Ah, the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Running 2.5 miles from the the NC State Bell Tower to Krispy Kreme, downing a dozen doughnuts then heading back. It’s just a little more than a 5K and a little less than an eating contest. Combine them both and you have one of the most challenging and beautiful events in the country.
Thirteen years ago, 10 friends started the Krispy Kreme Challenge with only a handful of racers actually finishing the dastardly race. Last year, more than 8,000 runners participated in the event with 2,561 finishing the race — 1,088 did so in the goal of less than one hour.
So what’s the secret to finishing? Well, I’m not really sure. I’ve participated in the race twice and finished both under one hour. In 2015, I finished 252nd with a time of 49:56. Last year, it was 46:56 — yeah, exactly three minutes is weird, right? — and came in 206th place.
Look, I’m not the fastest runner in the world and likely won’t ever win the Challenge, but finishing is half the battle. Being on that exclusive list is awesome. Having learned a few secrets along the way, here are a few strategies for every stage of the grueling Challenge.
Whether you’re participating in the run for the first time or simply trying to finish it for the first time, hopefully this helps.
1. Pace yourself
OK, so this isn’t unique to the Krispy Kreme Challenge, but it’s no less crucial. The pre-race anxiety is so thick you can taste it and the actual relief of starting the Challenge can lead to immediate exhaustion before reaching the first mile.
It’s a normal occurrence with thousands of runners attempting to outdo each other early on, but setting your own pace can lead you to the promised land. Just remember: You have a full five miles and a dozen gloriously glazed doughnuts ahead of you. Don’t blow it.
2. Bring a towel (or two)
With some runs in sweltering conditions, wearing light clothes and bringing a towel seems appropriate. But the Krispy Kreme Challenge is only five miles and typically ran in near-freezing temperatures. There’s no reason for a towel, right?Wrong.
Runners in the Challenge need a towel for a completely different reason — glaze. Getting glaze on your face and hands is one thing. Running with it for 2.
5 miles with a gentle sweat infusing with the doughnut on your face and hands is downright disgusting.
Simply put, bring at least one towel to wipe off the glaze before starting the second half. You feel vile enough on the inside; don’t make matters worse by forgetting a simple cloth.
3. Packing the doughnuts
I’m not sure who was genius (insane?) enough to discover this technique, but it’s the easiest way to fly through the doughnut portion of the Challenge.
Instead of eating all 12 doughnuts individually, pack three into one pancake-stack looking monstrosity before devouring it. Though it’s thick and takes time to chew the triple stack, eating four trios of doughnuts moves much faster than the single system.
Similar to an eating contest, you’ll also want to intake a small amount of water while eating the doughnuts. But remember, what you’re carrying in water weight you’ll have to take back to the finish line — along with 2,400 calories from the doughnuts.
4. Stay low
This is meant to be quite literal. Run however freely you want during the first 2.
5 miles, but the final dash isn’t quite as easy with, you know, a dozen doughnuts in your body.
Keep your strides low and don’t stir up the massive amount of dough and glaze you have currently shaking in your stomach. It’s not the fastest way to run, but setting a pace again with similar stride lengths can keep all of the contents that just went down your throat from coming back up.
5. Don’t. Look. Down.
By this point, you’ve hopefully kept your dignity by not vomiting on the street, sidewalk or any other terrain that you’ve passed. Turning down the final road to head back down Hillsborough Street and triumphantly across the Bell Tower should be the most satisfying portion of the entire race.
However, not everyone is so fortunate.
Unless you’re one of the first people to cross the line, there will more than likely be some grits blown on your trail. Avoiding that barf might eventually be impossible, but simply seeing someone else’s upchuck can cause one to follow suit.
Sure, you might end up with someone else’s doughnuts along for the ride, but your shoes can be cleaned — your pride can’t.
The five miles may be over, but the K2C mission isn’t.
All runners who participate have already contributed in some form to the UNC Children’s Hospital, but is that really enough? Since the start of the event, the Challenge has donated a cumulative total of $1,149,000 to the cause thanks, in large part, to participants going above and beyond to make a difference.
This might not actually be a physical part of the race, but the Krispy Kreme Challenge is truly a charity event. Don’t just come away with a memorable accomplishment on race day. Know that you’re making a difference by donating to the UNC Children’s Hospital and possibly look to fundraise in the years to come.