over runs in a Santa suit and sponsors run in elf costumes. We have tremendous community involvement from our sponsors and volunteers. Each year more and more people learn about addiction recovery through the Santa Run.”

This year, however, will be different with COVID-19, there will be an option to run a virtual 5k race. Using your favorite running app, you can choose any route to run or walk, as long as it is a 5k or one-mile route. 

“The virtual run allows people who register for the Santa Run to do either the 5K or one-mile events from anywhere and anytime between December 1 and 25,” Reich said. “All registrants receive a Santa suit in their packets.  Virtual participants are asked to send in information about when and where they did their run.  They are also asked to submit photos,  and there will be prizes awarded for the best photos.”

With coronavirus, there are precautions, such as face masks must be worn before the start of the race. And the maintenance of a 6 foot distance between the other participants.

“We usually have between 450 and 550 runners and walkers for the Santa Run,” Reich said. “This year due to COVID-19 and the virtual run option, which was put in place to help keep numbers down at the in-person event, we are expecting between 200 and 300 runners and walkers on December 12. Although the in-person numbers are lower, the actual number of registrants has set a new record this year as we are currently at approximately 650.”

Overall, the impact that this tradition has had on the community has brought people from all walks of life together, for this special charity event.

“It has been humbling and rewarding to watch individuals in recovery become healthier and happier human beings through RADD,” Reich said. “As a district court judge, I see individuals struggling with addiction on a daily basis. I think RADD allows me to better see people as individuals and not just as another criminal defendant.  I think by breaking down barriers and building one on one relationships through programs like RADD, we can affect meaningful change in people’s lives.”