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The New York Hot Dog Challenge

2.5 miles, 1 hour and 10 hot dogs are quite deserving of the word ‘challenge.’ 10 competitors set out to take the challenge and come home with the grand prize of $225.

The last few weeks before the race there was a lot of buzz going around. “Who has the best odds?” “Who is the craziest?” “Does it even matter if you are a fast runner?” We had a generous outpouring of donations to create the grand prize of $225! (Thanks to all who donated to make the race exciting and bit more rewarding for the challengers!) We also had a total of 10, that’s right 10 racers signed up to compete! This was a New York Rogue Runners race so all you need to do to race is show up on game day.

I really enjoyed all the playful trash talking between everyone as well.

Wayne’s World flashback… (waving hands)

The concept for this race was born 7-10 years ago. As I was walking with friends Mirko and Benny (I wasn’t even a runner at the time) we laughed at a crazy idea. “What if you had to run through midtown and every time you passed  hot dog cart you had to eat one!” Such a sick and twisted idea. I loved it. Little did I know, years later I would be friends with a group of athletes crazy enough to pull it off!

The rules (seemed) simple enough. Follow the course map that I was to release the night before the race (to deter cheating) and eat a hot dog at every designated cart. Finish first without puking, win the prize.

RACE DAY

We met at the Mall in Central Park, a very scenic place (and iconic for any runners) to start a race. Everyone started arriving with huge smiles on their faces, excited to see what lay in store for all of us. I too, was giddy. The race itself had never been done, so the outcome was unknown. Would anyone finish? Would there be survivors?

Once all the competitors arrived I made a few race announcements and answered any questions. I was happy to not be racing, especially since eating competitions are really not my forte. The quick decision was made for all competitors to eat their first dog together at the cart stationed close by. As soon as they were done eating, they could start running the course.

(Thanks for the pics Elyssa!)

Tao, not a runner but a proclaimed eating machine, finished his dog in record time and immediately set off with 2 refs (Laura and Laura) following close behind.

We had 7 referees (including me) to follow the runners and make sure they stayed on course, ate each dog and didn’t puke.

One by one the rest of the gang finished their dogs and set off. I ran along with the middle group at first, chatting with Jim from ‘Dad Posse’ and TJ who were both setting a speedy pace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carts 1 and 2 were right outside the Park on adjacent corners. The leaders lined up and ordered their dogs, chowing down as soon as the exchange took place. (Lines were one of the unforeseen variables in the race) In the lead after Cart 2 was Matt 6, Neal and Tao. I was running along with the trailing group, TJ, Jim and Bojana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was notified by Abbe that Cart 3 wasn’t there (another unforeseen factor). I told her to wave runners on to Cart 4, luck was on their side… for now.

As we arrived at Cart 4 or ‘Baker’s Pass’ as I deemed it on the map because I work across the street, Matt had already taken off, Tao and Neal following shortly after. I sprinted ahead to catch up with Matt and Maria (who was reffing him) to make sure we were on course.

Arriving at Carts 5 and 6, or ‘Dead Man’s Corner’, one of the carts was missing so to Matt’s dismay we picked the next closest cart. We had to keep with the theme of ‘Dead Man’s Corner’ after all. While here, Tao and Neal caught up to Matt. Things were really getting exciting!

Tao finished first and took the lead.

The last 4 Carts were picked strategically. They were in a row on every block, cutting through Times Square, Hot Dog Cart Capital of the Free World. I dubbed this stretch ‘The Gauntlet’ and it would live up to it’s name.

I caught up to Tao at Cart 7. He proclaimed to not be a runner, but he was putting down a great pace for having 6 hot dogs floating around his belly. Just as he was finishing Matt arrived. It was going to be close. Tao took off to Cart 8 while Matt plowed through his 7th hot dog of the day. (You can’t run with the dogs, you must finish them before moving forward)

With the 3rd and 4th place runners nowhere in sight I stuck with the leaders to see how it was to play out.

Barreling into Times Square, Matt was at Cart 8 and Tao was at Cart 9 directly across the street! The 2 competitors were literally eating and watching each other.

I bolted ahead to the last Cart. I was really hoping it would be there as it was a crucial element in the race. You couldn’t see it as you approached which is why I chose it. A lot of the racers were hopeful that maybe the last Cart didn’t show up for work and they could keep running to the Finish. Incorrect.

As Tao arrived he looked less than excited to eat his 10th hot dog. Tourists nearby were watching us (as they had all day) in wonder. He wolfed the last dog down and took off, 1/2 mile separating him and victory.

Matt arrived seconds later, knowing he had a decent shot of overtaking Tao if he could just eat the hot dog fast. I took off down an alternate route to see the finish.

The Finish line was right in front of Rudy’s Bar, one of the last true dive bars left in NYC. 12 years ago it was my hangout, but why end it here on a hot dog run? Because you get served free hot dogs in the bar as long as you are ordering drinks!!!

As I arrived Tao had just finished taking the number 1 slot! He had been cooking that last stretch. Matt came in about a minute after him to take number 2! Both men were in rough shape and needed ‘a minute’.

It was at least 5 minutes before our number 3 position came into view. It was Bojana, our first female finisher!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then came Neal and TJ, neck and neck followed by Jim, Dennis and finally Bethaney!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claire and Gillian both took DNF’s for the day but gave it a worthy shot!

Everyone finished in under an hour and Tao came in at roughly 40 minutes! Impressive.

All of us moved inside to Rudy’s to celebrate. We had a small awards ceremony where I presented Tao with his Medal and $225! He saluted us by chugging a beer. True story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all stayed for awhile laughing at the whole fiasco. It was really interesting hearing everyone’s different take on the race and where it went astray.

 

It was the first race of this kind and I think it went fantastic! I had a blast following the lead racers. Congrats to everyone who participated in this difficult race and thanks to everyone for volunteering and coming out to play!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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