Race It: 2017 Polar Bear Dash 5k

January 1 marks the start of a new year. So why not make a splash?

The Polar Bear Dash provides a fun 5k course for runners to test their speed and then an optional dip in Lake Michigan after the finish line to test their courage. Make no mistake – it will be cold no matter what the temperature is on race day but we know a lot of you pride yourselves on being able to take whatever Mother Nature throws your way!

Below, Race Director Bill Schneider tells us more about this year’s race, including a new contest that just might get you to take the plunge.

Get race specifics on our Featured Races page .

What makes the Polar Bear Dash different from other 5k races in the area?

The Polar Bear Dash is the first race of the New Year. Why not start the year off on the right foot…then the left? It is a winter race taking place on New Year’s Day morning with an indoor heated packet pickup and post-race gathering area. The unique part of the race is an optional dip into Lake Michigan right after the finish line, which is located on the Grant Park beach. Runners who take a full dip in the lake are eligible for prizes. The race is run entirely in Grant Park in South Milwaukee on a completely closed-to-traffic route. There is no better way for runners to start the year off. Our charity partners are the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. We also have hot chocolate at the finish line!

Is there anything new or different happening at this year’s race?

New this year will be a contest to see who enters the water in the best and most creative way. Every year we take video of runners jumping into the water; this year we will choose 5 or so of the most creative ways people get into the water and post the video on our Facebook page. Our Facebook friends will then vote to determine which one they like the best and that person will receive a free entry into the next Polar Bear Dash.

pbd-16-02All photos courtesy of Bill Schneider

We are also looking into having a bonfire on the beach to help warm up those runners who do decide to brave the water as well as for the friends and family that come to watch the excitement on the beach.

What are the course uphills, downhills, turns, etc. that runners should know about?

The course begins at the Grant Park Clubhouse and finishes down at the beach. There is a small uphill at the beginning and then a beautiful run through the park. The race finishes with long downhill to the beach. If the roads are clear of ice, this can be a very fast course. If there is snow, runners need to be more cautious.

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Who were last year’s winners? Are any of them back to contend for the win again this year?

Last year’s overall winner was Mike Treder with a time of 17:57. The female champion was Kelly Ryan with a time of 20:00. At this time we do not know if they will be defending their titles but we sure hope they come back.

Is there anything participants should know about water stations, etc.?

This race is only a 5K so unless the weather is unusually warm, there is not a water station along the course. We do not want to cause a slipping danger by having water spill onto the road. If the weather is warm, we will have an aid station along the course. Of course, there is plenty of water at the finish line in Lake Michigan. We do not suggest drinking that water, however. There will be hot chocolate at the finish line for all participants and snacks in the clubhouse after the race.

Can you talk us through the dip into Lake Michigan – how does it work? How many participants have taken the plunge in previous years? Do participants have to take a dip to qualify for awards?

The finish line of the Polar Bear Dash is on the beach in Grant Park about 10 to 20 meters from the waterline. We encourage runners who are 18 and older to take a dip into Lake Michigan after the race to celebrate the New Year. However, this is completely optional. Awards for times in the 5K are separate from awards for the brave souls who jump in the water.  We do have a drawing for prizes for those who decide to take a FULL DIP into the water. And by Full Dip, we mean entire body, head to toe.

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The South Milwaukee Water Rescue Squad has helped us every year with keeping the runners safe as they jump in the water. They will have two members in the water assisting anyone who needs help. We have up to about 40% of the runners jump into the water depending on the weather that day. Last year we had great weather for a dip with temps in the 20s and low winds. In other years, the winds were higher with temps in the single digits. We have less that go in on those days. It is a great site to see everyone going in the water.

How do most people do their dip into the lake? What are some of the funniest/most memorable dips into the lake that you’ve seen over the years?

I love watching the runners jump into the lake. There are many different ways people go in. Some just casually wade in and that is as far as they go. Some run in as fast as they can and after a few steps in, dive into the water.  There is a lot of screaming that happens when the water hits their bodies. Some of my favorite ones in the past were couples running in together holding hands or the guy who did a cannonball last year. Costumes are always fun to see as well. In my opinion, the ones who run into the water are the best.

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Do you have any tips for runners planning to take the plunge?

I think the best advice I could give is once you commit, do it quickly. Run in as fast as you can. The slower you go, the worse it is. Also, wear shoes into the water. It can be quite painful walking over the stones and ice with bare feet. Have dry clothes to change into right away once you are out of the water. Most importantly, have fun and make a great memory.

Any other comments?

We look forward to starting the New Year off on the right foot again this year and invite everyone to make their way to Grant Park on New Year’s Day to participate or spectate. Everyone who participates is helping not only themselves, but also the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. We hope to see you out there.

Thanks for chatting with us, Bill! To learn more, or to sign up for the race, visit http://www.polarbeardash.com/.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Polar Bear Dash Race Entry Giveaway Winner!

Hey Everyone! We’re ready to start hump day with the winner of the Polar Bear Dash race entry!

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The winner is … Carrie Hayne! Please email us within the next 48 hours at keeprunningmke@gmail.com to claim your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway! That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more reads about running and racing in MKE!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Polar Bear Dash + A Race Entry Giveaway!

What better way to ring in the New Year than running a 5k race with your family and friends and then cooling off with a dip in Lake Michigan? At the Polar Bear Dash, you can do both!

Below, race director Bill Schneider tells us about this year’s race and provides tips for those interested in taking the plunge!

For race specifics, view our Featured Races page.

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Can you tell us a bit about the Polar Bear Dash and what makes this race unique?
The Polar Bear Dash is a 5K race that takes place on New Year’s Day in Grant Park in South Milwaukee. The weather is usually cold and the snow adds to the beauty of Grant Park. The unique feature of this race is an optional dip into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. The finish line is on the Grant Park Beach only a few meters from the shoreline, allowing for a quick dip right after you finish. We also will have hot chocolate on the beach.

Is there anything new or different happening at this year’s race?
The new feature this year is that we will be ordering shirts locally. Last year, due to the huge UPS backlog, our shirts were not able to be delivered to us on time so we want to make sure they are available at the race this year.

Can you talk us through the dip into Lake Michigan – how does it work?
The dip in Lake Michigan is optional. You can run the 5K and still be eligible for awards even if you do not take the dip. For those that do take the dip, we have the South Milwaukee Water Rescue Squad at the water in case of any emergencies. We have awards for the first 3 men and first 3 women that take a FULL dip into the lake. And by Full, we mean every part of their body, including their head. In previous years, about 25% of the participants went into the water at least up to their ankles. I think we had about 25 participants that went in all the way. It is a lot of fun to watch.

 

Do you have any tips for runners planning to take the plunge?
There are a lot of runners who get to the water and then double guess themselves about going in. One tip would be to just decide before the race if you are going to do the dip, and when you get to the finish line, just don’t stop and head right in. Another tip would be to bring extra clothes with you and have them ready for you at the beach. Park your car by the beach and quickly change there. It is about a ¼ mile walk up hill back to the heated clubhouse. We will have port-o-lets by the beach but they won’t be heated. Another tip from a previous runner who took the dip was to have a bucket of warm water in your car to put your feet into. Sounds like it would help to me.

Can you tell us a bit about the course? Any tips for runners hoping to PR at the race?
If you look at the elevation, this would look like a very fast course. However, being winter, there is usually ice and snow on the road which will slow things down. The last ½ mile is a long downhill to a finish on the beach. We do not shovel a path in the snow on the beach just to make it interesting. The final 200 meters of the race is in on the beach.

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What types of awards are offered?
We have plaques for the top three overall males and females. We have medals for age groups winners, three deep, up to 70+ in 10 year increments. There is also a special etched mug for the first 3 males and females that take a full dip into Lake Michigan. We will also have some Performance Running Outfitters gift certificates as well.

Is there anything participants should know about water stations, etc?
Due to the race taking place in the middle of winter and that the race is only a 5K, we will not have a water station along the course. This is for the safety of the runners so the road does not ice over.

New Year’s Day can be one of the coldest days of the year. Is there a heated space for runners to hang out before and/or after the race?
Before and after the race, we will have the Grant Park Golf Course Clubhouse available. The clubhouse is heated with restrooms inside as well. This is where packet pickup will be located as well as post-race refreshments. We will hold the awards ceremony here, too, right after everyone has thawed out.

What do participants get with their race registration?
Registration includes a high quality, long-sleeve Polar Bear Dash shirt, post-race refreshments and hot chocolate on the Beach at the finish line. Participants also get to start the year off on the right foot!

Any other comments?
Bring your family down to the race and they can watch you take a New Year’s Dip into Lake Michigan. Not only are you starting the year off on the right foot, but you are supporting out charitable partner, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Have a hot chocolate on us!

Thanks for chatting with us, Bill! We know you won’t want to miss this race and lucky for you, we have one race entry to giveaway!

To enter, leave us a comment on this post and tell us if you’re brave enough to take the plunge!

Best of luck to everyone who enters the giveaway. We’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Polar Bear Dash Giveaway Winner!

It’s only fitting that we should announce the Polar Bear Dash race entry winner on a chilly day.

The winner is … Jen Braunreiter. Please email us within the next 48 hours at keeprunningmke@gmail.com to claim your prize.

Thank you to everyone who participated. Remember, there’s still time to sign up for the Polar Bear Dash and get in on the fun!

We hope you’re all staying warm this week!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

All About The Polar Bear Dash + A Race Entry Giveaway!

In 2014, why not get a running start on the new year? At the Polar Bear Dash, you’ll get the thrill of a 5k race PLUS – if you’re daring – a sprint into Lake Michigan after crossing the finish line.

Below, race director Chris Ponteri tells us a bit about the upcoming race.

For more details about the Polar Bear Dash, visit our Featured Races page.

Can you tell us a bit about the Polar Bear Dash? What makes this race different/unique?

This is unique in a few ways. First, it’s on New Year’s Day, which is a great day to race if you’re not too hung over. And second, there is the optional polar plunge where you can jump into Lake Michigan after you finish.

20130101_175857_timg_0144Runners braving Lake Michigan at last year’s race

This is the race’s second year – Is there anything new or different happening at this year’s race?

Much of the course is the same; the only change is at the end. Last year runners had the choice of running through the lake before they finished or running along the shore. This year everyone will run along the shore and finish, and then they can jump into the lake if they wish. Also, we have a charity partner this year – the MS Society of Wisconsin. We will be raising funds for them, and are very excited about partnering with this worthy cause.

Do you expect many participants to take the plunge?

Last year about half of the participants did the plunge; I expect the same this year.

20130101_220232_uimg_0307Are you brave enough to jump in the lake?

Can you tell us a bit about the course? Do you have any tips for runners hoping to PR at the race?

It is actually a very fast course. Most of it is on Grant Park Drive, which is fairly flat. Then it finishes with a huge downhill to the beach parking lot. If it’s not too cold or the roads aren’t snow-covered, it will be super fast.

Is there anything participants should know about water stations, etc.?

Last year it was 8 degrees at the start of the race so we didn’t have a water station. It would have frozen before the runners could get any. It will depend on the weather this year. We do have a rescue squad from the South Milwaukee Fire Department on hand at the beach in case anyone has issues with the cold water.

New Year’s Day can be one of the coldest days of the year. Is there a heated space for runners to hang out before and/or after the race?

We have reserved the clubhouse at the Grant Park Golf Course for runners to hang out before and after the race. If numbers get high enough, we may also bring in a heated tent.

Any other comments?

We are excited about making this event a New Year’s Day tradition for Milwaukee-area runners.

Are you ready to take the plunge?

We’re giving away a free entry to the Polar Bear Dash! To enter:

  • Tell us if you plan to take a dip in Lake Michigan after crossing the finish line.

For additional entries do the following and let us know you did each action in separate comments:

Good luck! We’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday, December 11 and announce the winner the following day. Be sure to check back on Thursday morning to see if you’re our winner!*

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

*Winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize by emailing keeprunningmke@gmail.com. If the prize is not claimed within that time frame, we will select a new winner.