I love festive 5ks and big-city races; even more so if they promise specialty snacks and drinks afterward. Bagels and donuts aren’t part of my regular diet repertoire, but I feel entitled to a treat or two after working my butt off before most people are awake. But I’m flabbergasted by the latest trend among the running pack: Junk food-laced races and beer-soaked marathons.
Before you blame me for getting all New York Times-ey and picking up on a trend two decades too late, let me be clear: It’s no surprise to me that many runners enjoy junk food. The best runners on my high school cross country team challenged each other to scarf cheeseburgers before races, and one of my runner friends’ match.com mottos includes the phrase “runs to eat.” Runners might be super fit, but we’re not all nutrition angels. It’s the appearance of actual races like North Carolina’s “Krispy Kreme Challenge” that have me perplexed. The race, which requires participants to run two miles, eat 12 Krispy Kreme donuts, then (hopefully) run another two miles, started in 2006, and according to its website, it has gone from 12 participants in its first year to 5,500 runners in 2009 (the same year it made a star appearance on ESPN). And this year, the event even landed a story in the country’s most popular running magazine.
As Runner’s World writer Charles Bethea describes it, the Krispy Kreme race (which is, not surprisingly, run by a student organization in Raleigh) is far more enjoyable for spectators: Race announcers predicted that about one quarter of the runners would puke before finish, and while Bethea kept his donuts down, he reports waking up in a cold sweat after running with a “doughy tumor” in his stomach.
Lots of running groups eat junk and drink beer after their runs, but Tucson’s Hash House Harriers take it to a new level, as shown in CNN’s video of their mid-summer 23 miles, 23 beers challenge. Described by one of the race’s organizers as something to do for fun while it’s too hot to do anything else in Tucson, the race requires runners to stop in a pub for a beer after each mile run. And FitSugar tells us that in Europe, non-alcoholic beer is the new energy drink, preferred by runners who see it as a “natural” alternative to other electrolyte-replacing beverages.
I take my donuts post-race (and one — not a dozen — at a time), but would you try the Krispy Kreme Challenge, or rehydrate with a beer? Tell us what you think of mixing fitness with junk food in the comments section, below: