It’s a simple concept – run 4 laps around a park and after each lap eat a slice of pizza, for a total of 2 miles and 3 slices of pizza. Most of you reading this blog have run more than 2 miles, let alone 2 miles with a lot of breaks. And we’ve all eaten pizza, probably even more than 3 slices at a time, with great ease. But you really can’t know what the Pizza Run is like without doing the Pizza Run, because once they blow the whistle for the start, you get swept up into a race frenzy, and for the first time in your life you try to eat thick, doughy, bready pizza as fast as you possibly can, and you realize you had such hubris about your ability to eat, and you are ultimately taken down several pegs by pizza and several dozen runners dressed as such.
It was a cool, overcast morning with threats of showers (that luckily held off until the afternoon). There were about 100 runners and a decent amount of volunteers plus friends and family there to watch the debacle. More than half of the runners had pizza-themed shirts or costumes, but there were a surprising number wearing race shirts (including the Brooklyn Half, Ragnar, and Ironman, to name a few). One guy I spoke with came from Pennsylvania, but most seemed local. Local news channel Pix 11 was there interviewing runners and many people were taking pics for fun.
The race started a few minutes after 11:00 am, and the most uncomfortable part about the race, besides the choking down of pizza, was that the course around the park wasn’t closed and happened to have a food distribution line down half of it. The race director told us to please respect the homeless and a lady yelled out that she wasn’t homeless, she had keys-to-an-apartment-thank-you-very-much, and it was uncomfortable and strange and then we started running. (A portion of the proceeds from the race go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and I’m not sure if there was leftover pizza that got passed out or not.)
The running portion was easy, despite having to weave and dodge on the open course. I heard some people say this would be the most they’ve ever run in their life, and one person admonish her friend that they “had to run at least one lap.” The eating part, however, was tough. Very tough. Pizza crust tough.
Why did I have such a hard time? Mostly because of my mouth injury. Taking the first bite of delicious pizza gave me a quick, painful reminder to only chew on the left side of my mouth and to never fully close my teeth, which led to swallowing a lot of partially chewed pizza. I was also a slow eater because I was attempting to enjoy the pizza and the experience, which involved laughing at those who were cramming pizza into their mouths as fast as possible, chatting with other runners, and even posing for a few pictures so I could show you just how bready this pizza was (it was delicious but involved a lot of bread, especially around the edges). Finally, I was a slow eater because I did not cheat. If there is no honor in a Pizza Run, there is no honor in this world. (Spoiler alert: There is no honor in this world.)
The rule was you didn’t have to finish eating the slice before starting the next lap, but the entire slice had to be inside your mouth. There were many cheaters, from people who simply walked off with their slices, to those who threw away parts of their slices, to those who even spit out pizza along the route. I always made sure all of my pizza was inside my mouth before starting the lap, which meant I had a dough ball in my cheek for most of the race. On my final lap around the park, I stopped by one of the volunteers and wailed, “There’s never a time I’m not eating!” I was also sweating a lot despite the cool temps, and was never sure if it was from the running or the eating.
The Pizza Run was more of a workout for my jaw than I ever anticipated, and my recent injury truly hampered me. I was one of the last four people still eating pizza (!) which was just astonishing since I felt like I was eating as fast as I could. If I were in pizza-eating shape, I think I would do a lot better, but I’m also not sure if I want to do this race again. I enjoyed the race itself and the beer at the afterparty, but mostly because my friend Danilo delightfully showed up to cheer me on (and/or watch me upchuck). If friends or family wanted to join me for the race next year, I would definitely do it again, but I wouldn’t want to run it alone. I had limited desire to do the Cupcake Run until I realized cupcakes would be a lot easier to chew than pizza, and now I’m kinda interested (but will have to wait until 2015 since I’m out of town that weekend). Basically, after this dismal showing, I’m even more interested in eating-and-running races to improve my technique and to try to develop unhealthy food aversions (the thought of eating pizza now makes my jaw ache, and I’d love to be adverse to chocolate and ice cream, if anyone has that race…).
[Ed – I finished this race in 31:48 – the top male finisher was 14:26 and top female was 15:42, times I couldn’t achieve even if I didn’t have to eat pizza.]
What do you like on your pizza? Did you notice my panda-eating-pizza shirt!?! Are you ready to start training for Pizza Run 2015? Share in the comments!