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Overview

Join us February 25th for an epic 7.8 mile loop of picturesque Lake Waramaug - this annual winter tradition attracts hundreds of area runners. The Run starts at 11 am.

Powered by a team of more than 50 volunteers, we're committed to delivering a fantastic experience for all participants and to raising both awareness and money for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. We've donated over $24,000 to date and we're running towards our next milestone of surpassing $40,000 in total donations.

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

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

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

Registration

Registration is now open!

Event Info

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.

A note regarding parking: Parking is available in several lots near the intersection of North Shore Rd and Hopkins Rd. Please consider carpooling with your fellow runners.

Race Number Pick Up:

Skip the line race day morning and come pick up your number at Hopkins Vineyard on Friday February 23rd 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.

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.

In 2023 the start / finish of the race was relocated to Hopkins Vineyard, adding the challenge of Hopkins Hill and lengthening the race from 7.6 to 7.8 miles.

The record holders for the original 7.6 mile distance are:

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

The current record holders for the 7.8 mile Lake Waramaug Polar Bear Run are:

  • Men's Record Holder: William Sanders / 40:48 (2024)
  • Women's Record Holder: Andrea Myers / 49:51 (2023)

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 $24,800 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 trainers and guide dogs from the Running Guides Program have run 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

With Special Thanks To:

Kent School, Brookfield High School, and South Kent School

Fast Track Timing

Washington and Warren Ambulance

Muddy Socks Photography

Lake Waramaug Association

J.P. Gifford

Post Polar Beer

After you've conquered the course and enjoyed the post run festivities at Hopkins Vineyard, join us for the inaugural Post Polar Beer!

The Polar Bear Run has been looping the lake for 39 years -- our friends at Kent Falls Brewing Company figured it was about time that we add a celebratory "Post Polar Beer" to cap off an epic day of running. The Brewery is a 10 minute drive from the start/finish line. Located on a 50 acre farm, the Brewery's Tasting Room is in what was the old dairy barn. Runners can kick back and relax in the tasting room and enjoy flights of the latest beer releases in this truly unique setting. Raise a well deserved glass and feel great knowing that your participation in the 39th Annual helps to generate thousands of dollars to support the amazing work being done by Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Located at 33 Camps Rd Kent, CT 06757 (860) 398-9645

FAQ - General Questions

  • Is there race day registration?

    Online registration is continuously available until 30 minutes before the Run starts. So if you’re waiting to see what the weather brings, you can register at home the morning of the race.

    Note: Phone service & wifi will likely be better at home than at the event - do your best to sign up before you show up!

    All online registrants should check in at the tent for their bib number. This includes those who sign up online race day morning.

    Prefer to pay with cash or check? You can register in person at the event starting at 9:30 AM. Go to the registration table located inside Hopkins Vineyard.

  • Can I pick up my bib ahead of time?

    Yes!Join us on Friday February 23rd 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 be hosting giveaways during the course of the afternoon.

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

    Parking is available in several lots near the intersection of North Shore Rd and Strawberry Ridge Rd and in a lot near the intersection of North Shore Rd and Hopkins Rd (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, the roads are open. There are Connecticut State Police on site to monitor surroundings, but it’s important to remain aware throughout the Run. In particular, it’s critical for all runners to stay on the left hand side of the road while running on Route 45.

  • 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 $24,800 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.

    You can request a refund by logging on to RunSignUp.com > Profile > Manage Registration > Request Refund.

    Once under the “Request Refund” tab make sure that you have selected the correct registrant and event. A breakdown of the refund can be found below.

    When you have reviewed all of the information, and you are ready to remove yourself from the Run, click on the button for “Issue Refund”. At this point, a confirmation message will let you know that you have been removed from the event.

    Your refund will be applied to the original card that was used for your registration. This should appear within 5 business days of the refund request. If you do not see this refund as being credited to your account within that time frame please contact finance@runsignup.com.

 

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