Eating a low-fat, high fiber, plant-based diet is the key to staying fit, but the United States is filled with many delicious greasy, fatty meals that are nearly impossible for me to ignore. In order to justify tucking into decadent meals, I've decided to pair each one with a sports event that can help me run off a few calories. Below is a selection of the top ten (and often most unusual) most reasonably priced ‘grub minus the flub’ food and exercise pairings that I’ve found across the United States. Enjoy!
10. Rock-n-Roll Marathon Series - New Orleans, LA
Forget the overhyped New York or Boston Marathons. Race through the cobblestoned streets of New Orleans to burn off a belly, then bust a gut by re-carbing at Johnny’s Po-Boys. Try Johnny’s famous Oyster Po’ Boy Sandwich, an almost divine intervention of salted, breaded and fried oysters that have been stuffed between French bread fully dressed in mayo. Your body will surely forgive this fatty indulgence after running the grueling 13+ mile marathon.
9. Merrell Oyster Racing Series - Denver, CO
An oyster of another color, the Merrell Oyster Racing Series is comprised of three competitive races, each having a secret course over which fitness buffs run, mountain bike, paddle, and climb. The race was named after the Rocky Mountain Oyster, an unusual culinary delight consisting of the deep-fried family jewels of a bull. This is a meal that is sure to make many grown men grimace and which prompted the originators of the grueling Merrell series to nickname the races the “Rocky Mountain Ballbuster”. Although contestants don’t partake in “oysters” during the races, I’m guessing ten to one that some of the more adventurous foodies amongst them meet afterward at The Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant, where they can order rattlesnake, buffalo sausage, and yes, a plate of famed Rocky Mountain Oysters.
8. Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Eating Tours - New York, NY
Does speeding through New York in the back of a checker cab, stopping only to run inside of some of the city’s tastiest off-the-beaten-path restaurants and baked-goods establishments appeal to you? Then sign up for one of Famous Fat Dave’s eating tours. Warning: while many of Dave’s tours come highly recommended by food aficionados such as Anthony Bourdain, food tours such as the “Soul Food Boogie Down” (a culinary tornado of fried chicken, sweet bread, chicken and waffles, devilled eggs and Banana Nilla wafer pudding) is sure to pack on the pounds. If soul food doesn’t appeal, sign up for one of the many other following comically named packages: “The Chunky but Funky Monkey”; “The Junk in the Trunk”; and “The Fat Elvis” are just a few that might stick to the ribs. Have Dave drop you off after the tour in Central Park to burn off a few calories while spending the next couple of hours walking the tree-lined 6.1 mile loop. Who knows, you might just build up another appetite.
7. Tyranea Beer Runs - Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Registering in either the “1/2 barrel” (13.1-mile) or “1/6 barrel” (4.3-mile) races of the Tyranea Beer Runs means you won’t be spending time messing around with Gatorade. Starting off from the Tyranea Brewing Company, runners course out of town, along the scenic shores of Lake Mills and along the Glacial Drumlin Trail, a gravel trail popular with cyclists and runners. Because the finish line is also at the brewery, judges might not have the presence of mind to accurately record the winner, but one thing’s for certain: everyone who enters this race is a winner, straight through to the Motrin the morning after.
6. Beer Kickball - Atlanta, GA
Beer kickball rules mandate having a beer-in-hand at all times while playing the game. Played all across the United States in hipster enclaves such as Brooklyn and San Francisco, it is surprisingly Georgia Tech that takes the cake for having the best organized team, with a captain, uniforms, a website and even a motto: “Have fun, get wasted.” I imagine, being mostly college kids and aging hipsters, that it would only make sense to drink Pabst, and lots of it.
5. All-you-can-eat package at Talladega Speedway - Talladega, Atlanta
If organized sports aren’t your thing, you may want to trade in your beer cup for an $89.00 reserved Allison Grandstand ticket and all-you-can-eat voucher at the Talladega Speedway. A once-in-a-year event, watching this spectacular NASCAR race might not be the best cardiovascular workout, but it’s guaranteed to increase adrenaline, which will work off more calories than an evening out at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.
4. Palo Duro Hot Dog 15K and 3-Person Relay - Claude, TX
A charitable relay race just a short drive outside of Amarillo, the high elevation (2700-3400 feet) makes for a challenging course set between the north and south rims of the spectacular Palo Duro Canyon. In addition to race winners being awarded Texas-shaped wooden plaques, runners and fans alike stay long after the race for a hot dog and refreshments picnic. A 15K run has never sounded tastier.
3. The Famous Racing Sausages - Milwaukee, WI
Wisconsin cuisine is not for the weak of heart. This is the only state where I’ve seen cheese curds and schnitzel washed down by hefeweisen for breakfast. It only makes sense that before the bottom of every sixth inning at the Milwaukee Brewer’s home games at Miller Park, giant running sausages are cheered on by baseball fans. Huh? Known formally as Klement’s Racing Sausages, employees of the baseball field volunteer to thrown on over-sized foam sausage costumes that measure over seven feet tall. Sprinting around the diamond, Brat, Polish, Italian, Hot Dog and the recent addition, Chorizo, race for glory. Curling Miller Lites (the “low-fat” beer, of course) and bench-pressing enormous sauerkraut-laden brats, fans live vicariously through the healthy habits of the giant running sausages. Even if it doesn’t get your heart racing, a ticket in one of the nose-bleed seats and the subsequent walks up and down the stairs of the stadium will give your thighs a workout.
2. Nick Tahoe’s Garbage Plate Run - Rochester, NY
Rather than save the picnic for after the race, this run incorporates food into the event! Sponsored by The University of Rochester’s Sigma Phi Epsilon, the first in a three person team runs 2.2 miles through the lovely city to artery-clogging restaurant, Nick Tahoe, home of the infamous Garbage Plate, a vile, but oh-so-good, combination of various meats, fish, sausages, eggs, grilled cheese and hot sauce equaling about three pounds of lard. Once the first member of the team arrives, the second member devours a Garbage Plate as quickly as possible, and then the third member trots off to the finish line. Yes, the heart of one of the people in the relay will drown in fat (Health.com named the Garbage Plate the fattiest food in the Big Apple), but two out of three healthy people ain’t bad given that the current New York obesity percentage is just over 60%. We’d like to give the second member of the relay the number one for sacrifice, glory and benefiting the common good.
1. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest - Brooklyn, NY
Major League Eating hosts an array of eating contests, but none with quite as much moxie as Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The crème de la crème of competitive eating events, this is an ESPN televised event (overeating is now considered a real sport, people!) with over $41,000 in prize money thanks mostly to the main sponsor, Peptol Bismol, contestants from all over the world travel to Coney Island to compete. This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, ate a revolting 62 hotdogs in one sitting. How does he prepare? By cutting down on salt and running, which, he says, helps him to eat faster. He explains: “When you’re eating 20, 30, 40 hot dogs in very little time, it’s hard to breathe. That’s one reason big guys sometimes have trouble at competitive eating.”