Why Are Runners Always Talking About Loving Donuts?

Frosted has become commonplace at the finish line. But you shouldn't have to run a marathon to "earn" a donut.

February 24, 2022 7:18 am
Why Are Runners Always Talking About Loving Donuts?
Rodion Kutsaev/Unsplash

Runners are kind of annoying.

If you aren’t a runner, you’ve probably known this for a while, for all the usual reasons. But believe it or not, even those, like me, who consider themselves firmly part of the running community, find certain behavioral patterns of runners mildly infuriating. Like:

  • A refusal to ever take a day off, also known as run streaks, which you can read about in detail here
  • Running clubs that bark at old ladies who’ve wandered into an inner lane on the track
  • God forbid you’re feeling a bit of pain in your lower half, runners will start talking to you about pronation
  • They will also chuckle (vocally or to themselves) at whatever shoes you’ve rustled out of the drawer for your one jog a month
  • Putting their PR’s in their social media bios/only ever posting about running
  • When some of those posts include melodramatic, “staccato” sentences (not unlike the way people write on LinkedIn these days) … For example, after a race that didn’t go their way: “I was ready. I wanted it today. I needed it. And I tried. I really fucking tried, you guys.” It’ll go on like that for a bit, before a final paragraph that concludes with a sudden moralization on why the sport needs to put more of an emphasis on mental health, which it definitely does, but … it was just a Turkey Trot, Jake
  • Loving donuts

Yeah, on top of all that other garbage, runners are obsessed with donuts. America may run on Dunkin’, but runners are endlessly fond of telling the world that they run for Dunkin’.

So what, you say. Why is this an issue?

To be fair, like most niche grievances, runners and donuts ultimately isn’t a real problem. It isn’t hurting anyone. Plus — other than the few folks giving those grandmas a hard time in lane one, runners are no scourge on society. Marathon days, after all, raise millions and inspire millions. The majority of track clubs are inclusive places for runners of all levels, and they often make good on volunteering in the very neighborhoods where they train.

Still, there’s just something a little off about the very-public love affair between runners and frosted wheels of dough. We can’t put our finger on it, exactly, but we have enough information to know that the link is unnecessary, played-out and annoying.


Fire “runners love donuts” into any content-generating engine — Google, Twitter, Reddit — and you will find years of content documenting the affair. Every year, runners are delighted that National Donut Day and National Running Day are celebrated in the same week (the first week of June); they write blogs about donuts, in which they calculate exactly how many donuts they’ve earned after a lengthy run; they buy things that talk about running and donuts — some of it’s Etsy crap (T-shirts that read “RUN LIKE THERE ARE DONUTS AT THE FINISH”), some of it’s merch from possibly the most respected running apparel brand out there right now, Tracksmith (T-Shirts with limited-edition donut prints that sell out like concert tickets).

There’s been a collab between Saucony and Dunkin’ Donuts, which is now for sale on StockX for a minimum of $250. There’s a Runner’s World profile on Tate Schienbein, an Indiana-based donut shop owner who credits the tumult of his small business with helping him place 20th at the Boston Marathon in 2018. There are popular runs, city to city, where locals plan routes around finishing at a donut shop. And then there is the medium that lacks any and all subtlety, the races where runners consume donuts while running, like the infamous Krispy Kreme Challenge, where over 300,000 donuts are eaten by thousands of competitors. In order to qualify as a finisher, you need to put down a dozen donuts and cover five miles in less than 60 minutes.

There are like-minded races emerging (Newton, Pennsylvania hosted its first annual last year), but Big Donut doesn’t even need the specificity of a donut run. Specialty-batch donuts have become a mainstay at finish lines across the country. It’s now a guarantee. Forget bananas and cups of yellow Gatorade. These days everyone’s looking for bacon-topped glazed.

Here’s the crux of the injustice: runners don’t get to claim donuts. Donuts are a universal good. No one has ever gotten mad at a donut. Look it up. They’re a nice surprise when you show up at work, an “Alright, let’s just do it,” if you’re on a road trip. Donuts make everything better. They do not have to be earned by finishing a long run, or a track workout, or race. Where does it leave the rest of the world (especially the cartoon cops, who had a firm grasp on the donut stereotype for decades) if runners are going to claim the snack/dessert/bomb of goodness entirely for themselves?

You shouldn’t have to do something spectacular with your body in order to enjoy a donut. Live and let guilty pleasure. Runners have a habit of talking about their “vices” in the terms of their greatest physical accomplishments. Okay, time for my beer. My pizza. My donut. But it’s all a bit tired.

After all, from the running perspective — who says you need a reward at the end of your run? What kind of habit-forming is that all about? Go ahead and eat whatever you want, of course, but treating running as a caloric video game is shallow. That’s not intended to be offensive; in fact, it’s actually a call for a more fulfilling running life. When running miles is boiled down to cravings, allowances and cheat meals, it’s harder to give yourself to the sport and discover its benefits, its secrets, its surprises. Trust me, I’ve had sugars highs and running highs. The latter is better.

Adopting a type of food as your identity is arguably one of the biggest turn-offs on a dating app (“I could marry chicken tenders” … great, you won’t be marrying me) and runners can do better. If they must do so, lean into waffles! There’s actual utility there. Honeyed waffles have become a dynamite pre-game option for serious runners looking to use glucose and sucrose as conversion tools instead of comfort foods.

It’s great that donut shops are selling lots of donuts to race operators. And if the promise of a donut is going to get someone into running, that’s fantastic too. But let’s take it easy on this uneasy marriage. Donuts are amazing, in their own way. So is running. Let’s do our best to enjoy them separately and responsibly. And whenever they do collide, at the very least, let’s not post about it on social media.

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