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Why you shouldn’t add the Krispy Kreme race to your bucket list

While it is recommended to load up on carbs before a long run, chowing down on sugary doughnuts during a race doesn’t sound like the healthiest way to work out. The idea definitely had people worried when they heard the sad news of one runner who died of a heart attack during the annual Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina, this past Saturday.

However, a few things should be clarified about the race and the man who is thought to have suffered a fatal heart attack. First of all, the race, which is in its 12th year and held by North Carolina State University to raise money for the local children’s hospital, has never before had someone die as a result of running. The challenge involves eating 12 doughnuts only after the participants have run 2-1/2 miles of the 5-mile race, and the man left the race after the first-mile mark, so he hadn’t eaten any doughnuts at that point. He was 58 years old and is as of yet unidentified, so little is known about any preexisting conditions he might’ve had.

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According to several reports, he began having chest pains after the first mile, left the track and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he passed away not long after arriving. The organizers shared the sad news and their condolences to the runner’s family on Facebook.

“Unfortunately we have some sad news to share. We regretfully confirm that a participant of today’s Krispy Kreme Challenge has died. A 58-year-old male stepped out of the race within the first mile and reported having chest pains. He was transported by EMS to Rex Hospital where he was pronounced dead. We are deeply saddened and wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones.”

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While it is distressing to read news like this, and while doughnuts are not the healthiest of running foods, they are most likely not going to kill you if you eat them while running a race, and it’s not what killed this man. However, a preexisting heart condition coupled with overexertion might. I spoke with Dr. Felicia Stoler, registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and celebrity health author, to get some further insight on the issue.

“Running can be excellent exercise (as is walking), but it is important that all people know their numbers: blood pressure, resting heart rate, lipid profile (cholesterol breakdowns) and blood sugar level. For many adults, running a road race should not be the first time you have a ‘stress test.'”

There are many factors that can increase your risk of having a heart attack, but there are also many ways to take control of your heart health.

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“Adequate sleep, stress reduction and regular physical activity are key components. Maintaining an appropriate body weight is another. Eating a predominantly plant-based or Mediterranean diet helps: whole grains, high fiber, low fat, low sodium, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, low-fat dairy, fish (like salmon) two times per week. Also, when exercising, the slow-releasing carbs, as in whole-grain oatmeal, will provide an energy source.” Carbs are definitely a great source of energy during a race, but you want something that will give you long-lasting energy, not a quick burst of sugar that will make you crash as soon as the race is over (that is, doughnuts).
Sorry, Krispy Kreme Challenge. I know you’re for a good cause and that over 65,000 people have run you, but you’re promoting unhealthy food choices and probably giving all your runners indigestion in the process. Runners: There are other ways to do charity.

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