Well, I did it. I survived the 9th Annual Krispy Kreme Challenge! In case you missed my previous post about this annual race in downtown Raleigh, here are the basics:
The Krispy Kreme Challenge starts with a 2.5 mile run from the NC State Bell Tower on Hillsborough Street to the Krispy Kreme store at the intersection of Peace & Person Street in downtown Raleigh. Once there runners eat a dozen original glazed Krispy Kreme donuts and then run 2.5 miles back to the Bell Tower – all in under one hour. That’s it.
This was my second time running in the Krispy Kreme Challenge. In 2012 I ran as a “casual runner”, meaning that I wasn’t going to try and eat all the donuts. I did eat 4 and made it back to the finish line in around 45 minutes. I was determined to make 2013 the year I successfully completed the challenge. I arrived to the NCSU Bell Tower early on the morning of race day, Saturday February 9th. I have been training for a few months so I had my running legs with me and an empty stomach. I was ready to go!
Although this race started out as a wager between a few NCSU students just a few yeas ago, it has now blossomed into a race of over 8,000 runners. I lined up just a few feet back from the starting line, but when the race clock started I was quickly overcome with a swarm of eager runners zipping by me and the field ahead was full of runners zipping down Hillsborough street.
My plan was to to run a nice moderate 8 minute mile pace that would get me to the Krispy Kreme Store 2.5 miles away in about 20 minutes. Along the way I had to do a little weaving around some of the more casual runners and folks dressed up in costumes. I have to admit that even some of the causal competitors and costumed challengers were faster than me. I didn’t worry about that as I knew that if I stuck with my plan and stayed on pace I would make a good time.
Once I arrive at the Krispy Kreme store on Person Street I grabbed my box of donuts from one of the helpful volunteers handing them out from the large piles of boxes laid out on tables along the street. I followed my fellow runners into the Krispy Kreme parking lot where we were surrounded by other runners and a large crowd that had collected to watch the spectacle. I had made the 2.5 mile run just under my goal time of 20 minutes. So far so good!
I found a “quiet” spot in the parking lot and settled in for the eating portion of the race. When I opened my box of donuts I was immediately struck by just how daunting a box of 12 donuts can look when you realize you need to eat them all as quickly as possible. I had heard of the different strategies some people use. Some like to dip the donuts in water to remove the glaze and make them softer. Others smoosh several donuts together and eat several at a time.
Initially I ate three or four of the donuts as is but quickly realized I was getting full by the sheer volume of the donut, so I opted to try a variation on the smoosh method. I stacked three donuts on top of one another and and used a piece of the donut box (to avoid getting my hands too messy) to mash down the three donuts into a three layer Krispy Kreme donut puck. While dense, I found this to be a good approach.
As I munched on donuts #5-7 I started to doubt myself and wonder how I could ever finish the rest. Then I had an epiphany. I was really focused on each bite. Which made it a bit grueling. Instead, I started to talk to people around me as I ate, looked at the scene unfolding around me, and even took a few quick pictures. I found that if I distracted myself as I ate that the donuts went down a lot easier. Kind of like the mindless eating we are all guilty of when eating in front of the TV. Ultimately this was the best strategy for me and before I knew it I was down to just one donut. At that point there was no turning back and I ate it right up!
After finishing my dozen donuts I took a quick look at my watch. It had taken me about 14 minutes to eat the dozen. So my total time was up to 34 minutes into the challenge. It was only then that it dawned on me that with 26 minutes left that I had a very good chance of actually making it back to the finish line in the remaining 26 minutes in order to complete the challenge in under an hour.
I grabbed my empty box and showed it to the volunteers and tossed it into the pile of discarded boxes as I ran through the challengers shute as I headed back to where it all began on Hillsborough Street. I momentarily thought about grabbing a 13th donut from the guy who is always out on the course offering an extra one to runners as a cruel joke (to make it a baker’s dozen), but I thought better of it since I wanted to make sure I finished the race in under an hour.
I felt surprisingly good on the run back to the finish line. Maybe it was the sugar rush or the thrill of knowing I was going to complete the challenge and would soon earn the right to mark it off my bucket list. Either way, I felt good and enjoyed the run back. I even took in a few sprints to pass clumps of slower moving runners now and then. I didn’t notice anybody getting sick on the way back, but did observe some evidence of those not so fortunate along the road on the way back!
Before I knew it I was approaching the NC State Bell Tower on Hillsborough street and had crossed the finish line surrounded by excited spectators cheering on me and my fellow.
My official “chip time” for the race was 56 minutes and 37 seconds! Success! A friend asked me if I plan to race again next year to try for a better time, but I have officially announced my retirement from competitive donut eating. If you haven’t competed in the challenge yet I suggest you check it out next year. It really is a fun time and it raises funds for a great cause. Proceeds from the Krispy Kreme Challenge benefits the NC Children’s Hospital. This year the race raised $177K for the hospital.