Nathan’s Contest Inspires an Imitator


By Justin Swanson, Special to the Independent


Newport Beach’s Colin Mulligan prepares to try his own version of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. His finish left him without bragging rights. Photo by Justin Swanson

Something about New York’s annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest enticed Newport Beach resident Colin Mulligan, who watched the annual rite on television last week.

Joey Chestnut of Valencia, Calif., dominated the New York competition, eating a stomach-crushing 68 hot dogs, 16 more than his nearest competitor.

Many were astounded by the binge, though Mulligan considered the feat feasible going so far as to claim he could eat, “I don’t know – 30?”  His Pacifcon Realty co-workers in Laguna Beach challenged him to live up to his boast.

Mulligan spent a few days in preparation for the grueling challenge by doing reverse crunches: standing with his hands over his head and leaning far back, sticking his stomach out, attempting to stretch it out as much as possible.

Last Friday, 30 hot dogs were grilled and some of the staff gathered on the patio to watch either Mulligan’s heroism or folly.

Time was set and Mulligan became quiet, focusing on his breathing as well as the mind-stomach relationship he was determined to conquer.

I ask Mulligan if he generally eats a lot, to which he responds, “I don’t look like it.”

From the start, it is clear he has a strategic method for consuming both dog and bun, quickly disposing of the dog first in about four to five segmented chewing portions, then focusing on the bun which he dips in water, if for no other reason than because that is what they do on TV.

For about six minutes, Mulligan is on pace at a dog a minute, though he concedes, “These buns – they’re a different animal.”

As he roughs it through the large pile of dogs in front of him, fellow employees nibble one or two at a leisurely pace while filming and photographing Mulligan from their phones. From inside plays Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” followed by Weird Al Yankovic’s “Eat It,” an inspired choice of musical accompaniment.

Around the same time co-workers were calculating Mulligan’s intended calorie intake at 7,200, his partially digested conquest began to slip away. Mulligan was visibly faltering.  He got up to walk it off and continue to eat, but he was off his initial trajectory. Ultimately he gave in, calling off the gorge-fest at 19 minutes with just 11 hot dogs consumed.

It takes some time for Mulligan to recover, bordering on the verge of vomiting.  He describes the unsettled feeling he has. “Every sip of water was like a springboard in my stomach.”

At the end of the day, Mulligan learned a lesson that seemed obvious from the start. “How someone could ever put down 68…that’s disgusting.”

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