SPTS 09-09 NSBW -- Fuller and Coffee Cream owners

North Smithfield resident Chase Fuller, left, and Coffee & Cream co-owners Heather and Jonathan Branchaud will welcome the public to the opening day of the area’s new running/walking club on Saturday, Sept. 18, in the restaurant’s parking lot. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Chase Fuller has the name. He has the date and location for the first meeting, and he has a clear vision of bringing the community together by forming a running and walking club in northern Rhode Island.

Now all he needs are the members.

The Northern Rhode Island Reservoir Jogs, which selected its name last weekend through an online contest won by Jennifer Lafond, will take its first steps on Saturday, Sept. 18, at 9:30 a.m. from the parking lot of Slatersville Plaza’s popular Coffee & Cream restaurant, and Fuller is welcoming everyone from the area and beyond to join the club on its maiden travels through the roads and sidewalks of North Smithfield.

“We’ll give it a shot and see what happens,” said Fuller, an avid runner and certified coach who finished sixth at the Amica Newport Marathon in 2019 in a time of 3:04:51. “I truly have no idea how many people will show up. We could have five people, we could have 100 people. I have no idea, but it’s kind of exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens.”

A regional manager for the Hoka One One running shoes company, Fuller, who lives “a 30-second drive” from Coffee & Cream, has worked from home for the past two years, and during that time, he took notice of the people walking and running past his house and felt a need for a club in the community.

He went to the Parks & Recreation Department to contribute his idea, “and at first, it was supposed to be a fitness focus,’” he said. “But I said, ‘Let’s identify what the needs of the town are, and after talking to (the Parks & Rec) and some other people, it just seemed like running would be the place to start.”

“Since then, I’ve had people reach out to me and say, “I read something about the club,’ and ‘I saw a Facebook post on this,’” he continued. “It seems like the more people hear about this, the more people are saying, ‘This is a great idea.’”

But where would his new club meet? Fuller didn’t have to look very far for his answer.

“I knew that if I was going to do this, Coffee & Cream would be the best place to do it,” he said. “It’s densely populated, the parking is ideal, and that place is slammed all the time. People know who Coffee & Cream is because it’s been a institution around here for what seems like forever.”

Instead of making plans to crash the restaurant’s parking lot on Sept. 18, Fuller politely reached out to the restaurant’s owner with his idea and received a favorable response.

“He wrote a huge email, and I thought, ‘This is kind of a cool idea,’” added Coffee & Cream co-owner Heather Branchaud. “There’s really no commitment on Coffee & Cream’s part. We thought, ‘Let’s just promote it ourselves and they can meet outside in the parking lot, and if they want to come in on their own time, then they can.’”

“We love this community and we’re so grateful to be a part of it,” she added. “Any time you can give back in some way, you have to do it, and we’re very excited.”

What can people expect on the club’s first day?

“I want them to feel comfortable doing their activity, whether it’s running, walking, or walking with their dogs or strollers,” noted Fuller. “It doesn’t matter. I want them to feel like they can do whatever they want here.”

“If someone wants to go out and hammer 10 miles as fast as they can run it, they’re free to do so,” added Fuller. “This is a community thing. My wife, Allison, and I are going to rotate each week. I’ll come in and a do a jog with some people at an easy pace, and then she’ll push the kids in a stroller, and the next week, we’ll switch.”

Fuller also plans to map out a few short-distanced routes that will be safe for everyone and post them on the Parks & Recreation Department’s Facebook page, and “people can look and see what routes they want to run or walk and maybe partner with someone else,” he said. “‘What route are you doing? I’m going to do that one too.’”

“Running is such an individualistic sport that it’s easy to forget that other people are also doing it,” he added. “But once you meet other people in the community that are doing it, it’s really nice to have that option of just sending an email or texting a group of people to see if they want to do something.”

The running club will meet every Saturday morning at Coffee & Cream, and before 2021 turns into 2022, Fuller said that he’d like to hold a Thursday night fun run from the Gator’s Pub that will meet at the end of each month, as well as a trail run or two. Track workouts are also on the club’s radar.

“I want to keep this going year-round,” he said. “I think that running in the winter, for example, can be really hard because it’s cold, but if you have people to run with, you have accountability. And I’ll have ways that I plan to keep people engaged.”

“At the end of the day, I think there’s a need (for a club) and people will appreciate this and attend our events,” Fuller continued. “I just want to keep everybody active and get some feedback to see what the next phase is going to look like. ‘How often do you want to meet? Do you want to meet somewhere else? Do you want to do different types of workouts?’ Again, it comes down to what the needs are.”

Email Fuller at chasefuller@gmail.com for more information on the club.

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