Since discovering the race in 2016, the Christmas Tree Race in the Forest of Dean has been the highlight of the running calendar. I first ran it in a Christmassy t-shirt and the following year I had gone full on fancy dress mode with a customised Christmas Tree costume with lights and club branding. I was first Christmas tree home and won a prize for the best fancy dress.

In 2018 I was unable to run the race due to the Crohn’s flare up but still attended as unofficial race photographer (the award-winning Christmas Tree costume also made an appearance again. This year when I managed to start running again I signed up for the race (you need to sign up early as it always sells out) expecting to run but complications scuppered those plans.

In October the race organiser made a request for sponsors for the numbers. I’ve never been a sponsor on a race before but figured it could be an opportunity to support the race and helping raise awareness for two charities that have helped me this year – Crohn’s & Colitis and Colostomy UK.

I quickly discovered that there weren’t any limitations in terms of what the race numbers looked like so I decided to split the number in two with one half supporting Crohn’s & Colitis and the other supporting Colostomy UK. Both charities use similar colours so they both complimented each other and the final artwork came out really well.

Race Day

By the time race day rolled around, I was still not in a position to run but was going to be the race photographer for the day (in the award-winning Christmas Tree costume of course). Both charities had supplied me with literature for race HQ along with balloons and banners.

With the plan being to take photographs of all the finishers I managed to strategically tie one of the Crohn’s & Colitis banners to a tree trunk so it would feature in the background of shots. The aim was to provide the charity with a number of photographs that they could use in marketing material and it worked really. I was able to capture many happy runners featuring both the banner and the race numbers.

I even managed to get the trifecta of catching a runner in a Crohn’s & Colitis vest who was raising money for the charity.

The Pièce de Résistance

Not only was it so rewarding seeing so many runners wearing the colours of the charity, the winner of the women’s race was both a Crohnie and an ostomate! It was her 10th anniversary being an ostomate so to win a race sponsored by the charities that support her was so fitting. She showed that she could race with the best despite having a debilitating disease and a new bum!

Goergie Parnell – the winner of the women’s race and a fellow Crohnie and Ostomate

Next Year

The problem with becoming a race photographer is that it’s hard to make the decision between whether to run a race or photograph it. It’s so rewarding providing photographs for runners free-of-charge, especially if they come out well! But next year, I would really like to be in a position where I can run the race again – perhaps in a new-and-improved Christmas Tree costume.

After three years of wearing the Parc Bryn Bach Christmas Tree, it may be time to create a new Christmas costume
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Diagnosed with IBD in 2002, I have experienced the usual ups and downs of having a chronic disease and tried numerous medications but the time finally came in 2018 to elect to have surgery to improve my life. I had the surgery in 2019 and this is my journey having a 'New Bum'.

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