The second of what I've long considered the triple crown of Charleston's running year-end finale comes Saturday with the 22nd annual Reindeer Run, which starts at 9 a.m. in front of Southend Brewery on East Bay Street.

Sandwiched between the Turkey Day Run on Thanksgiving and the Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon on the second Saturday of December, both of which celebrate 35th anniversaries this year, the Reindeer Run is the most festive.

Though prize money isn't significant enough to draw super-fast Kenyans and Russians out of the woodwork, this event is all about the holiday season, from the costumes and music to snowmaking machines periodically shooting snowflakes on participants from the Vendue Inn.

The Reindeer Run, presented by Piggly Wiggly and Half-Moon Outfitters, is organized by the Charitable Society of Charleston as a fundraiser for the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital. Last year, the society raised $71,000 for the hospital from the event.

Necessary changes

Society member and race director Cameron Widman said the event will have its usual festivities, including holiday costume contests and live music, but will add an outdoor beer garden on a closed-off Queen Street next to the brewery.

The large crowd inside Southend following the race led to the addition of the garden, Widman said.

Widman also wanted to remind people that late registration and packet pickup 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday has been moved to the Mount Pleasant National Guard Armory at U.S. Highway 17 and Mathis Ferry Road. For years, it was held at the Gailliard Auditorium, which is under renovation.

As of late last week, Widman said the society was running about 100 registrants ahead of last year's numbers and that she's hoping for between 3,200 and 3,500 sign-ups.

Counting uncounted

The run is popular because of its post-race festivities and downtown course, but may need to take a lesson from two other large local races. The Turkey Day Run and the Komen Lowcountry Race for the Cure timed and counted runners and walkers.

This year, both set new finisher records. Turkey Day recorded 5,770 and Race for the Cure, which timed and counted walkers for the first time, set a new record of 5,379, up from 3,070 in 2010.

Those numbers will secure spots on important lists: Top 3 biggest single races in South Carolina and on the Top 40 Biggest 5Ks in the United States, the latter compiled annually by Running USA.

Though the Charitable Society claimed 3,200 registrants at last year's Reindeer Run, the official head count was 1,559 timed finishers. (The record is 1,750 in 2010.)

Why is it important to record bigger numbers? Other than an accurate accounting for history, bigger races get on lists and are tracked more, resulting in potentially more national and regional exposure and participants.

Even with the standard, conservative "no show" rate of 20 percent, last year's 3,200 registrants translates into 2,560 finishers, a record.

Widman said the society doesn't offer to time all participants because of the extra expense. "We really like to donate as much money to the Children's Hospital as we can and try to cut corners where we can," she said.

Kiawah convenience

Timed with the Reindeer Run, officials of the Kiawah Island Marathon will be offering in-person packet pickup noon-4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the Charleston Area Senior Center, 259 Meeting St. next to Jestine's Kitchen downtown. The pickup is for people who registered by Nov. 18.

Those wanting to take advantage of that opportunity need to bring a valid photo identification card. Friends and family are not permitted to pick up anyone's bib but their own.

Also, people are encouraged to bring at least two nonperishable canned items for the Charleston Senior Center.

Officials have closed the marathon to registration but expect to keep the half-marathon open until Dec. 7.