Somewhere between the sixth and ninth donuts—hands, cuffs and majority of my torso already caked in an ambiguous silver glaze—the thought popped into my head, like my mind had failed to recognize the hellscape my body was enduring:
This isn’t that bad.
I looked down at the white, overly jovial box at my feet. All around me were individuals—mostly male, unsurprisingly—performing this longing gaze, the contents and people in various stages of completion and regret, respectively.
"This is ridiculous," said the man to my left, two donuts behind me. I snuck a glance at his watch—I’d forgotten mine—as it ticked along: 27:45, 27:46. My mouth, dry from running and inflexible from the sugar, failed me, and I simply nodded sympathetically.
Before I could register what I was doing, I stacked the remaining three donuts in a cylindrical tower and mashed them—like a trash compactor would—into a concise cake. I bit down and grimaced while my neighbor watched, awestruck.
Yes, at a very basic level, the (World Famous) Krispy Kreme Challenge—an unsophisticated fuselage of distance running and competitive eating—is ridiculous, but describing it that way doesn’t do it justice.
It’s gluttonous, forcing competitors to down 12 donuts in one brief sitting. It’s active, almost dangerously so—racers run 2.5 miles, eat, then struggle to claw the 2.5 miles back in less than an hour. It’s traditional, with this year’s race being the 10th annual through the heart of Raleigh. It’s paradoxical (the proceeds from this diabetic trot go to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital, which is a little like if all the proceeds from Oktoberfest went to Alcoholics Anonymous). It’s flamboyant—the costume contest this year drew Elvis impersonators, Heisenberg and Jesse, sumo outfits, Pac-man, Chinese parade dragons, tutus and enough Lycra to film the “Call On Me” music video.
Oh, and it’s also competitive, strategic, unifying, noble and—provided you don’t “lose your donuts”—a damn good time.
And I say this next part only somewhat jokingly: it wouldn’t make a bad Olympic sport.
We already have unorthodox Olympic sports as precedents. Curling takes the most abuse in this area, but let me throw another name into the ridiculous ring: biathlon, the event that pairs cross-country skiing with riflery. It’s the sports equivalent of a Brad Paisley/LL Cool J collaboration, only without the unintentional comedy.
Sports gain admission to the Olympics if the IOC deems them widely practiced around the world. Thus, I propose that the Krispy Kreme Challenge, in its current iteration, is wholly more deserving of Olympic consideration than the biathlon: I know way more runners than cross-country skiers, and I have to assume more people in the world eat donuts than shoot rifles. The Krispy Kreme Challenge: the de-facto biathlon for non-Norwegians.
Baseball, softball and other sports have been discontinued at the Olympics over the years, primarily due to lack of interest. I know I don’t speak for everyone, but they could make the Krispy Kreme Olympiad a pay-per-view event and I wouldn’t blink. I mean, who would even win? If it were a team competition, I might favor the U.S. or the British (Mo Farah’s got an appetite). But Mexico—the now-heaviest nation in the world—could seize the opportunity to win its first long distance medal in forever here. Which traditionally dominant running nation starts investing in specialized stomach coaches? Is Alka-Seltzer now considered a PED? The storylines, much like the succeeding bowel movements, are endless.
To spice things up, and maintain the gregarious spirit of the original challenge, the winning country could select a charity that the losers all have to contribute to. Or, in the case of a Nigerian victory, the losers just have to actually respond to those urgent inheritance emails.
On the X’s and O’s front, there’s more than enough strategy and minutiae to study. How do you eat the night before—big to expand the stomach, or fast completely to clear the backlog? What’s your donut technique—one-by-one, the tower stack, or the munchkin mash? How much water do you drink? Too little and the donut sticks in your throat, too much and you risk over-capacity.
This year in Raleigh, the winning time was 30:07 from defending champion Tim Ryan, which essentially means averaging five-minute miles and spending just five minutes downing the dozen donuts. With all due respect to LeBron James and Adrian Peterson, it’s the most otherworldly thing I can imagine.
As for me, I stumbled in at 45:44 without incident, on the uptick of a less-than-comfortable sugar rush. But as I ambled towards the water tent, another competitor disavowed his donuts just by my left foot. I narrowly avoided the splatter, and, looking down, I noticed similar puddles had formed past the finish line. A volunteer moved over without hesitation and acted as a surrogate traffic cop, directing people around the beige-dotted asphalt.
The thrill of victory, and the agony of “da heave.” The drama practically writes itself.
Someone get Bob Costas on the line.