Cold tests runners' endurance in Polar Bear Run

Wearing nothing more than shorts and T-shirts, 37 runners braved the February cold for the Polar Bear Run on Saturday.

(Photo by: Eden Buxton) During the Polar Bear Run, participants ran a half-mile in minimal clothing on Saturday. Runners were not allowed to wear more than running shorts and t-shirts during the race.
(Photo by Eden Buxton) During the Polar Bear Run, participants ran half a mile in minimal clothing on Saturday. Runners were not allowed to wear more than running shorts and T-shirts during the race.

The Polar Bear Run, organized by Utah Endurance Events, was an untimed half-mile run that took place on trails behind Peak Performance, a running gear store on Washington Boulevard.

Participants in the run could wear no more than running shorts and T-shirts, but no less than Speedos and bikinis. Many runners wore traditional running gear, while others were shirtless or wearing just a bikini in the 19-degree temperature. One unconventional runner, who was the first to finish the run, wore a hula skirt and an orange wig.

Russ Olsen, one of the owners of Utah Endurance Events, said the organization wanted to create a run that would be fun and different from conventional runs.

“With our name, Utah Endurance Events, this is definitely an endurance run,” Olsen said. “It’s about enduring through the cold. The ultimate goal is just to have fun and help people be healthy.”

Alex McKinley, another co-owner of Utah Endurance Events, said he felt the novelty of the run could encourage people to participate in running.

“We want to create races to get people excited about running,” McKinley said. “We were kind of thinking of doing something crazy. We wanted something unique, and a different challenge. We didn’t think there would be this much of a crowd that wanted to endure the cold like this.”

Bridget Fowers, marketing director of Utah Endurance Events, agreed.

“When you do something strange and unique, it really pulls people together in a different way,” Fowers said. “We really wanted to do it in Ogden, because it would be kind of fun and energetic in the downtown vibe with this trail running through Ogden.”

Bystanders cheered on the runners, while the runners laughed and told jokes as they received stamps indicating they had finished a lap. One runner said, “The guy in the skirt lapped me!” while another joked, “It’s natural to want to look. I’ve worked hard for this bod.” A few of the less-dressed runners jumped in the snow and made snow angels after they had finished the run.

“It’s a unique concept,” said Mike Price, who participated in the event. “Running is not always about fun. So when you can add an extra twist to make it more fun, it’s great.”

Price, Josh Clapier and Casey Williams traveled together from Logan to participate in the event. All three finished the run wearing only shorts and their running shoes.

“Running in the cold really wasn’t too bad,” Clapier said. “Maybe my hands got a little stiff, but once you get going, the blood is moving and you don’t really realize it that much. All it really is is a distraction for the mind. It’s tricking your mind that you can do it. If I can get other things to distract me while running, even if it’s me being uncomfortably cold, then I’m fine with that.”

Williams said it was both hard and fun, and that he would do the run again.

Utah Endurance Events organizes runs like the Polar Bear Run for fun and to promote health and fitness. But that isn’t the only motivation.

“We want to not only help people get healthier, but we also want to help charities as well,” Olsen said.

A portion of the proceeds of Utah Endurance Events runs goes to a nonprofit organization. The 2013 organization that will receive the funds is the Hess Cancer Foundation.

“We love Hess Cancer and what they do,” McKinley said. “Helping out families that have lost a child to cancer — it’s a huge thing for us.”

Fowers said the race will be memorable for the runners who participated.

“People who come into a race who never knew each other can leave with great memories they can reminisce on,” she said.