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The Doughnut Red Herring (with Video)

“2400 calories, 12 doughnuts, 5 miles, 1 hour.” - Krispy Kreme Challenge website

On an average day, two thousand Americans have heart attacks. On Saturday, a 58-year-old man suffered a heart attack while participating in a race dubbed the “Krispy Kreme Challenge.” The race involved running 2.5 miles, stopping to consume a dozen original glazed Krispy Kreme donuts, and then running another 2.5 miles to the finish line. ESPN once referred to the Krispy Kreme Challenge as “the most difficult road race in the country.”

The man, Jeff “FaFa” Woods, had severe chest pain within the first mile of the race and he was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. There’s a lot of blame going around. Some are blaming Krispy Kreme, although the company claims that it does not sponsor the event in any way. Some are blaming the victim for not being more cautious about participating in a race as he likely had a weak heart. Some are blaming N.C. State student organizers for irresponsibly producing an event that implicitly attracts a non-athletic crowd to a race that pairs eating an insane volume of sugary, fried food with a five-mile run.

Krispy Kreme Challenge 2016


What Can We Learn?

It’s easy to place blame. It’s hard to learn from a very sad event. A man died from heart disease on Saturday. He died not because he ate a lot of donuts on that day (he didn’t eat any donuts during the race), but rather because he was not in good health. The lesson that we can take away from this horrible death is one that we can take away from any of the two thousand heart attacks that occur each day: we all need to take care of ourselves. We need to get that regular physical, eat well on balance, and move on a regular basis.

Krispy Kreme Goodness
The Krispy Kreme Challenge has done a lot of good: it has raised $1 million for North Carolina Children’s Hospital over the years and it has given folks a reason to get together, dress up, and, for the most part, have a lot of fun. Participation in this event probably isn’t what most doctors or laymen would deem “a good idea.” If that were the case, it probably wouldn’t draw ten thousand people as the Krispy Kreme Challenge did. Often it’s the non-traditional activities that generate excitement and catch on: see videos from the summer of 2014, when millions poured ice water on their heads for a good cause. Do I suggest partaking in this event? No. In my opinion, if you want to test gastrointestinal fortitude and physical fitness it’s best to test them separately.

Donut Challenges
Florida State University and The University of Kentucky each host a Krispy Kreme Challenge of their own. The University of Kansas has the “Muncher's 5K” with runners stuffing twelve donuts into their mouths mid-race from the tasty Muncher’s bakery. There’s even the “24x4 Krispy Kreme Challenge,” in which participants eat a whopping 24 Krispy Kreme donuts, drink 24 beers (light beer not allowed), and run 24 miles in 24 hours.

The Burrito Mile
Gluttony and athleticism have been paired together in the name of fun and charity for years. Ten years ago, in my hometown of Bethesda, Maryland, high school students across the area organized the “Burrito Mile,” in which participants scarfed down a large burrito and then immediately ran one mile with their full tummies. There were concerns about the danger of eating a burrito. “Why not eat something safer, like M&M’s?” asked some parents (seriously). There was fear of choking, induced vomiting (which happened often), and binge-eating. The race went to a charity that supports patients suffering from Leukemia.

Drinking Races
There are also boozy races in which people run while drinking alcohol. The “Le Marathon du Medoc” in France is a full, 26.2-mile marathon while consuming glasses of wine. The “Flo Beer Mile World Championships” in Austin, Texas requires runners to guzzle a bottle of beer between each quarter-mile run. Lance Armstrong once participated and dropped out after one lap. Even Disney has jumped on the bandwagon. The “Disney Wine-And-Dine Half Marathon” involves a dizzying 13.1-mile race through the Disney theme parks capped off by a wine fest.

Moving Forward
It seems that these unhealthy charity events are here to stay. They’re getting more popular: there are more of them with more participants each year. The main thing to keep in mind is that we should to strive to have healthy lifestyles. A few donuts, even twelve, once in a while, won’t kill us, but straining our bodies with consistent poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and apathy towards our medical health will.

We’d love to hear from you. Tell us what you think about mixing food, drink, and athletic events? Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg
Co-Founder & CEO
Flyte Fitness


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