Black Friday Mighty Mile, Buffalo, NY

A lot of people like to head out early and hit the sales on Black Friday. Not me! I decided to head to Buffalo for a little something different this year. For the 4th year now, adventurous runners have taken their love of the sport and combined it with their love of tacos. The rules of this race are simple: “4 tacos, 4 laps, and lots of competition”.

Notice I said simple, not easy. Basically, you eat a taco, run a 1/4 mile, eat a taco, run another 1/4 mile and repeat. Oh, and if you throw up (sorry, gross I know), you have to run another “punishment” lap. This race is not meant for weak stomached souls, that’s for sure.

I was intrigued by this race after seeing photos and an article from last year’s run. I first learned about it when I saw it on the Buffalo Runners race calendar and forum.

“I’m Here for the Pageantry”

I also like the humor (some unintentional) involved with this race. One participant asked (on the Mighty Mile FB page) if vegetarian tacos were legit for the race. Yes, people take this Mighty Mile seriously!

Another comment: “I’m doing this for the Bills. If we all suffer through 4 tacos and a mile run, then the karma Gods will grant us a playoff spot.” You’ll find lots of other funny comments, race odds and commentary on their wall and even “Great Moments In Mighty Mile History”.

Race director explaining the rules and route

Now, I had no intention of running this race myself. I have run my share of races after having eaten bad/junk food the day before. It is not fun. Some people are obviously willing to take this risk or are just more willing to endure the consequences (clearly).

The race started at 12:30 at Chestnut Ridge Park. Runners stop at Mighty Taco and pick up their 4-pack of tacos before the race. There are bibs to wear, but it is definitely an unofficial “event”.

On your mark, get set, get Mighty!

When I got there, runners were setting out their tacos. One guy was dressed as a taco, another in a banana costume. A few had run the race before, others  heard about it at the turkey trot in Buffalo.

People milled around until Michael Selig, the Race Director and founder, had everyone gather in the lodge to start. He explained the rules and the route. He also told us, the spectators, to make sure to stay out of the way. Point well taken. I had no intention of getting in between a runner and their taco. I knew these runners meant business.

Runners started off by going to their tables and eating their first taco as fast as they could. They then ran outside and up the path, around the parking lot, back down the path and into the building to consume taco number two. There were designated “Mouth Checkers” that made sure each runner finished their food. Back and forth they went.

It was funny to watch, although I’m sure not a funny feeling to be running with that food sloshing around. No one got sick this time, although I did see a few runners looking a bit peaked.

The winner was  Joseph Whalen with a time of 8:07. Pretty impressive!! My fastest time ever (many years/pounds ago) was an 8 min mile, and that was without eating 4 tacos in between.  Last year’s winner, Dan Smaczniak, ran it (in 2011) in 8:38. He placed in the top ten this year, so he should still be proud. After the race, the top ten finishers were given the coveted Mighty Mile tshirt, which I am sure they will wear with pride! I know I would.

I talked briefly to the race director about the race. I asked if the Mighty Taco chain knew about the event, and he said yes. The race seems to have mostly grown and spread due to word of mouth. I think everyone (all volunteers) did a nice job of coordinating the whole event. I have been a race director for a Run At Work event, so I know all the details that go into planning a race. Kudos to the whole team for making a fun, lighthearted yet competitive event that is challenging for participants and fun for spectators.

I know there are other food related eat-and-run races such as the Krispy Kreme Challenge, where you have to eat a dozen (!) doughnuts and finish a run in under an hour. That race has a charity aspect to it, so some good does come of the gluttony. I see no reason why this race cannot also bask in the spotlight. For that reason (and because I like a challenge),  I wanted to see if I could get some national press for them. I didn’t know anyone involved with the race, but went ahead and pitched the story anyway. It helps that my day job is in writing and public relations.

Female winner!

The race ended up being mentioned and linked to in an article called “Escape Turkey Turmoil with These Thanksgiving Vacations” on NBC Today.  I feel good that I did my little part to spread the word. I was also glad to see local press there (newspaper). That article (from The Buffalo News) can be found HERE. Word is definitely getting out. It would be easy to get the Buffalo TV stations to show up – maybe next year…

I do think this race will continue to grow if they want it to.  It’s offbeat, based on a very well-loved, upstate, NY taco chain and is just a goofy thing to do instead of shopping after turkey day. I can also understand wanting it keep it smaller and more contained as well. Last year, they had 39 participants and only one (brave) female runner. This year, 43 finished. I think 3 women ran it, so it definitely seems to appeal to men more. Race results can be found HERE.

Race director and last year’s winner

My advice if you are thinking of running this race next Black Friday? Well, I heard one runner say that next year he will make sure the tacos are cool, not hot. That would seem to make sense- more palatable as you run (hopefully). And, just remember – as the writer of the NBC article said – “You may feel a bit queasy, but at least there are no dishes to do at the end of the race!”

He wrote “I’m Here For The Tacos” on his chest

PROS: Something different to do on Black Friday. Plus, the race starts late enough that you can still hit the sales early in the morning and attend (as a spectator or participant). No entry fees! Your only cost – 4 tacos.
CONS: Well, this probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you don’t like tacos or have a sensitive stomach, this is not the race for you.

I’ll leave you with some food for thought. 4 Mighty Tacos- less than 10 bucks. Eating 4 Mighty Tacos and running the Mighty Mile? Priceless.

PS Scroll down to see more photos. Video of the race taken by a runner’s “taco cam” is here.

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