Everybody knows that “we all scream for ice cream,” but how are we supposed to react to donuts? Students from the Sport Management program answered that question by getting hasty for pastry.
The Donut Dash put that mantra into practice with a twist on the usual race format. About midway between the start and finish lines, runners could stop to replenish the calories they were burning by eating up to 15 mini donuts.
More than 150 competitors accepted the challenge by running and eating their way across the trail system at Shaw Cherry Hill Farm in Gorham on Sunday, April 24. Preparations began months earlier as a real-world lesson in event planning under the tutelage of Associate Professor Heidi Parker and Assistant Professor Emily Newell.
“To see it actually come together and see your hard work pay off, it shows a real testament to our work that we had to put into this class,” said James Doucette, a senior majoring in Sport Management.
Doucette’s role was to generate interest through social media promotions. He was one of ten students who handled every aspect of the event. Other students, for example, mapped the race route, designed signs, rented staging equipment, registered runners, and secured sponsorships. Out of all the business partners they lined up, The Eighty8 Donut Café had top billing for supplying the Donut Dash’s signature sweets.
“The amount of growth you see in the student throughout this course doing this experiential project is tremendous,” said Parker. “It’s unlike any other class we see.”
Class time alone wasn’t enough to get all the work done. Every week, students spent another five to 10 hours of their own time on some aspect of the project.
“I definitely have learned a lot of organization management just from having to figure out my schedule and work through everything and get my work done, not only for this class, but also my other classes,” said senior Sport Management major Lauren Gasaway.
Keeping the Donut Dash website updated was Gasaway’s main responsibility for most of the semester. When race day arrived, she stepped out from behind her computer screen and onto the front lines of the event. She handed out numbered bibs to runners at the check-in desk, barked announcements over the public address system, and draped medals around the necks of every finisher.
There was still plenty of work left over for Gasaway’s classmates. Some of them pointed runners in the right direction at a split in the path. Others manned the donut table to make sure each runner got their box. Anyone who needed help could identify the staff by their matching powder blue shirts.
The weather was one factor outside the students’ control. They lucked into a sunny, though brisk, day. With the temperature in the low 40s, runners stamped their feet and rubbed their hands to keep warm as they waited for the race to begin.
A short time later, Mike Anderson was panting to cool off after tearing around the five-mile course. He was one of the first few runners to cross the finish line even after pausing several minutes to gorge on donuts.
“I showed up hungry, didn’t eat much this morning,” Anderson said. “I was full about seven or eight donuts in and finished them off. Just tried to use that energy to burn through the rest of the race.
Within the framework created by the students, each runner customized the experience to their own preferences. Some ran full tilt while others slowed their pace to enjoy the scenery. Some ate the full box of donuts, others ate a few, and the most determined runners simply grabbed the unopened box without ever breaking their stride.
One of the more serious-minded runners was 9-year-old Jonah Magnuson. He’s especially fond of triple-berry donuts while his 11-year-old brother, Jacob, prefers chocolate. Jonah resisted the temptation to even sample a donut until he completed the full 1.5 miles of the Mini Monster Dash, open to kids ages 6 to 12. Staffers were so impressed by Jonah’s speed that, for the rest of the day, they could be overheard talking in awed tones about “that kid.”
Runners also had the option to share the glory as part of a team. Being around friends brought out the silly side in many of them as evidenced by team names like Thick and Kinda Quick, Homer Simpson Heroes, and Donut Worry, Be Happy. Adding to the fun were team uniforms that included tutus and giant inflatable donuts worn like backpacks.
Entry fees for the various levels of competition ranged from $15 to $40. The money goes back into the Sport Management program to support internships, scholarships, and professional development.
“For only having ten of us and having to put this whole event, from start to finish, together, I’m just proud,” said Gasaway. “Just good feelings, good vibes all around.”
Gasaway wasn’t satisfied to keep that sense of pride to herself. She shared it with every runner by applauding and cheering for them as they crossed the finish line.