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Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

11 Unusual Footraces

Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Regular 5K not of interest to you? Considering participating in one of these offbeat races, which go the extra mile to stand out.

1. KRISPY KREME CHALLENGE

The Krispy Kreme Challenge is an annual race in Raleigh, North Carolina that has become a tradition for students at North Carolina State University. The challenge is to run 2.5 miles from the campus to a Krispy Kreme outlet, eat a dozen doughnuts, and then make it back to the starting point. It began as a dare among students in 2004, and by 2006 it was an organized race that raised $800 for the North Carolina Children's Hospital. Last year, more than 8000 runners participated and raised $195,000, bringing the total the hospital has received from the race over the years to $1,149,000. The 2017 Krispy Kreme Challenge will take place February 4.

2. RED DRESS RUN

The Hash House Harriers is an international network of non-competitive runners dating back to 1938 whose motto is "A drinking club with a running problem." The Red Dress run originated years ago with the San Diego chapter. In 1987, a young woman named Donna Rhinehart went to a Hash event to meet a friend wearing a red dress and heels. The group assumed she couldn't run because of the way she was dressed, and she took that as a challenge, completing the run in her dress and heels. The next year, she was invited back, and the entire club staged the first Red Dress Run. Hundreds of runners turned out in red frocks. Since then, the Red Dress Run is an annual event to raise funds for various charities. It has spread to many Hash House Harriers groups worldwide, with about 100 annual events being held in different cities. The next two Red Dress runs in 2017 will be in Seattle on February 11 and Moline, Illinois, on February 18. You can keep up with the schedule of runs here.

3. BEER MILE

The rules for a Beer Mile is that you drink a beer, then run a lap around a track, then drink a beer, then run another lap, until you've completed four laps and four beers. A British variation is called the Chunder Mile, in which pints are drunk (and throwing up is allowed). The National Beer Mile series has events across the U.S., but they haven't posted a 2017 schedule yet. If the schedule is like last year's, they will begin in March.

4. THE WHOLE EARTH MAN V HORSE MARATHON

The Man v Horse Marathon has been an annual event in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales since 1980. A few horses and riders compete against runners on foot for 22 miles over rough terrain. Only twice in those years has a human ever beaten the horses (2004 and 2007). The winner among the runners gets a trophy, but prize money only goes to a runner who crosses the finish line before any horse. The pot starts at £500, and another £500 is added each year until a runner wins it. The race for 2017, which happens on June 10, will have a cash prize of £2000 up for grabs.

5. STILETTO RUN (NETHERLANDS)

The Stiletto Run in Haarlem, Netherlands, is a 100-meter race in which runners are required to wear shoes with heels at least 3.5 inches tall. What makes this race a real draw for spectators is that it's not just women who race—many men participate as well. It's a fundraiser for the Free a Girl campaign, which helps girls in Asia, Brazil, and the Netherlands escape forced prostitution. The 2017 run will take place on June 11.

6. STILETTO RUN (U.S.)

Sean-Franc Strang via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The half-kilometer Stiletto Run is an annual event in Buffalo, New York, to benefit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Runners aren't required to wear high heels, but to win first, second, or third place, you must be wearing heels at least 3 inches high. The date isn't yet set for the 2017 race, but it should be in summertime.

7. SHAMROCK 5K BEER RUN

The Shamrock 5K Beer Run will take place on Saturday, March 11, 2017 in Indianapolis, and Saturday, March 18, in Chicago. Runners start with a 3-ounce beer, with 3 ounces more at four beer stations along the way, plus a pint at the finish line (for a grand total of 31 ounces of brew). The event isn't timed, and prizes are awarded for the best costumes—not the fastest runners.

8. PANCAKE RACE

Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, is often called Pancake Day, a day to use up fats and sweets to prepare for fasting. Many communities hold pancake breakfasts, and some even stage pancake races. According to the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire, UK, they've held their Pancake Race every Shrove Tuesday for over 500 years. The race is open to Olney women over 18, who must run wearing an apron and headscarf, carrying a frying pan with a pancake in it. Runners must flip their pancakes before and after running the course. The runners in Olney compete with runners in the Liberal, Kansas, Pancake Race, as they have since 1950. This year's race will be held on February 28.

9. NYC PIZZA RUN

The two-mile-long New York City Pizza Run will hold its eighth annual race in September. The run—which has three stops where runners eat a slice of pizza—benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). For those who prefer sweets, the annual NYC Cupcake Run follows in October.

10. KONA UNDERPANTS RUN

The Kona Underpants Run in Kona, Hawaii, began in 1998 as a protest against people wearing Speedos in public places besides the beach. It has evolved into an annual event welcoming people to the Ironman Triathlon World Championships (October 14 this year) and a fundraiser for various local charities. The 1.5 mile Underpants Run will be held the Thursday before Ironman on October 12.

11. APRIL FOOL'S DAY TWINKIE RUN

Ann Arbor, Michigan, is the site of the annual April Fool's Day Twinkie Run. During the 3.1 mile race, runners must stop and eat a Twinkie at designated stations. (There is a class for Twinkie Skippers.) The Twinkie Run benefits Ann Arbor Active Against ALS.

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8 Surprising Uses for Peeps
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You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family
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In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.

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