Dec 28, 2011
10:40 AM

The big chill

The big chill

Polar bears, action heroes and men in itsy-bitsy bikinis don’t get together often. But on New Year’s Day, Tulsans can find them all hanging out in freezing water at the Polar Bear Plunge.

The 2-mile run in the frigid January air requires participants to jump into three swimming pools on their way to the finish line, Race Director Scott Ostrem says.

But Ostrem and Co-Race Director Brian Hoover didn’t start the Polar Bear Plunge just for the quirky costumes and silly sayings participants tattoo on their bodies with permanent markers. They wanted Tulsans to start their new year off healthy — and with an achievement to boast about.

“The biggest thing is the bragging rights,” Ostrem says. “Everyone has a New Year’s resolution, and we start 2012 off by jumping into an ice-cold swimming pool. It’s definitely a unique group of people who do it. Some people think it’s the coolest thing ever, and other people think it’s just absolutely crazy.”

But each year, more people find the dive a little more cool than crazy. The event has grown from a small group of friends — about 15 people — to more than 500 participants over the past six years.

This year, Hoover anticipates that 600 Tulsans will strip down for the plunge, which is set for 2 p.m., Jan. 1, at the basketball courts at River Parks West near West 23rd Street and South Jackson Avenue.

Hoover says organizers have changed the original route — which required a dip into the Arkansas River — to a three-pool dive along the west side of the river.

The race course runs from its starting point near the 23rd Street bridge to near the 11th Street bridge, where the first pool sits. Then racers double-back along the trail and hit the second and third pools. They finish by diving to the bottom of the final pool to get their medal.

But participants should keep their eyes open — Hoover and Ostrem are pulling out all the stops. Hoover says there could be a surprise or two waiting for racers along this year’s route.

Although the event is called a race, participants can walk or run at their own pace. People, as well as their pets, can enter individually or in teams. The event is also for all ages. Ostrem says people from 5 to 75 years old have taken the plunge.

For $35, adult participants receive a T-shirt, a medal, pizza and a shot of peppermint schnapps to help them keep warm, Hoover says. Post-plunge, everyone can huddle next to one of the bonfires or warm up in one of three hot tubs Hoover and Ostrem have arranged.

“I think a lot of the fun is the social camaraderie that goes along with it,” Ostrem says. “Even if people don’t want to get in the cold water, they can participate in the activities, and sometimes that entices you to be a part of it when everyone else is jumping in the water.”

The proceeds from the race go back to the River Parks trail system. In 2011, the plunge raised about $1,500, Ostrem says.

For those who aren’t sure about dipping into 30-something-degree water, Ostrem suggests taking a shot of the schnapps to reconsider.

“I would tell them to go out early, drink some hot chocolate and put a bunch of schnapps in it,” Ostrem says.

Plenty of you, and myself included, have set New Year’s goals for 2012. One of mine is to become more active. There are plenty of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day activities to help you get 2012 started on the right foot.

Race into the New Year

RunnersWorld Tulsa is hosting Race into the New Year at the RiverWest Festival Park on New Year’s Eve.

The night starts at 10:30 p.m. Saturday with a dog costume contest prior to the 1 mile Fun Run that kicks off at 11 p.m. The 5k race begins at 11:45 p.m., allowing most of the participants to run from one year to the next.

Besides the race, organizers will have plenty of food, music and libations for those participating, as well as fireworks at midnight.

Those wishing to participate can sign up at RunnersWorld Tulsa, 4329 S. Peoria Ave., for $20 through Friday, or register at the event, 2100 S. Jackson Ave.

Take a hike

The Oklahoma State Parks are participating in the nationwide First Day Hike, which encourages everyone to start the year off with a hike through a state park.

Participating Oklahoma State Parks include Arrowhead, Greenleaf, Lake Murray, Lake Texoma, Robbers Cave and Sequoyah state parks. It’s free to hike at these New Year’s Day events. Start times and locations vary by park, but all participating sites will offer hot chocolate and warm beverages after the completion of the hikes and encourages hikers to stay and explore other areas of the park.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday than taking a short drive to any of these and breathing in some fresh air and stretching my legs on some of the most beautiful trails in Oklahoma.

For more information click here.

New Year’s Day Dash

Fleet Feet is hosting a fun, free and informal run/walk through downtown Tulsa on Jan. 1. With plenty of time to get to the starting line after a late night, the event begins at 1 p.m. at the untimed 4 mile course that starts and finishes at Fleet Feet’s Blue Dome store, 418 E. Second St.

After your run, Fleet Feet will offer hot chocolate, coffee and snacks to participants.

The event is free, but registration is requested. Click here to register.

-- Anne Brockman

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