Indulgence, remembrance at Krispy Kreme Challenge
Posted February 4
The event, started in 2004 as a silly stunt by a group of friends at North Carolina State University, asks runners of all talent levels to make a 5-mile circuit from the Memorial Belltower, through historic downtown Raleigh to the Krispy Kreme located at the intersection of Peace and Person Streets, where they attempt to consume one dozen original glazed doughnuts. After the feast, runners trek the 2.5 miles back to the starting line.
Since its inception, the event has benefited the University of North Carolina Children's Hospital, but in 2017 at least two families ran the race in honor of their own.
Luke Johnston finished among the fastest in in his age group in 2006. Two years later, he was gone, and ever since, his three siblings have run in his memory. His mother, Susan Johnston, said sister Teagan missed the 2017 race while working at an internship in Indiana, but Johnston's two brothers "and many other friends as well" braved the chill early Saturday for their tradition.
An older group of friends gathered in that cold to mark a more recent loss. Jeff Woods, known to all as "Fafa," collapsed of a heart attack during last year's race. He was 58.
This year, 69 runners turned out to honor his memory.
"What I overheard is that it was a dare," said Brandon Brown. "And he loved the children's hospital thing – what a perfect thing to do."
Chris Mills supposed the Krispy Kreme Challenge was Woods' way to give back to others.
“It felt good," he said. "I’m not the most healthy guy, the in-shape guy, but we went out there this morning for his honor.”
The pair and dozens of others knew "Fafa" from the Aversboro Restaurant in Garner, where his bib from the 2016 race now hangs over the bar next to an urn with some of his ashes.
"We all kind of convened back here at the restaurant to meet each other and kind of just be with each other during that somber time,” Mills said.
"He was a fixture here. He was a great guy. He was a father and a grandfather. He loved his friends just like he loved his family."
Brown remembered Woods as "comical" and "bigger than life," someone who would spend Saturdays at the bar with his friends.
On this Saturday, those friends gathered again to remember him.