By Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
I’m the first to admit that the range of what people call fun is as vast as the ocean. For some, the idea of jumping into a body of water during one of the coldest times of the year sounds pretty nutty. But there is a reason that organized “polar plunges,” usually taking place on New Year’s Day, tend to grow fast once they get started. Just ask Janice Gaines, who, with five friends, decided take a quick jump into the ocean at Manzanita in 2005. The tradition continued without any formal organization or promotion, growing primarily through word of mouth.
“Last year we had between three and four hundred people,” Gaines said. “I’ve never actively tried to grow the event; all I am is a person who jumps in the ocean every once a year, and people are welcome join me.”
You can join Gaines and friends in the Pacific, or take the plunge after warming up with a run first at the Newport Resolution Run and Polar Bear Plunge, but either way you will be coming out of the ocean dripping and grinning like a person who has already fulfilled a New Year’s resolution to let your inner child loose a bit more often.
Manzanita Polar Plunge
11 am, Monday, Jan. 1
If this is your first time attending the event, which takes place at the north end of Manzanita Beach, don’t simply arrive and start running into the water.
“We like to gather for a group photo, then we all go out together,” Gaines said. “One year everyone took off and we didn’t get the photo, and that’s the most important thing.”
One of the things that makes the photos memorable is that, every year, more people wear fun costumes.
“I love that people are starting to dress up for this,” Gaines said. “Although of course much of it comes right back off again before people go into the ocean. But the event is just pure and simple fun and really starts off the year right.”
The fun people have doing what at first seems miserable is what Gaines attributes to the growth of the event.
“As the word gets out we have more people coming just to watch, but then most of them end up doing it. We even now have people drive from Portland just to plunge and then they drive back home.”
For more information, go to exploremanzanita.com
Newport Resolution Run & Polar Bear Plunge
9 am, Saturday, Jan 6
Though the spirit is still that of starting the new year off right, this isn’t necessarily a first day of the year event.
“This is a running race with a polar plunge, not the other way around,” said organizer Ed Cortes. “We schedule the run for the first Saturday of the year. Last year, that happened to coincide with New Year’s Day, and we had a big dip in registrations. Guess people didn’t want to get up and go run after a night of celebrating. This year, registrations are right back up again — actually we’re up in numbers already.”
The first resolution run took place in 2013, and the polar plunge was into the Yaquina Bay. This year, for the second time, the race will end with a run into the Pacific.
“The Port of Newport got rid of the ramp where we used to plunge,” Cortez said. “I think a few people are a bit more intimidated to run into the ocean, but others really love it. Plus, we got some great photos last year and I’m sure we will again this year.”
As well as some great photos, runners who finish any of the three options on offer will start the year with a large locally themed finishers medal.
The race includes a half marathon distance, which begins at 9 am. The 5k and 10k races will start at 10 am.
All races start and end at the far end of the Newport jetty, but packet pickup and race day registration will take place at the Rogue Brewery.
“This time of year, it’s really hard to ask volunteers to stand out in the elements,” Cortes said. “This way they can be in a covered area, and after the race, the runners can come for post-race refreshments and the awards ceremony at the same spot.”
Some of the volunteers that runners will see on the courses will be members of the Newport High School cross country team, which will be getting part of the proceeds from the race.
As someone who ran the 5k distance and then ran into the ocean at last year’s event, I have one very important piece of advice — bring a full set of clothes to change into. Other than that, it was one of the funnest things I did all year.
Online registration is open until Friday, Jan. 5; race day registration is available for all distances. To register, or for more information about the race, go to ardoradventures.com
But wait, there’s more…
New Year’s dunk
Cape Lookout State Park • Tillamook
Start the New Year with a bracing dip at 8 am, followed by a bonfire to help you warm up once you’re out. 13000 Whiskey Creek Road, follow Highway 131 from Tillamook toward Netarts.