OGDEN — With the temperature a frigid 29 degrees and a wind chill that made it seem 10 degrees colder, Jyl London took special precautions Saturday morning as she prepared for a 5K run.
The West Haven resident tucked hand warmers into the scarf-end pockets of her plush polar bear hat/scarf. She wore double-layer short shorts, and she chose her polka-dot bikini top because it had a tiny bit of extra bulk built into its lining.
“I’m not a cold-weather person,” London said. “And I don’t think I have ever run in a swimsuit.”
At the other side of the Peak Performance fitness gear store, racer Jason Crompton, visiting from Wyoming, tied a grass skirt over his Speedo. On top, he was shirtless but did pull a flowing tangerine wig over his cropped brown hair.
“I’m not brave enough to do a polar bear plunge, but a polar bear run sounded fun,” said Crompton, 36.
“I’m pretty sure I am not the fastest runner, but I think I have a shot at best costume.”
London, Crompton and about 38 other runners gathered at Peak Performance for the Polar Bear Run, held to raise funds for the Utah-based Hess Cancer Foundation.
“I’m here mainly because it’s for cancer,” said London, 38, an avid runner. “My mom has cancer, my aunt has cancer, and my grandma died of cancer. Anytime you say cancer, I will probably be there to do whatever I can to help.”
Austin Baxter, of North Ogden, chose more conservative attire: longish plaid shorts and a T-shirt he would later shed.
“I’ve been trying to get in shape, and was going to do my first 5K in the spring, but I got tired of waiting,” said the 24-year-old. “I’m more worried about the run than the temperature.”
Outside, the mountains began to disappear under a ghostly veil created by the advancing winter storm. Snowflakes danced on a brisk wind, moving not only down, but sideways and upward.
Runners paid $20 in advance or $25 on Saturday to participate in the run, which was more about enduring the cold than enduring the distance. Utah Endurance Events managed the run, and winners received token awards.
“I love the outfits,” said Russ Olsen, Utah Endurance Events co-owner. “You get some amazing creativity when you tell people they can’t wear very much.”
The crowd headed outside at the appointed time, which happened to coincide with a brief break in the storm. The participants ran back and forth on the quarter-mile route on the Ogden River Parkway.
Crompton took an early lead, his orange wig hair and grass skirt streaming behind him.
Exposed skin turned splotchy pink, from the cold and from exertion. Each time runners returned to the starting point, a store staffer pressed an ink stamp on the runners’ arms, to count the laps.
“Enjoy the eye candy,” said one shirtless male runner in micro shorts, spotty and flushed from the waist up, as he got his second arm stamp.
In 19 minutes and 20 seconds, the first runner completed the 5K. It was Crompton, sweat running down his face from under his neon wig. The ink stamps stopped, but Crompton turned and ran back down the path.
“We’ve got 45 minutes, right?” he yelled back over his shoulder.
Dave Price, of Riverdale, celebrated his last lap by making a snow angel.
“I was never much of a runner, and I’m still not,” Price, 27, said as he brushed snow off his bare back. “But this was great. Once you start running, your core body temperature warms up, and you feel great other than your cold fingers.”
The flurries returned, and the flakes got heavier. Back in the store, the runners dried themselves with towels, and wrapped themselves in blankets and street clothes.
“It’s hard to push yourself, but it’s worth it,” Baxter said. “Those last two laps about killed me. My fingers are freezing, but I enjoyed it.”
Crompton and London won best-dressed awards for male and female, respectively.
“It was a real cool race,” said Crompton, removing his wig and toweling down his hair. “I hope they keep doing it.”
“It was harder because I was shivering,” said London, her polar bear hat retired and her fully clothed body wrapped in a blanket.
“The run itself wasn’t that hard. I’d do it again. Just maybe not today.”