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Locals dive into Horsetooth Reservoir for 7th Polar Bear Run and Plunge

People dressed in swimsuits and costumes stood before Horsetooth Reservoir in 37-degree weather waiting for their turn to plunge into the icy waters in the name of fun on Jan. 19.  

The Polar Bear Run and Plunge, held by Green Events Colorado, is a non-competitive, 5K and one-mile race open to everyone. At the end of both races, runners and other participants had the opportunity to run into Horsetooth Reservoir guarded by the Larimer County Dive Rescue Team.


Green Events Colorado is an organization that manages athletic events in environmentally sustainable ways. The organization aims to positively impact the community by educating residents on how to be environmentally responsible and lead a healthy life.

Director of Green Events Lisa Sinclair said this is their seventh year hosting this race, and with just over 600 participants, it’s their biggest one yet.

Polar Plunge
Plunge participants in Horsetooth Reservoir as Larimer County Dive Rescue Team guards. Courtesy of Green Events Colorado

Green Events partners with organizations and companies in Fort Collins and makes charitable contributions to local groups as a way of practicing social sustainability.

“Every single one of our events benefits a local nonprofit or school group,” Sinclair said. “We do a lot with the high school cross country teams, like Poudre and Rocky Mountain High School. They always volunteer for our events. Larimer County Dive Rescue Team does all kinds of water rescue throughout the year for our community, so we donate back to them for being here for us. We probably have 20 different nonprofits that we work with and get volunteers from.” 

The racing event attracted a wide array of various participants, including the board of directors for the Ciclismo Youth Foundation, a nonprofit foundation with the mission of creating youth cycling opportunities. The team of directors, who ran and took the plunge together, were there for a board retreat and used the event as a team-building exercise.  

“The physical and moral support is the only reason people are doing this,” said Robinson Noble, one of the directors of the foundation. “Individually, you would never decide to jump into Horsetooth Reservoir when there’s ice on it. When you take a collective group and create a safe atmosphere…you can get people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do.”

Noble relates the event back to Ciclismo and their goal of teaching and coaching kids how to ride bikes. He said coaching includes the rules of the road and how to ride recreationally.

When you take a collective group and create a safe atmosphere…you can get people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do.”-Robinson Noble, director of Ciclismo Youth Foundation

“We create an atmosphere that’s learning, collaborative and encouraging,” Noble said. “We teach our kids with peer learning groups. For kids, peer learning is the best kind of learning you can do. When you can get people to collaborate and do things and test the limits, that’s when the magic happens— that’s when you excel and learn new things.”

Tiffany Ankrum, director of the Ciclismo Youth Foundation, said it is important for people to push themselves out of their comfort zones.


Green Events hosts 21 other events nearly every month throughout the year. Races include the “Catch Me if You Can” 5K and 10K in February, the “Loveland Classic” 5K and 10K in April, the “Father’s Day Fort Collins” 5K in June, the “FireKracker” 5K in July and a 5K race during the Peach Festival in August.

Races such as these offer runners the opportunity to set goals and push themselves. Omar Cornejo, an automation technician, set the goal of running The Plunge in under 25 minutes.

“I run in preparation for the Horsetooth Half Marathon,” Cornejo said. “This year will be my third time running it.”

A Fort Collins resident for nearly 30 years, Cornejo said he wouldn’t ever move away.

“I love what Fort Collins is,” Cornejo said. “The environment and community— it’s a pretty good place. Running in Horsetooth means a lot.”

Cornejo, who runs the Colorado Marathon as well, gets up at 3:30 a.m. and runs for 70 minutes.

“The best advice I could give to other runners is just to get it over with,” Cornejo said. “Just sign up for that first 5K and get at it. There’s no way around it.”  

Cornejo beat his goal by running the 5K in 23 minutes.

The top male runner overall was Nate Grimm with a time of 17:49, and the top female runner overall was Clayton Brooke with a time of 20:42.

Results from the Polar Bear Run and Plunge can be found on their results page,  More pictures of the event can be found on the Green Events Colorado Facebook page.

Lyra Wiley can be reached at or on Twitter @lyra_wiley. 


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