Sweet by Design
Words by Aleta Looker
Photography by Molly Malone
On the day of my first high school cross country race I remember feeling excited, anxious, and pretty hungry because I didn't eat enough at lunch due to pre-race nerves. Minutes before we got on the bus, an older teammate suggested jogging to the doughnut shop close by. We went, and they dared me to eat a half-dozen by the time we got to the course. Not wanting to shy away from the challenge, and not knowing enough about running and 'side stitches' yet, I happily ate them all as fast as I could. It wasn't pretty, but I surprised myself with a great finish and realized that I could run fast, have fun, and eat doughnuts all at the same time.
Fast forward to college. Occasionally, on easy run days, I took myself on elaborate 'doughnut runs;' exploratory routes through DC with stops at specialty doughnut shops and mom and pop bakeries alike. Sometimes I planned these as a loop, sometimes as an out and back. Many times I had to take public transit back to campus because I ordered too many to carry. I almost always did these runs alone because my teammates were more concerned about weight, fitness, and many of the diet-based thoughts that are baked into competitive running and the culture of sport. With all of this pressure looming around me, these casual doughnut runs reminded me to not take things too seriously.
More recently, I've planned mini-midday runs from work to local Boston donut shops. I still try to do what makes me happy, especially with running, because positive feelings will aid my performance more than any difference in body shape can slow me down.
Like almost every excursion, these sugar-coated adventures ceased during the pandemic as many places closed. By summer 2020 my only quarantine achievement was making beautifully baked doughnuts virtually with my co-workers, and sticky fried donut-holes with my family. I've always loved baking, but I'm not skilled or trendy enough for sourdough. Baking homemade donuts made me happy, and trying to keep consistent mileage helped me stay sane.
On one hot day in July, I sat alone after a run at my self-assembled art desk. I battled my continuously cooped-up feelings by picking up an old hobby. I started to draw because I wanted something to make me happy. I needed to make my own happiness, so naturally, I made donuts. I illustrated two; an orange doughnut with white icing swirls, wearing a light blue surgical mask, and a pink rainbow-sprinkled doughnut wearing a red bandana. I tried not to render any of these doughnuts to be perfectly round because I like the 'imperfect' look, and I wanted something colorful and bright to feed my soul. That illustration caught the eye of our creative director and together we dreamed up a graphic celebrating the irreverent spirit of donuts and running. Because if you can’t enjoy donuts and running, you’re taking it too seriously.