Perpetuating tradition, a hardy band of Islanders dove head first into the ocean at Long Point Wildlife Refuge on New Year’s Day for the annual polar day plunge.

The ordinarily ad hoc event this year included a 5K that was run as a benefit for the West Tisbury School scholarship fund. Organized by the school PTO, the run was dubbed Freezin for a Reason.

Day began with a 5K as a benefit for the West Tisbury School PTO. — Mark Alan Lovewell

It kicked off at the entrance road to Long Point on a brisk and sunny Wednesday morning, the course looping through a muddy and puddled stretch of dirt roads and foot paths.

Whitney Hanschka of Vineyard Haven led the pack with a time of 23:46 seconds. His secret for winter running success? He puts coconut oil in his morning coffee.

Coming in just behind Mr. Hanschka was Bryan McShea, an avid runner who said his secret to winter hardiness is running shirtless — throughout the year.

“When you expose yourself to the elements, it’s amazing to see how much our bodies can tolerate,” he said from the finish line. “It’s a way of naturally rebuilding your body.”

The runners didn’t linger long at the finish line long before heading for the beach to wash away sweat from the race and perhaps troubles from the previous year with a dip in the frothing waves off Long Point. The National Weather Service clocked the water temperature at a chilly 43 degrees.

“That’s the best ice bath there is,” Mr. McShea said as he headed for the surf.

After the plunge, runners gathered shivering around a fire pit to regain their core temperatures. Some instead opted for the warmth of their cars.

“It was surreal,” said runner Carl Folta, wrapped in large towel following the plunge. “The spray is what hits you first and you just go numb. You don’t even realize how cold it is until you get out.”

He continued: “It was fun, and the right way to start a new year.”

Race sponsors included the MV Hurricanes, MV Savings Banks, South Mountain Company and The Trustees of Reservations.