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Running on Full

This Saturday, 2002 NC State graduate David Spencer will join the hordes participating in the Krispy Kreme Challenge. He’ll be surrounded by extremists and thrill seekers, people eager to test whether their bodies can handle five cold miles and twelve sugary doughnuts.

Spencer will run to honor the people who saved his son’s life.

To see Spencer’s soccer-playing, karate-loving six-year-old today, you’d never guess the hardships of his first year. But in early 2007, Spencer’s five-week-old son Andrew was struggling. Breathing was labor, and the boy didn’t seem to be growing, Spencer said.

Doctors diagnosed Andrew with a heart murmur and a congenital cardiac defect. At six weeks old, he underwent open-heart surgery at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill. He spent most of spring 2007 recuperating at the hospital and breathed through a tracheal tube until his first birthday.

Not longer after that first birthday, Spencer learned about the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Founded by NC State students to benefit the North Carolina Children’s Hospital, the event struck him as the perfect way to give back to the doctors who saved Andrew and show some school spirit. It was also a good celebration Andrew’s Feb. 5 birthday.

“It all just kind of came together, and it seemed really fitting to do it,” Spencer said. “It’s also fun, too.”

David Spencer (left) with his 6-year-old son Andrew, who underwent open heart surgery at North Carolina Children's Hospital as a baby.

Andrew hasn’t been part of the four Challenges Spencer has run, but he may not be far away.

“He’s doing well,” Spencer said. “His heart is growing with him, and it’s growing strong.”

Bigger — and greener — than ever

This year’s Challenge is set to be the biggest one yet, according to Alyssa D’Addezio, co-head of the Challenge Public Relations Committee. It will also be the first one to earn certification as a green event from the NC State Sustainability Office. Students and volunteers compost or recycle all waste generated by the race. Last year, that amounted to more than 4,800 pounds of doughnuts and boxes, D’Addezio said.

“We want to make sure we’re being hospitable to NC State and the city of Raleigh,” said D’Addezio, a junior biology and English major from Concord. D’Addezio is one of 50 student organizers who run the Krispy Kreme Challenge.

The Challenge started in 2004 as a lark for a group of friends. Seeking something crazy to do on a Saturday morning, they sandwiched a dozen doughnuts between runs from the Memorial Belltower to the Krispy Kreme on Peace Street.

Since that first race, the Challenge has generated national media attention and become the North Carolina Children’s Hospital’s largest single-event, nonprofit fundraiser, D’Addezio said. This year, the race has drawn runners from 46 states and two foreign countries.

Organizers won’t know how much money they’ve raised this year until race day. Last year’s Challenge netted $127,000, and D’Addezio hopes this year will push the all-time total past $500,000.