A cyclist and runner, Christopher Huggins wanted to stay in shape when he moved to Durham.
In 2010, a friend suggested he try the Doughman, an unconventional triathlon that celebrates the city's eclectic cuisine.
“I had a blast,” Huggins said. “It was the first time I felt connected to the fun, wacky side of Durham.”
Since then he's returned nearly every year to exercise the muscles in his body, including his jaw.
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More than 100 foodies have signed up so far to dress up and run, swim, bike and nosh in between laps at the 10th annual Doughman on Saturday, May 5.
Each year the participants gather on Ninth Street near downtown Durham, the race’s makeshift dining hall. The teams, made up of four members, will get a taste of eight local eateries while completing the race. The first batch of runners will devour a meal and then run a three-mile lap through downtown and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
After returning, the runners pass the baton, a big wooden spoon. Crowds gather to watch the participants dressed as Disney princesses and superheroes in tight bodysuits.
“We’re not there to be a competitive,” Huggins said. “We’re there to be a wacky, fun community event. Everyone is welcome to watch and cheer.”
For the second leg, the next team member grabs the spoon, and wolfs another feast before a 2-mile bike ride.
This year cyclists will only need a helmet to join in. LimeBike, one of the three bike-sharing programs in Durham, will provide bicycles at no cost.
The eat-exercise pattern continues for the next two legs: a 2-mile run and a “swim,” actually spinning around in a wading pool, Huggins said.
For dessert, the entire team runs around downtown to get samples from four different shops.
Mayor Steve Schewel will run this year for the first time.
“It’s one of those things that could only happen in Durham,” he said. “There are a lot of events for good causes, but in this one you also do while having a lot of fun.”
The “dough” raised from registration fees — $150,000 in the past 10 years — goes to local nonprofits. This year, the money will go to the Durham Bike Co-op, a volunteer-based free bicycle repair shop.
Emily Egge, the only one of the founders of the race who still lives in Durham, said the Doughman started at Dain’s Place, when the founders asked the pub owner if he’d donate food for their charitable idea. He didn’t hesitate.
"Most restaurants owners here are risk takers,” Egge said.
The local eateries bringing food to the table Saturday are Viceroy, a fusion of Indian and English cuisine; Grubb, a Southern food restaurant; Melina’s Fresh Pasta Shop; and Dain’s Place. The rest are dessert shops Locopops, Cupcake Bar, Monuts and Cocoa Cinnamon.
“We try to showcase the breadth and depth of Durham through different geographies and cuisines — from that place that you go to once a year for date night to the place you go to once a week to watch the game,” Egge said.
The Doughman has taken place every year since 2007, except in 2013, when there weren’t enough volunteers to organize it.
“Next year’s race depends on the turnout this year,” Egge said “Durham has changed quite a lot since we started this crazy thing. There are so many things getting people’s attention on weekends now.”
And to answer an obvious question:
"We've never had to disqualify anyone for throwing up," Egge said.
Registration for the DoughmanX is $150 per team. For more information and to sign up go to www.doughman.org/