Feb 7, 2024 - Food and Drink

A Columbus runner's epic quest for free Chipotle

Animated illustration of a burrito with arms and legs running.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A Columbus runner who logged more than 400 miles in January to win free Chipotle does not prefer to run long distances.

  • And truth be told, he's not even a huge fan of the chain's burritos.

Yes, but: The "30-something" runner who goes by Fern tells Axios he was motivated to get off his couch and up his mileage to start 2024.

Catch up quick: The month-long contest involved traveling a 0.2-mile "segment" along Lane Avenue as many times as possible to win free food from Chipotle for a year.

The intrigue: Fern, who got back into running during the pandemic, heard of the challenge on Jan. 3 and went to OSU's campus that day to log his first miles.

  • He returned nearly every day last month ā€” sometimes multiple times ā€” running in the rain, the dark and freezing temperatures.
  • He dodged college students and delivery drivers while listening to podcasts to stave off boredom.

By the numbers: Fern was credited with completing 1,000 segments, or around 200 miles.

Between the lines: It actually took double that mileage to win though, as the straight-line segment could only be completed in one direction.

  • That meant running 0.2 miles, turning around to run back to the starting line, then going again. A thousand times.

What he's saying: "I had a very good time doing it, but I did not mind January eventually ending," Fern concedes.

  • He hopes future contests offer prizes to multiple competitors instead of the winner-take-all format.
  • "It promoted insanity. I guess I was the insane one above all others."

What's next: Fern wants to run his first official half marathon (13.1 miles) later this year and eventually a full marathon.

  • He plans to give most of the free meals to his girlfriend as a thank you for putting up with his month-long absence racking up miles.

That, or he's also considering a new (personal) challenge ā€” running to different Chipotle restaurants around Columbus to cash in his prize.

  • Whatever it takes, he says, to keep moving.
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