A couple years ago, I saw a news story about the annual Krispy Kreme Challenge held in Raleigh, NC. Runners from across the country show up and pay good money (for a good cause, of course) to run a couple miles, eat a dozen doughnuts, then scurry their way back to the finish line within 60 minutes—without losing their doughnuts, if you know what I mean. I realize that everyone may react differently to the idea behind this race. My initial reaction was more like "Ew! Pure gluttony!" Then I immediately calculated the calories in a dozen doughnuts and no, running 4 miles doesn't even burn off three of them. "Only in America," I thought.
The following year, when I saw news coverage about the Challenge again, something came over me. I suddenly wanted to do this race. Yes, I am an advocate for healthy eating and sensible exercise habits. And yes you're right in thinking that combining competitive running with competitive doughnut eating doesn't net out to "healthy," but you have to admit…it sure sounds fun!
I’m a girl who can eat. I have a healthy appetite and I've always been able to eat a lot of food—there is no food that's ever been "too rich" for me—without feeling sick. (It's a curse.) I was up for the challenge! I signed up as soon as registration opened for the 2011 race, and last weekend, I ran and ate my way through the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Now I'm reporting back from the glaze-filled trenches.
On race day, the weather was dreary: low 40s and pouring down rain. That took a little bit of fun out of the race, but I was still eager. And people came out for the race by the thousands, some donning crazy costumes, and many wearing little to nothing at all (body paint, bikinis, tiny race shorts)!
Runners trying to stay warm and dry before the race
I did not expect to eat all dozen doughnuts. I played it safe. But I did have a realistic goal in mind: 4-6. That's what I thought I could actually eat and still be able to run without losing my doughnuts. You don't have to eat all dozen—only to truly "win" the race. Many people just eat one or two. Some try for all 12. Others just run and carry their box of goodies with them to enjoy later. How did I fare? Here's how it broke down that day:
8: Average minute-per-mile pace I ran on my way to the Krispy Kreme store
2.3: Miles from the starting line to the Krispy Kreme store
12: Number of doughnuts each runner was given to eat upon arrival
1,140: Number of calories in the 6 doughnuts I ate during the race
Simply the most flattering picture I've ever taken haha!
13: Minutes it took me to down 1,140 calories worth of doughnuts
20: Seconds per mile I slowed down while running with a belly full of doughnuts
6: How many doughnuts I carried with me to the finish line
Ready to eat my 6th doughnut!
4.7: Total miles ran during the race
45:29: My finish time for the race (running plus eating)
29:31: Top finishing time for the race winner (he ate all dozen within that time frame, too!)
0: Number of people I saw losing their doughnuts (this really surprised me)
6: Number of doughnuts I ate after the race was over—no joke! I ate all dozen, just not during the race!
2,280: Total doughnut calories consumed within 3 hours
540: Approximate number of calories burned during 4.7-mile race
Scarfing down six doughnuts was surprisingly easy for me. I had my technique down: I folded each one in half, squeezed out the air, and then ate. I stayed away from the water, fearing water + doughnuts would = one upset (and very full) stomach. I expected to feel nauseous and get cramps in my stomach on the return trip back. I fully expected to run much slower than I started the race, but surprisingly, I maintained a good clip all the way to the finish. I carried my remaining six doughnuts back to the car, back to my hotel, and then enjoyed every last one of them on the trip back to Ohio.
Proof! I carried these remaining 6 to the finish line and ate them later.
During the race, I saw kids, parents, strollers, dogs, costumes, runners of all shapes and sizes, walkers, supporters holding signs (the most popular being "Don't Puke!"). Mostly, I saw a lot of smiles. Everyone was having fun despite the bad weather. We were all there to enjoy the experience and check this crazy race off our bucket lists. Most of us, anyway.
During the first half of the race, a woman was standing by and watching, but she was actually chastising the runners saying (in a not so nice way), "Yeah, how many calories are in just ONE of those doughnuts, runners?!"
I get where she's coming from. One doughnut has 190 calories...plus trans fats, sugar, carbs, and no real nutritional value. Her reaction was much like my own reaction when I first heard about this crazy race a few years ago. I thought it was disgusting. I thought it was just advocating horrible eating habits and making people believe that it's OK to binge on junk food as long as you do a little exercise.
I guess I've lightened up more over the years, especially as I've learned to accept my imperfections and balance out my healthy habits with my not-so-healthy ones. But to me, the Krispy Kreme Challenge is all in good fun. Healthy living is important. Eating right is important. Exercising is important. But you know what's not important: Being perfect in these areas every single day. We also have to LIVE our lives and enjoy ourselves! Too often, people become way too obsessed with being healthy. In my experience, these "health saints" judge others with a healthier-than-thou attitude, much like the lady who yelled at the runners from the sidelines. I don't feel sorry for anyone who joined this race; I feel sorry for her for being too obsessed with health and afraid of calories to join in on the fun herself. And I can say that, because I know what it's like to be that way—I've been there myself, and since I've overcome it, my life is so much fuller and happier.
No one is perfect. Sometimes I eat ice cream for dinner. Sometimes I skip my workouts. Sometimes I choose junk food over health food. (I love broccoli but I don't want to live without the occasional Twizzler.) But a truly healthy lifestyle—if it's truly sustainable—includes rest days, lazy days, indulgences, birthday cake and the occasional doughnut run. One day and one dozen doughnuts aren't going to make or break my fitness habits, my weight, my diet, or my health in the long run—and it's not going to for you either. And you know what: I would do it again in a heartbeat!
For your viewing pleasure, here's a fun video about the Krispy Kreme Challenge from a couple of years ago:
What's your reaction to the Krispy Kreme Challenge? Would you ever try it? Do you think I'm a bad example for eating so many doughnuts?
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