SOUTH PORTLAND — Thousands of Santas dashed around the Maine Mall – some covering 5 kilometers and others a half-marathon’s 13.1 miles – before most people were just beginning to stir Sunday morning.

Some 2,200 people ran in the Santa Hustle New England 5K and Half Marathon, sponsored by Bon-Ton. In its second year, the event included an initial wave of half-marathoners dressed in Santa costumes who set out at 7 a.m., and another a wave of 5K runners who started 15 minutes later. Runners were provided with a Santa hat, beard and shirt but many took the look much further with elaborate Christmas-themed costumes. The running Santas made their way along courses that wove around the streets in the Maine Mall area.

The event was expected to raise about $8,000 for Easter Seals Maine, said Matt Paradise, operations manager for Adrenaline Sports Management, which ran the event. Paradise said there was a big increase in half-marathon participants this year.

Even though Christmas is still weeks away, runners appeared eager to jump-start the season.

“I think it is just part of the culture of running and it is never too early to celebrate,” said Paradise.

A group of Skowhegan-area runners, who got up at 3 a.m. to make the drive to South Portland, were adorned in matching elf and Mrs. Claus costumes. The group included Loralie Washburn of Harmony, Brittney Turner of Skowhegan, Brittany Paradis of Wellington and Shanna Cipriano of Athens. They all work at the Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan. Cipriano said the event was a way to kick off the holiday season.

“We have a lot of Christmas spirit,” said Cipriano, adding that she and her friends had big plans to go shopping at the Maine Mall later.

Brian Seney of Acton, Massachusetts, second to cross the finish line in the 5K race, ran with his father, Jay Seney, of Vernon, Connecticut, his mother and other relatives, none of whom have any ties to Maine. They just like to run and are willing to travel to run together, said Brian Seney.

Megan Galley of Biddeford babysat her nephew, Alex Harris, 5, and niece, Ellie Harris, 2, while her sister, Melanie Harris of Dixmont, ran the 5K. Galley said she was happy to get up early to help out.

“You can’t just go anyplace and run as Santa Claus,” said Galley.

Kari Poulin of Lisbon Falls, dressed in candy-cane leggings, passed the finish line in the 5K way ahead of her friends. She positioned herself next to a giant inflatable Santa Claus, where they agreed to meet after the race.

“What a great time to get all dressed up,” said Poulin.

Darren Winchenbach was the top 5K male runner with a time of 19 minutes, 13 seconds, followed by Brian Seney with a time of 19 minutes and 17 seconds. The top 5K female runner was Danielle Skillin at 20 minutes and 9 seconds, followed by Kaleigh Jones at 20 minutes, 47 seconds.

The top male half-marathon runner was Dan White at 1 hour, 23 minutes and 19 seconds, followed by Matthew Toussaint at 1 hour, 24 minutes and 10 seconds. The top female half-marathon runner was Emma Siegel at 1 hour, 29 minutes and 51 seconds, followed by Jenny Hornig at 1 hour, 34 minutes and 29 seconds.