Candy for the Marathon

April 19, 2010 at 7:45 am Leave a comment

2008 Boston Marathon

Today elite athletes from all over the world will challenge themselves in the Boston Marathon.

My sister decided to run a marathon a few years ago, and I wanted to send her some goodies to help with her training. At the running store I found these packs of “energy gel,” which is basically some sugar goo along with vitamins and electrolytes that you can squirt into your mouth as you ran.

A century ago, no body thought of “energy gel,” but they did have the closest substitute: candy. We don’t see many athletes endorsing candy these days, but athlete testimonials were a big promotion for candy back then.

Here’s a well known boxing champion, Willie Ritchie, in 1914: “”I have a regular sugar habit. …in the middle of the night [I get up to eat] a box of candy… When I go to the theater I like to take a pound box of candy along. … I believe that sugar is partly to thank for my speed and strength.”

And here is distance runner Hannes Kohlemainen, in 1916: “’Early in my youth I found that I was a fair runner, but I seemed to lack the necessary endurance. One of my friends advised me to eat sugar. He suggested that I eat five or six lumps in the morning and the same number at night. I tried the experiment, and in less than a month I found that I could run double the distance. … I never let a day go by without eating 12 or 15 sugar lumps or a large quantity of milk chocolate or other kinds of candy.”

Six-day bicycle riders reported eating a half pound of sugar candy or milk chocolate daily. Tennis stars ate sugar regularly. How could any ordinary soul expect to have enough energy to make it through the day without a little boost from candy?

For today’s marathon runner, there is an updated version of the candy boost. In today’s market, you can choose from many “energy bars” to help you in the foot race or the rat race or whatever race you’re running. My favorite is Snickers Marathon Bar. It’s a Snickers bar, but for Marathons. Candy? Food? Who’s to say, really?

Sources: “Sugar Gave Ritchie His ‘Punch,’” Confectioners Journal September 1914, p. 64.; “Sugar Fine Food for Athletes,” Confectioners Journal May 1916, p. 83.

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

(C) Samira Kawash

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