Thirteen years ago, Peyton Hassinger and two of his friends came up with a unique dare: run 2.5 miles, eat a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, then run home in less than an hour.
Hassinger, then a sophomore at N.C. State University, said that about a dozen people completed the challenge the first year. A photographer from the school newspaper came and took pictures, and Hassinger said there was more interest the next year, when the challenge attracted about 100 participants.
He and his friends charged runners $10 for the cost of T-shirts and doughnuts. When they ended up with a profit of about $1,000, they decided to donate the money to UNC Children’s Hospital. The next year, they kept marketing the race and kept fundraising, and more than 1,000 runners competed to raise about $10,000.
More than a decade later, “Krispy Kreme Challenge” is a registered trademark, and the event has its own logo, updated this year, of a running stick figure with a doughnut head. Proceeds from the race – which attracted 8,000 runners last year and raised $195,000 – are the UNC Children’s Hospital’s largest single source of unrestricted donations, which the hospital can use any way it sees fit.
“We just thought it was kind of funny and almost a joke how many people will turn out to run and eat a dozen doughnuts,” said Hassinger, now a physician in South Carolina. “We never really had high aspirations of making it a fundraiser, but I’m thrilled that that’s what it turned out to be.”
This year, the race – which runs from Memorial Belltower on N.C. State’s campus to the Krispy Kreme store in downtown Raleigh and back – will take place Saturday.
The challenge has raised more than $1.1 million for UNC Children’s Hospital, which provides inpatient and outpatient care regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
Runners can take part in the event even if they don’t care to consume any doughnuts along the way, something Hassinger recalls he and his friends decided to allow after that first year.
“The first year that we did it, I ran and I ate the doughnuts, and my time was like 40-something minutes. And after that, we decided we would have a casual runner category where you can run and not eat all the doughnuts,” he said. “I never wanted to do that again.”
Pranav Kemburu, an NCSU sophomore who leads the race’s marketing department, says the organization orders doughnuts for about 94 percent of expected registrants, which comes to 6,000 boxes this year.
Kemburu, who is majoring in economics and electrical engineering, noted that although the organization has expanded over the years, it is still student-run, with some input from two faculty advisers. He said 80 to 100 students volunteer for the challenge, with 20 student department heads focused on everything from logistics on race day to public relations and marketing.
This year, Kemburu said, a new student-led design team has focused on improving the branding of the race – which included updating the doughnut-head logo that was created in 2009 and by using N.C. State red and white as the race’s official color scheme.
“The race is huge thing on campus – it’s known as the No. 1 N.C. State tradition – and most students try to do it at least once before they graduate” said Kemburu, who plans to complete the challenge his senior year. “A lot of students do it more than once just because it’s so much fun.”
Rachel Chason: 919-829-4629
Runners can register online for the Krispy Kreme Chalenge at raceentry.com/races/krispy-kreme-challenge/2017/register as individuals or as part of a team for $45. Those who register in the “Challenger” category sign up for the full experience: 2,400 calories, 12 doughnuts and 5 miles in less than 1 hour. Runners can also register in the “No Doughnut” or “Casual” categories.