Could you eat your height in Subway in a day?
Once upon a time, in the pre-social media era, I posed that question on a message board. A decade before The McWorkout was dreamed up by a stoned blogger, the very same stoned blogger was prone to pondering other healthy eating challenges.
It was 16th March 2004, a time when hair was spikier and loyalty cards were kinder. (Back then you could eat six foot-longs and get a sub for free; today you have to spend £100 to receive anything in return.) The younger-but-still-quite-similar-to-me me first broached the topic on the Aberdeen Music forum:
PrincessHolly, KarmaTsunami, sludge, The Dark Knight, Rach_69, New Found Power; before long, 20 of us had agreed to meet up and attempt the feat. One of those aspiring sub-munchers was a mate called Aaron – Aaron Gilman to those who knew him by the punk band he played in. “No doubt I could do it,” he averred.
The challenge was honed and a date proposed when we would gather to consume our respective heights. Then, as so often happens on the internet, the thread drifted and the plan floundered. Ordinarily, that would have been the end of the matter, but there was something about the Subway challenge that refused to die.
The Subway they couldn’t bury
Over the years, the thread was resurrected on numerous occasions, with users pondering what had become of the challenge and a couple even purporting to have tried it. In the absence of evidence however, the question lay unresolved.
People grew up, had kids and stopped spiking their hair. Some stopped having hair altogether. The message board that had spawned the debate was abandoned for more social methods of communication. The challenge may have lain unfulfilled however, but it was not forgotten.
One sub-loving punk had a dream, and he was not going to allow advancing years or increasing sandwich prices to deter him.
On June 2nd 2014, ten years and three months after the challenge was conceived, Aaron Gilman attempted to eat his height in Subway. By his side was the aforementioned blogger who’d first proposed the feat. This is what happened.
“I think I’ll stay away from the brown bread cos it’s more fibrous,” remarks Aaron.
The initial challenge had called for eating one’s height in sandwiches in a day: 12 hours, with breaks where appropriate. Aaron is determined to complete it as quickly as possible however – preferably in one sitting.
“I’ve been thinking about my eating strategy,” he begins on the eve of the challenge. “I’m gonna bring a towel – that’s the first thing all competitive eating websites tell you. Sweat, vomit and sauce slows you down.”
With 24 hours to go, he’s feeling confident. By the following morning however, he’s less certain.
11am: “I’m starting to have real doubts about this. I think I’ll manage 2½ ft.”
2½ ft is a respectable amount of Subway for anyone to eat in one go, but it’s nowhere near the 6ft that the challenge demands.
1pm: The Subway at Tesco Danestone shall be the setting for our eatathon. While Aaron gets started, I head to the electronics section to replace my George Foreman. Last week, I purchased a GF to aid with my month of healthy living (The Workout, which starts here on Monday). My GF couldn’t handle the loving however and promptly shut down.
1:20: I join Aaron to find him methodically chowing through the bread orgy that lies splayed upon the table alongside an order list.
As he devours sub number two, I head to the counter and request his next victim. The bemused Eastern European assistant fixes me a stare. “So he’s got to eat everything on the menu?”
“No, he’s got to eat his height,” I explain.
Between doughy mouthfuls, Aaron is sipping methodically from a bottle of water. He surveys the latest foot-long to land on the table.
“Think I’ll struggle with this one cos the veggy patty looks disgusting.”
His worst fears are soon confirmed. “This one’s harder. So dense, that shit – it’s like Styrofoam.”
1:35: We’re almost three feet in and Aaron’s starting to feel the strain. His chewing has slowed, while the frequency of his water breaks has increased.
1:55: Ron bows his head. He looks like a man defeated.
“How you feeling?”
He winces. “Pretty rugged.”
“I’m gonna have a smoke. And maybe take a shit.”
He surveys the crumb-strewn veggy patty wrapper on the table. “That thing was the worst though…I feel like I’ve got the flu.”
2:17: The running order, which Ron had assembled the night before, is now being hastily revised. “I’m gonna have another one but I’m not gonna go for tandoori. Gonna have ham or turkey breast or something more minimal.”
Aaron is not the only patron experiencing pain. As he eats, a steady stream of customers file in to request their usual healthy option – steak and cheese. To their dismay, there is no steak and cheese to be had. Ron ate the last one an hour ago to kickstart the challenge.
“I’ve literally never not had steak and cheese,” protests some Brig o’ Don maggot. Well you will today son – Ron’s scoffed the last one.
2:25: Sub number four is requested, with extra toasting to tame the dough.
Ron takes a bite and nods approvingly. “It’s alright.”
We’re back in business.
Everything appears to be going well; once this sub is down the hatch, there’ll be just two feet to go. The finish line is in sight.
Then, out of nowhere, tragedy strikes…
2:30: Without warning, Aaron opens his mouth and lets out a spewnami of cheese-coloured liquid. It washes over the table, drowning the remains of his sandwich, and splashes across the blogger who has been documenting the challenge. Ten years in the making and this is the thanks I get.
There is spew on my trousers, my arm and my laptop. There is spew everywhere.
I laugh it off while Ron wipes it off and then we beat a retreat. The Subway challenge is on ice.
On the drive home, Aaron is pensive. “At least it was about 90% liquid that came out which I was pretty surprised about.”
A day earlier, he had predicted: “I’m gonna stop if I’m sick.”
While my mate goes for a lie down, I remove my spewy clothes and take a shower. I ain’t mad: this is what frontline journalism is all about, taking risks to deliver complex stories that have been years in the making.
Ron and I have a history of debatable culinary choices, I’m starting to realise. Two years before the Subway challenge was born, I convinced Aaron to eat dog food for a punk fanzine I briefly ran. (Briefly, in this case, being one edition. Issue two never materialised after my computer died, taking Aaron’s feature with it.)
“HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? DOG FOOD, CHIPS & POTTED HEAD. THAT’S ALL WE’RE SAYING” ran the teaser for #2. The issue may never have materialised, but I later revisited the story in The Worst Meal Ever.
6pm: One sleep and change of clothes later and Ron is ready for round two.
We’ve agreed to finish off the challenge at home. This saves Aaron from revisiting the scene of the crime and avoids the prospect of a double spew in Subway. I’m unsure of Subway’s rules on banning patrons, but I suspect that chundering twice in six hours qualifies.
Ron may be ready to eat his demons, but I’ve still work to finish. By the time I reach Subway, it’s eight o’clock.
“Are these for your friend who was eating the sandwiches all day?” asks the Eastern European, before explaining in perplexed terms to her colleague what’s been happening. Thankfully she makes no mention of the tactical vomit – despite its volume and trajectory, Aaron’s food bukkake appears to have gone undetected.
8:40: “How are you feeling?”
“It feels like being hungover and having to take a drink,” replies Aaron taking a bite out of his ham, cheese & tomato.
His new lease of life has brought with it a new eating strategy. “That’s why I fucked up this afternoon – I drank four bottles of water.”
Mitigating the dryness of the bread without overcompensating is a delicate balancing act.
Aaron surveys the remainder of his sandwich pile, pulling apart the bread that binds the Subway Melt. “They’ve put spicy cheese on all of these.”
He tastes one of the processed slices. “Actually, it’s pretty good – better than their normal cheese.”
9pm: I glance over at Ron. “I’m good,” he nods reassuringly.
He’s gonna do this. And even if he doesn’t, I’m sat perpendicular and two metres away. I should be safe.
One toilet break later and Aaron is ready to finish what he’s started.
“I just had to free up some space,” he explains. “My poop’s really long but thin.”
For the final sub – Meatball Marinara – he’s decided to pull out all the stops, heating the sandwich and then attacking it with a knife and fork. It’s a seemly way to complete an unseemly challenge.
“Oh shit…I burnt it a little bit.”
Reheating sandwiches is srs bsns.
10:40: “Done….I don’t feel good….”
“…I feel fucking enormous.”
And at that, nine hours after it started (3½ of which were spent eating), Aaron is 5,000 calories up and the Subway challenge is complete.
Ten years in the making. Worth the wait?
Could you eat your height in Subway in a day?
Yeah, you probably could.
Yeah, if you must. Just don’t do it around me.