When the stopwatch begins, he grabs the first dog and shoves it into his mouth, then the next one, and the next. His jaws churn relentlessly as each frank is dispatched, one after another, helped along with frequent dunks of water. An observer cannot help but be transfixed at the sight, unable to find the right words. It’s like watching an exhibition of pure athletic grace, but with a definite sense of revulsion.
“Wet bread is disgusting,” Martin had admitted before this exhibition began. Yet a certain amount of lubricant is needed to eat buns quickly. “And so, at most competitions, people will have their own secret goo. I have used chicken stock before.”
Martin, a respectable teacher of math at Carrollton High School, is a competitive eater. That means he eats things — large amounts of things — in competition with other eaters. To be precise, however, Martin is currently a competitive eater with an inactive status, having been recently de-listed as a ranked eater by the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Yes, that’s a thing.
“I was ranked for years toward the bottom,” he said. “They had their top people, and then at Thanksgiving, they let some of the more talented and better-looking people move in the mix.”
The IFOCE sponsors events like the Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest each year at Coney Island, as well as other feats of gastronomic bravado, including the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Challenge, and the National Buffalo Wing Festival.
Those who are into the full-time professional eating circuit do so with considerable gusto, stretching their stomachs before competition by drinking large amounts of water. Martin says the worse thing a competitive eater can do is “refund” what they’ve eaten — an event which has another euphemism: “a reversal of fortune.”
Martin says his “all-time fun” record is eating 32 Krystal hamburgers in 8 minutes, which seems impressive — until you learn the world record holder inhaled 39 Krystals in two minutes. In fact, in the subculture of semi-pro eating, Martin is a real lightweight, dwarfed by such luminaries as the 100-pound Sonya Thomas, who ingested an incredible 68 Nathan’s hot dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes. In the circle of human food processors, she is known as “The Black Widow.”
At the 4-minute, 30.2-second mark, the last soggy crumb has been packed into Martin’s cheeks and the exhibition is over. Martin has consumed 2,160 calories and 116 grams of fat in less than five minutes; he has calculated it carefully.
The health impact of his hobby is not lost on Martin. In fact, it is sort of a contradiction, considering the fact he weighed 320 pounds most of his life and now strives for a much healthier lifestyle.
“I have always been just obsessed with food,” he said. “I was a big-time eater, always.”
He said when he and his wife, Dee, moved to Carrollton from Heard County, he made the determination to lose weight for the sake of his growing family. After taking the post at Carrollton High, Martin became involved with “subculture of runners and fitness people” he found here.
Nowadays, he says, he likes to find opportunities in which he can combine competitive eating with running — and there are such events available, such as the Krispy Kreme Challenge.
Martin was introduced to competitive eating during a running event near Cumberland Mall, when he entered a qualifying event for the Krystal Square Off. He just missed the moving on to the next level, so he decided to try again the next year at an event in Chattanooga, this time in the guise of his alter-ego, Pi Guy.
That’s Pi as in the mathematical constant, not pie as in yum. Martin, “being the ridiculous math teacher that I am,” costumes himself as Pi Guy every “Pi Day” — March 14 (3.14) — for the amusement of his students and to promote math studies, which, as it turns out, is what he is really interested in.
Martin grew up in the Austell area and came to Carrollton to go to college and immediately “fell in love” with the place. He taught school at Heard County, but determined at an early stage that “there was no way I was leaving Carrollton.”
Now he teaches pre-calculus and trigonometry at Carrollton High, but his main focus is Advanced Placement Statistics, a course designed to introduce juniors and seniors to college-level statistics courses.
In fact, for all the frivolity surrounding “Pi Guy” and competitive eating, Martin is pretty serious about teaching and being an inspiration to his students. He was Carrollton High School Teacher of the Year in 2012, the second time he has been so honored.
Even though he has be de-listed from the rankings of the top eaters in the country, Martin, ever the statistician, has a ready answer for whether he has lost his stomach for the sport:
“I would say with 99 percent confidence that I will continue competitive eating.”