RALEIGH — Successful racers often have a strategy, and there were two competing techniques at Saturdays Krispy Kreme Challenge, where runners have to scarf down a dozen doughnuts halfway through a 5-mile jog.
There were the dainty doughnut-eaters, who consumed the confections one by one, in their natural, nearly lighter-than-air state. Lets call them Puffers, for taking advantage of the way a fresh, puffy ring of sugar-coated yeast bread melts on the tongue.
Their more aggressive counterparts might be called Pounders, for the way they mashed the delicate doughnuts flat and plowed through them in stacks of two or three at a time.
There were more Pounders than Puffers among the nearly 8,000 runners in the 9th annual race that benefits the UNC Childrens Hospital.
Its faster, said Brooke Ferguson, 31, a Pounder who had sugar shrapnel on her face and hands as she worked her way through a triple-decker pile. But its really dense. You have to chew more.
Speed counts. Runners have one hour to go from the Memorial Bell Tower on N.C. State Universitys campus to the Krispy Kreme shop at Peace and Person streets downtown, eat their dozen doughnuts, and get back. No one is required to eat doughnuts participants could get their box to go but only those who finished the box and the route in under 60 minutes were eligible for awards.
Winner of the race was Tim Ryan, 23, of Madison, Wisc., who is a regular at both road races and eating contests. He finished in 31 minutes, 31 seconds.
The race that started on a bet in 2004 has evolved into a major event thats copied in other places around the country. While runners come to the Raleigh race from across the state and beyond, many are NCSU students who add the Krispy Kreme Challenge to the list of things they want to do before graduation, like camping out for tickets or sneaking into a sold-out ball game.
Its just a good time to goof off, said Daniel Buchenberger, 21, an NCSU biology major who ran with friends and siblings. Several were dressed as characters from The Flintstones cartoon; Buchenberger was Fred.
Ben Eidum was dressed as Bam-Bam or, nearly undressed, in his cave-baby costume, despite the mid-30s temperatures of the morning start time.
In the crowd were gnomes, fairies, ballerinas, princesses, Darth Vader, a pair of chipmunks and several bananas.
Steve Sheets and Devon Barnes were part of a group of four who came up from Augusta, Ga., as Wizard of Oz characters. As The Cowardly Lion, at least Sheets was warm.
As runnerrs, walkers and stroller-pushers arrived at Krispy Kreme, each was offered a box of doughnuts. Participants moved to nearby sidewalks and parking lots to dig in.
The first one was delicious, said Zach Shapiro, who ran with his fiancee, Susan Bowman. The second was not so delicious. The third, fourth and fifth were kind of terrible and the sixth was painful.
Now I just have to try to make it back without vomiting.
Half a dozen was as far as he got, which he thought was pretty good for his first Challenge.
Bowman, running it for the third year, did her personal best: nine doughnuts.
I add two more each year, she said.
Wallace Williams took a circuitous route to the Krispy Kreme Saturday morning. Visiting in town from Wilson, he had to circle through Historic Oakwood to get to the shop by car, because the main streets were closed for the race. He persevered, as determined as any of the race contenders.
He took the easy route.
He bought his dozen..