Running, not diving, into 2018


A little cold wasn’t going to stop Ryan McGowan, founder of Laid-back Fitness, the sponsor of the seventh annual Frozen Clam Dip and Obstaplunge, a half-mile shoreline obstacle course race at Goddard Memorial State Park Beach followed by a dash into Greenwich Bay on New Year’s Day.

On Friday McGowan and his team were at the park laying out the course and positioning equipment on the beach for the race to start before noon on Jan. 1. But even on Friday the forecast wasn’t looking too favorable for dipping. It just got colder and colder from that point on.

While questioning whether she would take the plunge, Jo-Ann Schofield, president and CEO of Mentor Rhode Island, nonetheless held out hope for the dip portion of the event. She had no doubts Laid-back Fitness would still hold the obstacle course.

The event benefits Mentor Rhode Island and serves to kick off National Mentoring Month.

It was looking pretty bleak, or should we say frozen, by Sunday. Ice stretched from the Goddard Park beach across Greenwich Bay to Buttonwoods. McGowan wasn’t going to let that stop people from jumping in if that’s the way they wanted to celebrate the New Year and helping the mentoring cause. He chopped a hole in the ice about half the size of a tennis court.

“I was up to my knees,” he recounted. The “pool” was largely frozen over by New Year’s Day but still offered an opportunity for die-hard dippers to get wet and undeniably freeze.

The dip wasn’t scratched from the program, not right away.

On New Year’s Day with the temperature hovering at nine degrees, Schofield sent out the word the plunge was off. It wasn’t her or McGowan’s choice. The Department of Environmental Management sent down word that no one was to attempt jumping into the water. Obviously, that would have been difficult since it was ice.

A hardy contingent of course runners, accompanied by an equally large group of volunteers, took on the challenge of the course. Spectators gathered on the seawall, cheered on by Bill Simas, a founder of Funny 4 Funds. Simas noted that a drone videoing the event was ahead of everyone.

The real winner, even though the temperature put the chill on the turnout, was Mentor Rhode Island. The event raised $6,000.

“Nearly 900 kids are on the waiting list for mentors this year. The awareness and funds we’ve raised will bring us closer to our goal of providing local youth one-on-one relationships with mentors who inspire and support them,” she said in a statement.

McGowan also looked to the positive.

“It underscores what we teach at Laid-back Fitness, that mental strength and resilience are essential to achieving goals beyond our comfort zones, at the gym, at work or in life. Our hope is to instill a similar mindset in the local youth, so that they may feel inspired and equipped to conquer life’s challenges,” he said.

The plan is to hold the dip portion of the event at the end of the month. Sunday, Jan. 28 is being considered. But for that to happen there’s got to be a serious thaw.


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