Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Homer Price Challenge? It's not Goofy!

The Tallahassee Marathon is a fair-sized race, with 233 finishers in 2010. In terms of participation it's certainly not a mega-marathon like the New York City Marathon (45,103 finishers in 2010) or the Marine Corps Marathon (21,948 finishers in 2010), but its an appropriate size for a regional marathon. Because marathons are difficult events to stage, and not many towns host even one marathon, most of the folks in the 2010 Tallahassee Marathon came from out of town. In fact, only 68 of the 233 finishers were actually from Tallahassee.

In itself, that 68 is not a bad number. What irks is that 68 is less than 74, and 74 folks from Tallahassee finished the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon.

Somehow, half a dozen more people chose to run with the Mouse than to run the Tallahassee Marathon. This is a mystery. You'd think the local Marathon would be somewhat more popular with the locals. After all, in order to run Disney, you have to travel over 260 miles to Lake Buena Vista, stay in expensive hotel rooms, eat pre-race meals at strange restaurants, and deal with the lines and the crowds at a race with over 13,000 finishers. Additionally, because Lake Buena Vista is significantly farther south than Tallahassee, the temperatures are likely to be higher. Mean temperatures for the Disney race date run about 8 °F higher than for the Tallahassee Marathon race date. The record high for the Disney race date is 83 °F. Run Disney, and maybe you can be there for the record!

It's hard to see how Disney comes out ahead in any comparison with Tallahassee, but for half a dozen people it did. Where's Disney's edge?

Maybe it's the Goofy Challenge.

In the Goofy Challenge, runners are "challenged" to do the Walt Disney World Half-Marathon on Saturday and then run the Marathon on Sunday. Anyone who completes the Goofy Challenge gets a third medal to go with their finisher medals from the Half-Marathon and the Marathon. I have to admit, this has no attraction for me. I've run a couple dozen marathons, and I don't recall ever wishing afterwards that I had arrived at the starting line already tired. I'm probably not the best authority, though, because that's also my objection to Iron Man Triathlons. And over 4,600 runners completed the Goofy Challenge, including eleven from Tallahassee. Eleven runners would more than cover the difference between Tallahassee finishers at the two marathons.

Clearly, there is a class of runner looking for something stupid to do the day before the Marathon. Or if not stupid, then at least extreme enough to totally obliterate their chance of performing their best on Marathon day. What "Challenge" can Tallahassee add to the program to meet this need? Imitating the Goofy Challenge is out. The Tallahassee Half-Marathon is run concurrently with the Tallahassee Marathon, as is right and proper. It would have to be something different.

How about the Homer Price Challenge?

As it turns out, the Student United Way at Florida State University is staging a Krispy Kreme Challenge on Saturday, 5 February 2011, the day before the Tallahassee Marathon. In the KKC, participants run two miles, eat a dozen doughnuts, and then run two more miles, the "challenge" being to do this in under an hour. Runners in the KKC must not only battle their old enemy of fatigue, but nausea and insulin shock as well. Tallahassee's first Krispy Kreme Challenge in 2010 had hundreds of participants, but the orginal KKC in Raleigh, North Carolina boasts a field of 5,500. More would enter, but the field is capped.

The Homer Price Challenge would be to do the Krispy Kreme Challenge on Saturday and then run the Tallahassee Marathon on Sunday. The name comes from a Robert McCloskey character. McCloskey wrote and illustrated children's fiction like Make Way For Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, and the Homer Price stories back in the days before books about ancient pedophilic vampires were regarded as suitable for young readers. Homer Price was the main character in a dozen or so of McCloskey's stories in the books Homer Price and Centerburg Tales. Most relevantly, Homer appears in a piece called "The Doughnuts," in which the doughnut-making machine at Uncle Ulysses' lunch counter runs amok, frying up more doughnuts than the town can consume. "The Dougnuts" is the iconic Homer Price story, and was even filmed in 1963. Some might argue for the "Homer Simpson Challenge," but I wouldn't want to invite the lawyers from The Simpsons to come after me for violating that trademark. Homer Price it is.

This year, of course, it's too late for it to be for anything but bragging rights. But starting in 2012, a special medal could be struck for the hypoglycemic hordes attempting the Homer Price Challenge, i.e., the Krispy Kreme Challenge followed by the Tallahassee Marathon. The KKC might not be the healthiest way to carbo-load the day before the marathon, but it's better than doing a half-marathon carbo-depletion run on the eve of a full marathon. Keep it in mind--"The Homer Price Challenge, closer to home and tastier than the Goofy Challenge!"



  1. One of your very best, Herb! Thoroughly enjoyable read, including all the links I followed! Thanks for letting us get into that brilliant head of yours! :D

  2. Agreed on locals' preference to leave Tallahassee for a big time race. It changes their lives, Herb. Like to a bumper sticker level. "26.2" or even better, "42.2."
    I've witnessed a half ironman tri guy proudly describing what his 70.3 sticker signifies. 70.3. Think about it. It puts those slacker Sudan Boys to shame.
    I'm no marathoner. Therefore the two I've run were both Tallahassee events.
    With past behavior as evidence, I would expect you to propose a Beer Marathon, appropriately modified Kingston Rules. From a spectator's perspective I'd prefer a Milk Marathon or Burrito Marathon.
    Carry on.

  3. John,

    The "26.2" thing has reached the tattoo stage. Be very afraid.

    I don't think anything that I could come up with would out-stupid the 100 miles and 100 beers in 100 hours that the folks on keep talking about. As for a burrito marathon, do you really think a burrito is any harder to keep down than a GU packet?


  4. I was skeptical about those Gu packets, having never run while downing them. At the 2000 Tallahassee Marathon, Gu was available by the case at each aid station. I ate over 20 of them. Two at a time with gatorade after the halfway point. Finished with a huge reserve of energy, as might be imagined. Didn't plan to run that event till the night before, so I wasn't worried about it ruining my "marathon training." (Right.) After a Publix ultimate sub for lunch, ran again later that day. Don't discount the Gu for an easily digested energy source. I suppose 8:17 min/mile counting the stops doesn't shake up the stomach much, tho I was really craving a kosher ham sammich by 20M.