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Overview

The 7.8 mile loop of Lake Waramaug has become an annual winter tradition for hundreds of area runners. The scenic course travels counterclockwise along the shoreline of the glacial lake while passing through Washington, Warren and Kent. The route is primarily flat with a few gentle rolling hills. The final .2 miles provides a true test for all as runners ascend the unforgiving Hopkins Hill to the finish line at Hopkins Vineyard.

The top three male and female finishers receive prizes. First place overall wins a $100 TrailHeads gift card and a bottle of wine from Hopkins Vineyard. Age Group Awards are presented for the top 3 in each category:
18 & under / 19-29 / 30-39 / 40-49 / 50-59 / 60-69 / 70 & over

A note regarding parking: Parking is available in the lot located 200 yards north of Hopkins Vineyard (access via Hopkins Road). Additional parking is available near the intersection of North Shore Rd and Hopkins Rd (in a lot alongside the road that leads to Warren Town Beach). Please consider carpooling with your fellow runners.

*** Be Sure to Sign Up Early - The Race is limited to 700 participants ***

The first 400 registrants will receive a commemorative TrailHeads Polar Bear Headband.

Have a look at the fun! View our Polar Bear Run Photo Gallery.

Directions:

From the South: From the South: Head north on Route 202, take a left onto Route 45. Continue on 45 straight through the stop sign. Turn left onto Curtiss Road. Turn left onto Hopkins Vineyard Rd. Parking will be on the left. Registration takes place at Hopkins Vineyard.

From the North: Head south on Route 202, take a right onto Route 45 and follow same directions as above.

Race Number Pick Up:

Skip the line race day morning and come pick up your number at Hopkins Vineyard on Friday February 24th from 1-7 PM. It's the perfect opportunity sample some of Hopkins delicious wine with your fellow runners and to learn more about our beneficiary! Representatives and service dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind will be on hand to share details about their program. TrailHeads will have their performance running gear available to purchase and be hosting several prize giveaways for runners who attend.

Number pick up will also be available Race Day at the Vineyard, beginning at 9:30 AM.

Registration

History

Much like the Lake itself, the Race has an interesting history. The Race's origin can be traced back to the running boom that swept the country in the seventies. The Woodbury, CT based Tin Man Athletic Club staged the initial running around the frozen lake in 1980. Lead Pack Sports took over organizational efforts and they were followed by the Bethel Bananas Running Club in 1986.

From 1987-1991 what had been the area's only winter running race went into hibernation and the race was not held for 5 years. In 1991, Wallie Jahn opened a retail store for runners, Road & Track Sports, and in response to strong interest from the local running community, he resurrected the Race in 1992 with the help of the Lake Waramaug Country Club.

After Jahn fell ill, Dave Dunleavy stepped up to help manage the Race in 2012. A long time Kent resident and running enthusiast, Dunleavy continued to build on the tradition that has made the Polar Bear Run a favorite of area runners. In 2018, Dunleavy handed off the race organizing responsibilities to Stephanie and Ed Raftery, co-founders of TrailHeads, a Kent, CT based online retailer of gloves, hats, headbands and related accessories for running and outdoor enthusiasts. 2018 also marked the start of a partnership with Guiding Eyes for the Blind as the event's charitable beneficiary.

The current record holders for the Lake Waramaug Polar Bear Run are:

  • Men's Record Holder: Elijah Kitur / 38:07 (1998)
  • Women's Record Holder: Anne Hird / 43:34 (1983)

Beneficiary

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is an organization that trains guide dogs to partner with blind or visually impaired people. The Run has raised over $17,000 for Guiding Eyes for the Blind since 2018. Trainers and guide dogs in training have attended the race to meet and support the runners and in 2020 trainers and two guide dogs from the Running Guides Program ran and completed the race as part of their training. Learn more about Guiding Eyes for the Blind here.

Help us support Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Click here to donate.

Sponsors

FAQ - General Questions

  • Why did you change the location of the start / finish line?

    Finding sufficient and safe parking has always been a challenge, especially during years when there’s a significant amount of snow along the roads. Over the past 5 years, it has become more difficult due to the growth in participation (in 2022 we had roughly 350 cars parked near the start / finish).

    Hopkins Vineyard has supported the Run for several years. Hopkins offers 2 large parking areas near the new start / finish. In addition, by moving the start / finish away from the main road which is open to traffic, we can offer a better overall race experience, indoor race registration and a nearby site for a post race gathering.

    And yes, we can now offer a signature hill climb at the very end of the Run – good luck on the soon to be legendary Hopkins Hill!

  • Is there race day registration?

    Yes, race day registration takes place in Hopkins Vineyard as early as 9:30 AM.

  • Can I pick up my bib ahead of time?

    Yes!Join us on Friday February 24th for a bib pick up event at Hopkins Vineyard from 1-7 PM. Grab your number and stay to savor a glass of Hopkins award winning wine with your fellow runners. Flights will be available in the cozy downstairs tasting room by the woodstove, or you can head upstairs to the wine bar and plan out your race strategy while enjoying sweeping views of the lake.

    From 4-6 we’ll be joined by representatives and guide dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the Run’s charitable beneficiary, which will be a great chance to learn more about their incredible program.

    TrailHeads will have their performance running gear available for sale and will be hosting giveaways during the course of the afternoon.

  • Where should I park on the morning of the Run?

    Parking is available in the lot located 200 yards north of Hopkins Vineyard. Please turn onto Hopkins Rd from Curtiss Rd to access the parking area on the morning of the Run.

    Additional parking is available near the intersection of North Shore Rd and Hopkins Rd (in a lot alongside the road that leads to Warren Town Beach).

    Volunteers will be on hand to direct you to parking areas. Please consider carpooling with your fellow runners.

  • Is the course well marked?

    Each mile is marked, and we have volunteers along the course to point the way.

  • Are the roads closed to thru traffic?

    No, but there are state police on site to monitor surroundings.

  • What happens in the event of poor weather?

    State Police evaluate road conditions and decide if we are allowed to hold the event. If we do have to cancel, the race will be rescheduled. Our default snow date is the following week unless we announce otherwise on our social media channels.

  • How can I sign up to be a volunteer?

    We love volunteers! Please email at us at info@lakewarmaugpolarbearrun.com and we'll provide details on our volunteer opportunities!

  • Where does the money go?

    The Run is to benefit Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an organization that trains guide dogs to partner with blind or visually impaired people. Their facilities in Yorktown Heights and Patterson, NY train and partner more than 160 guide dogs each year. All services are offered free of charge to those in need. Over the past 5 years the Run has raised over $17,000 for the organization.

    Those who wish to donate in addition to their race fee can do so at registration or by following this link to donate.

  • Can I run with a stroller?

    Yes, but please try to line up toward the back of the crowd at the start line.

  • Can I walk the course?

    Yes, you can walk the course. We have a number of participants who walk each year. If you intend to walk please try to line up towards the back of the start line.

  • If I signed up, but can no longer attend the event can I get a refund?

    Yes, refunds can be processed up to one day before the event takes place.

 

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