It's tempting to shove as many doughnuts into your mouth as you can right off the bat, but it becomes hard to swallow anything if you overfill your mouth.
Tim Ryan has won Raleigh’s world-famous Krispy Kreme Challenge two years in a row. A former college cross-country runner who lives in Westchester County, NY, Ryan completed last year’s 5-miler—downing a dozen doughnuts at the midpoint—in just over 30 minutes. He plans to return in February to defend his title, but was nice enough to share a few pointers.
Q: You traveled for this race. How did you first hear about it?
A. I heard about it from my younger brother, Patrick, who I believe heard about it through an ESPN special. He ran it a couple times before I was finally able to make the trip. I knew that I wanted to run it as soon as he told me about it, and it became a matter of making the trip fit into my schedule.
Q: Have you competed in other races like this before, where there is an eating component? Have you done any other sort of eating competitions?
A: My friends and I ran a “pizza two-mile” every year in college. Our version was two miles on the track, with a slice of pizza before every half-mile, or two laps. I ran a "doughnut 2K" once, which was five laps on a track, with doughnut before every lap, and one doughnut at the end. And I've run the "beer mile" many times. I've done lots of eating contests, including those focusing on cereal, pizza, and ice cream. I also competed in a qualifying round for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, but didn't do nearly well enough to make it to the finals at Coney Island.
Q: How many races do you do a year? What distances? Any favorite races?
A: These days, I tend to run a race every couple of months. It varies, though. In the past year, I've run everything from the 4x400m to the half marathon. I have a feeling the marathon will be my favorite, despite not having run one yet.
Q: What should people do to prepare for the Krispy Kreme Challenge?
A: Focus on distance running training primarily, since that will not only make the running section stronger, but also increase your appetite.
Q: On race day, did you start right on the starting line or hang back?
A: I was right near the starting line, but I only recommend starting there if you're planning on running below a six-minutes per mile pace. It's a more chaotic start than most races, so you've got to be ready to avoid trampling.
Q: Did you have a pacing strategy? For example, did you run the first half hard assuming you'd get some rest while eating and then run back slower, or did you plan to pace it evenly?
A: I tried to run fairly evenly. I didn't want to be too out of breath when it was doughnut time.
Q: How did the first half of the race go? What place were you in when you got to the turnaround point at Krispy Kreme?
A: I wanted to be comfortably in control for the first half, but still near the front. When I got to Krispy Kreme I was in second or third place, about 10-15 seconds behind first place.
Q: Did you have a specific strategy for eating the doughnuts?
A: It's tempting to shove as many doughnuts into your mouth as you can right off the bat, but it becomes hard to swallow anything if you overfill your mouth. So I try to mash the doughnuts into unrecognizable sludge blobs with my hands, then pace myself as I work through the resulting masses. Water helps when you need a saliva boost.
Q: Did you think that eating the doughnuts would be difficult?
A: I didn't think it would be particularly difficult, since eating 2400 calories at once isn't the rarest thing for me. I just wanted to get it done fast. It went pretty smoothly, and was basically what I expected based on my competitive eating history.
Q: How did your strategy play out? Is there anything you would change? Other techniques you saw people using that you might try next time?
A: I think I'll stick with my same strategy, since it seemed to work for me. I wasn't really looking around to see what others were doing, since I was focused on just getting out of there. Tunnel vision, you know?
Q: What was the second half of the run like?
A: Surprisingly, running with doughnuts in my stomach wasn't that bad. It wasn't ideal, but I don't think my pace really changed that much. There were some casual entrants of the race who skipped the doughnuts and were ahead of me on the way back, so I just tried to catch up to them. I've run a lot of races, so I'm used to pushing through painful conditions.
Q: Any other tips for first-timers or for experienced Krispy Kreme Challengers who want to improve their times?
A: Running training is the most important, since you’ll spend about 80 percent of your time on the course running. If you want to practice the eating portion, you'll only need to try eating a full dozen in your kitchen once or twice to get an idea of how quickly you can do it.
Q: Do you still like doughnuts? I mean, even after the race?
A: Of course! I considered running back out for another dozen. I'm also thinking about making a YouTube video of me eating as many doughnuts as possible.
Want some more tips? Consider joining one of our
Krispy Kreme Challenge Training Runs
8 a.m. on Saturdays, January 10th - February 7th
Runs are FREE, with a suggested donation to the N.C. Children's Hospital
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