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Strava’s Chipotle Burrito Challenge Ends With Insanity

I’ve been hard at work on a whole slate of new things popping up over the rather near term. Until then, we have burritos. A lot of them.

That’s because 6 questionably lucky individuals have won themselves a year’s supply of Chipotle burritos, or burrito bowls if they really prefer (pretty sure this group doesn’t prefer bowls). As promised early last month when I first surveyed the initial carnage in the Colorado segment competition, I would return back to the scene of stupidity once complete.

As a quick catchup, Strava and Chipotle created a Strava Segment challenge for the month of January in 6 cities, on one particular roughly 300-meter-long segment next to a specific Chipotle in each of those cities. The person who completed that segment the most times would win. Simple as that. Unlike normal segment challenges, the fastest time is not the winner here. Instead, just the person dumb enough to run this section of questionable pavement the most, known in Strava lingo as the ‘Local Legend’.

As noted, there were six specific segments up for grabs here:

Chipotle LA Segment: 0.3km / Flat
Chipotle NYC Segment: 0.3km / 3% grade
Chipotle DC Segment: 0.28km / -2% grade
Chipotle Chicago Segment: 0.33km / Flat
Chipotle Columbus Segment: 0.32km / 2% grade
Chipotle Denver Segment: 0.32km / Flat

When I left off at the beginning of the month, really only Denver and New York City were showing any meaningful interest in the challenge. Washington DC had kinda woken up, but Ohio looked like a sleeper. In the case of Denver, it appeared as though a bunch of collegiate runners were having a go at more beans in 2024 than their roommates would prefer.

My guesstimate by the end of it, was that we’d probably see in the 600-700 segments range. I knew that getting a strong start to discourage others would be key to winning this. Essentially the equivalent of sprinting past someone in a race, even if you’re dying, to discourage them from even trying to mount a comeback. In many ways, that’s what played out. The leaders back then largely remained the leaders to the end, and while there were a few attempts mounted, most fizzled.

The Winners:

So, let’s take a look at the winners by city. First up, we’ve got the overall highest segment winner, which turned out to be the Washington DC segment. That amazed me, not because DC folks are slackers, but because this particular Strava Segment was absolutely miserable. It had multiple street crossings (big busy downtown streets), which means you had to cross them not only in the direction of the segment, but also getting back to reset each attempt. There were so many better options/stores for Strava/Chipotle, and this was not a good one.

In any case, Joshua Bauer delivered with a mind-boggling 1,345 attempts, which means he did roughly 44 segments/attempts per day (on average):

However, 2nd place wasn’t far behind, with Blake Reinke doing 1,292 attempts, but falling just slightly short. Then 3rd place was a respectable 851, and 4th place was 218 (Thomas of 4th place was actually one of the first leaders of this segment way back when). It sounds like those four guys got to know each other, looking at the comments and camaraderie in their postings, nicknamed ‘Chipotle Track Club’.

The next most popular segment was Columbus, Ohio – a solid turnaround from the slow start. Domination occurred here with A. (Fern) Haynes, clocking up exactly 1,000 repeats. The next nearest competitor retired with 376 attempts.

Also, while the screenshot of this final activity shows the Strava Android app (perhaps as a backup?), it looks like most of his attempts were with a COROS Pace 2. More on that in a second. Further, he noted in a post two days ago that he’s….umm…never been to Chipotle. Here’s to hoping you like it!

Next up there’s Denver, Colorado, where Sam Werner held on to take home the win with 1,041 repeats. His next nearest competitor was Mark Maguire with 898 attempts, both of whom had been in it since the beginning.

The descriptive updates on both their daily posts, as well as the Ohio winner’s posts were very solid.

Next, we’ve got NYC. Cody Clark was there from Day 1, before anyone else even realized what happened, and dominated the competition on this also horrendously selected segment. While the DC segment is bad, this one is also not awesome. It’s basically running down a sidewalk in Manhattan, undoubtedly packed with all sorts of things to dodge.

Nonetheless, Cody ended with 832 repeats, with 2nd place sitting comfortably behind at 618 attempts. Nobody else in NYC tried more than 44 attempts, all deciding it was not worth the effort. Here’s Cody’s final effort:

It should be noted from looking at Cody’s Strava, he doesn’t appear to live anywhere near this, and commutes quite a ways (running) to get there each time. And then also appears to run a ton more beyond this. Looks like this was a very comfortable win for him.

Next, there’s Chicago, with Andrew Reddin delivering the win with 613 repeats. 2nd place was Peter Coffey at 440 segments, and 3rd at 140 segments. Beyond that, most people didn’t try.

Notably impressive is that Andrew took the win, despite him going on a trip and logging some miles last week in Mexico.

Finally, we’ve got the LA segment, clearly the least interested group of people in free burritos [Update: See update below…it’s clutch!]. This leaderboard is…umm…weird. It’s showing 5 people at the top with exactly 369 attempts, and then a few stragglers below that. However, after spending too much time on this, the self-declared winner is Shawnt Bazikian.

And given all of the other people who had 369 attempts have seemingly congratulated him in the comments section, I’m gonna guess he’s the real winner. But, if that changes I’ll obviously update here.

I appreciate Shawnt’s daily creative descriptions, including: “Chicken Crusade”, “Rice Race”, “Queso Conundrum”, “Beanchella”, and more.

LA Update:

[I’ve added this update about 7 hours later, after receiving more detailed information on what went down, which is effing hilarious.]

Well, well, well… looks like LA outsmarted everyone. Remember about three lines ago where I was expressing confusion and doubt at the leaderboard showing 5 people all with 369 attempts? Turns out I got clarity from the winners themselves on exactly what happened here, and it’s beautiful.

You see, after the competition started heating up, these individuals – some part of the same gym, and others not, started talking to each other about a possible plan. The current leader used Strava’s new private DM functionality to reach out to some of the other serious competitors (including one who was about to give up, given upcoming travel), and asked if they wanted to work together:

This is partly detailed in a TikTok posted by one of the winners and corroborated via DM’s to me from other winners.

They had discovered a loophole, and were keen to take advantage of it. Turns out the rules stated that in the event of a tie, everyone would win:

But, not content with the posted rules, this G5 (like the Group of Five, except focused on burritos instead of economies), actually had the avocado balls to e-mail Chipotle, reaching their public relations department to confirm this rule. I’ve seen a copy of the e-mail, and the PR person responded back with:

“Thanks for reaching out. In the event that two or more entrants are tied, the tied winners will both be awarded the full prize.”

Thus, a plan was hatched. They’d simply all achieve and stay at 369 repeats. That plan included five members: Aubrey Robinson, Zooming Guy 2, Adam Neulander, Shawnt Bazikian, and Kevin Russ. This ‘achieve and level-off’ strategy explains why I couldn’t quite find recent runs from all of these folks on the segment, as they had occurred more sparingly earlier.

As Aubrey described it, it was the realization of “work smarter, not harder”. And indeed, they did exactly that.

This above when everyone else that seemingly tied was congratulating Shawnt’s final January Strava post, they were actually celebrating the accomplishment of the entire group – and a year’s worth of burritos.

Well played LA, well played.

The Watches:

Oh, and bringing this back around to sports tech, I glanced quickly at the most common device each person used to upload their runs, and they were:

Chicago winner: Garmin Instinct (original)
Columbus winner: COROS Pace 2
Denver winner: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
LA winners: Strava iPhone App, Garmin Forerunner 265S, two with Garmin Forerunner 245 Music’s, and Garmin Fenix 7
NYC winner:
 Apple Watch Ultra (original)
Washington DC winner: Apple Watch Series 4

And thus, concludes everything you never really wanted to know about this. I’d love to see this return next year, ideally to different cities, and perhaps internationally as well (there is a Chipotle in Paris and London, for example). I think the segment length at roughly 300m for most of them, was perfect, though, maybe a bit cleaner segments for some of them in terms of road furniture to run around.

Still, this was great and plenty fun to watch from the sidelines. I’m just glad I didn’t live in a city that would have tempted me to enter this.

Thanks for reading!

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23 Comments

  1. Steve Smith

    It is a cool challenge and it did what it was supposed to, generated “advertisement” for Chipotle and Strava. Sounds like a win/win since no one was hurt in the process.

  2. Kyle

    LA having the lowest winning number tracks with the fact that there are roughly 10,000 better Mexican food options in Southern California than Chipotle. 😉

  3. Steve S

    Clearly it was for bragging rights, as the winner gets one burrito PER WEEK. That’s it.

    The winners of each Segment Challenge will receive “Lifestyle Bowls for a Year” (as defined below). Each “Lifestyle Bowls for a Year” prize consists of Chipotle Rewards credits good for one (1) free regular entrée per week for a year, or a total of up to fifty-two (52) regular entrée items. The approximate retail value (“ARV”) of the Lifestyle Bowls for a Year Prize is Five Hundred and Seventeen Dollars and Forty Cents ($517.40).

    • Adam Neulander

      Nah bro I did it for the burritos, would’ve done all that mileage anyways so figured I might as well. Helped out I live less than 3 miles from the segment too

  4. TheStansMonster

    The majority of people (3rd place and beyond) expressing sheer disinterest with less than 1/10th of the other cities’ attempts is the most New York thing ever.

  5. JD

    Can someone do the math to check how many calories they burned in the process and how many they are offered by the brand?

    • Andrew

      Super rough, but:

      Sam Werner averaged about 47 calories per repeat on his last upload (with 9 repeats and including the calories he burned running back to the start). Extrapolating, that’s about 49,000 Calories for all 1041 repeats that he did.

      A Chipotle burrito is about 1000 calories (at least how I would spec it), so it’s basically a wash.

  6. ML

    Thank you so much for writing this up. A friend of a friend was one of the winners, and I’ve been following his progress with slightly horrified fascination.

  7. Paul Weller

    Wholly Poop that DC one is right around the corner from me…. Not that I have teh ability to hit it 44 times a day for 30 days lol

  8. Did anyone honestly think it wouldn’t end in insanity?

  9. ReHMn

    Do not believe everything you see…. The pace tells a lot about the “athletes”. All attempts < 3:00 mimutes/km are fake. You've run a 330m segment with a pace of 1:45/km in LA?, That is 105sec on 1000m, or 10,5sec on 100m three times on a street… Sure. And Usain Bolt paid you to let him win in all championships…
    Strava showed his meaningfulness again…

    • myhandle

      I haven’t looked in detail but my first thought was it would be easy to fake the runs

    • Ben

      Ray, can these crazy fast times be explained by an innocent GPS hiccup which would have a big effect on such a short segment? Otherwise, if they’re going to be clever and exploit a loophole in the fine print, they can’t be too upset if Chipotle takes a magnifying glass to their efforts!

    • Rui Pereira

      Yes GPS can be wonky especially if you keep going up and down the segment in a busy area.

      Occam’s Razor: people used a bike and marked it as “running”

    • Yeah, there’s no “faking” or “cheating” going on here. This is simply random people swinging by that segment on the path via bike, with the device set to running (for any number of reasons).

      But none of that matters here, because again, this is about *the quantity* of segments, not the top leaderboard (fastest) segment. As such, had anyone gone up/down a stretch some 1,000 times, people would have noticed, and it’d have been silly easy to spot in the public activities.

    • Ben

      Good to know, I’d assumed ReHMn was talking about the times for the guys who won, not some randos passing by. Somewhat restores my faith in humanity, although as we’ve seen with Zwift racing, never underestimate people’s willingness to cheat!

  10. Rob b

    Well I’d never heard of them, Turns out there are 10 in the UK, sadly all down the smoke

  11. Patrick

    I’m surprised that there were worse segments than the Chicago one. It was definitely sidewalk and busy street with low visibility intersections. Cars and people all over. A brutal cold snap couldn’t have helped.

  12. Steve

    Ok so Strava has become a place where companies can advertise? And I am even paying for it?
    I’m out!

    • Nah, you’re not out.

      Strava has done challenges with companies for well over a decade. You somehow only just noticed now?

    • Andres Corazon.

      Why leave now? It’s about time we got something for the challenges instead of a BS digital finisher badge that amounts to absolutely nothing. I’d love to see more companies do this. It creates a fun competition, creates buzz around the brand, and gets people rooting for something positive instead of hating on everything and everyone.

    • Rui Pereira

      Strava is free, you have always been the product.