You've heard that old expression...
__insert name here__ is so stupid he can't walk and chew gum at the same time.
Well thankfully most of us are perfectly capable of doing both, seamlessly, unless we suffer from some sort of cognitive impairment like Alzheimer's or dementia.
But running and chewing gum? That's just pure madness.
I had never even considered the possibility until recently. If I had thought about it, I probably would have dismissed it under the assumption that running while chewing gum posed a high choking hazard. You know, with all that huffing-and-puffing, you'd probably inhale the gum, right?
On a rather hot and dry run last summer, a friend handed me a stick of chewing gum before we started. I was skeptical, but she's an accomplished runner. And on closer consideration I realized baseball players chew gum while they're playing and to the best of my knowledge, no game has ever been stopped because of a gum-asphyxiation incident.
So I took a stick, and was off on my way.
Maybe it was the placebo effect, but I felt more pep on that run than I had in weeks. As we have discussed before, I tend to wither in the heat like a snail on hot pavement. The minty gum prevented my mouth from getting that gritty dry feeling that is inevitable on long hot runs. I think it tricked my brain into thinking "it's not so hot out" the way running with music tricks my brain into thinking "I'm not breathing so hard; I can go faster!"
So much of running is about training our brains, because our brains are wired to tell us to slow down, ease off, and take it easy long before our bodies really have to give in. One of my favorite running quotes of all time is: "In the beginning it's hard to understand that the race is not against others but against that little voice in your head that tells you when to quit."
(I have yet to find a credible "first" source for that quote, but do believe that the speaker knows what it means to be a runner.)
My verdict on the gum: it keeps that little voice quiet for a little longer. Maybe it works because it keeps my jaws working on something else, so my inner voice can't say "it's too hot!" Maybe it works because it keeps my mouth from getting dry. Maybe it works because it's 100% placebo effect. But no matter what the reason, it does work.
I just have to remember now to look for a waste bin at the 3-mile point... because the gum only lasts so long, and I don't need to leave my flavorless gum on the street waiting to ambush the next runner's shoes.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/momboleum/
Photo link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/momboleum/2795630136/