Just chillin': 600 runners brave cools temps, icy pools in Polar Bear Plunge
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
1/02/13 at 8:22 AM
A Wednesday Tulsa World story misspelled the name of EMSA spokeswoman Kelli Bruer. This story has been corrected.
By the time Jan Freeman made her way to the third frigid pool, the temperature of the water didn't matter.
"The second pool was the coldest," Freeman said. "By the third, you're numb."
So were about 600 other people who took part in Tuesday's annual Polar Bear Plunge, a two-mile race through River Parks West including a leisurely dip into three pools. The event is an annual fundraiser to help maintain the parks and trails along the Arkansas River bank.
At last year's event, they had to add ice to the pools when temperatures were in the 50s. This year, they had to break through the ice so that people could jump in the water as light snow fell around them. Temperatures around race time were right at freezing.
Race organizer Brian Hoover, owner of Tatur Racing, a group that organizes fun running events in the area, said the Polar Bear Plunge is an exhilarating experience that gets better when the temperature is lower.
"The colder it is, it's more bragging rights," Hoover said.
However, the cold can also be dangerous. EMSA paramedics treated seven patients at the event, spokeswoman Kelli Bruer said. A 17-year-old male, 19-year-old female and 22-year-old male were transported to area hospitals, all in fair condition. Four more patients were treated at the scene but refused to be transported. Five EMSA units responded to the event.
A large group of runners was lined up for the second heat of the day, many in costumes as varied as a banana to a tuxedo. Hoover said they know the water will be cold, and waiting makes the mental challenge greater.
"They're scared, but they're also excited," Hoover said. "They want to get it over with."
Stephen Carter stood near the start of the race shivering and dry, at least for the moment. He said the run was one of the most fun he's had.
"No one here is serious about it," Carter said. "It's about having fun, getting together. It's freezing, but we're having fun."
Maggie Cooper and her friends were also cold, despite the fact they were still dry at the start of the race. She said she is a regular runner, and the Polar Bear Plunge is a great way for her to start off the new year, not cold and wet but proud of conquering the mental hurdle and finishing the race strong.
"It's a great way to jump-start the year," Cooper said.
Freeman was in the tent after she had finished the race, dripping wet and shivering.
"Too cold," Freeman said through chattering teeth. "I felt like my heart stopped."
But, with a look of pain on her face while doing her best to warm her core body temperature to normal levels, she said she had no regrets or second thoughts about what she had done. When asked why she would jump into three pools on the first day of the year, the answer was simple: Because she can.
"I'm 48; I'm doing this," Freeman said. "It's a great thing."
Original Print Headline: Chillin' out on New Year's Day
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Contestants jump into the frigid swimming pool water at the Westport Apartments complex during the Tatur Polar Bear Plunge on Tuesday at the Arkansas River west bank. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World