A Perfect Pair


By Sheryl Rosen,


Romeo and Juliet. Bert and Ernie. Peanut butter and jelly.

Certain pairs are so unmistakably good together they become synonymous with one another. Perfect pairs abound, but here’s one more: runners and bagels.

Runners are not strangers to carbohydrates, and bagels are no exception. Running depletes our glycogen stores, particularly when we run for longer than one hour. We know carbohydrate replenishment in the form of bread, pasta, rice, bananas or other foods is key to recovery, especially right after exercise when our muscles are most able to store the carbs we eat.

We have our choice of post-run carbohydrate sources, but bagels are one of the most tried and true forms – a fact that makes Jewish grandmothers everywhere proud.

We don’t give the pairing much thought, but few foods compare to the palatability, affordability, and portability of bagels. They’re healthy, low-fat, and available in flavors from sweet to savory. In an era when hectic lives make us eat on the go, bagels are tasty little wheels of bread at the ready, conveniently transportable to wherever our depleted glycogen stores may need them.

I’d be hard pressed to find a runner not inclined to consume bagels, whether sliced, toasted, topped, or plain, but they haven’t always been around. Here’s a bit about how they became popular foods for runners and everyone else too.

Bagels most likely originated in 1623 Austria. As the legend goes, a Jewish baker in Vienna created the doughnut-shaped bread to honor Polish King John III Sobieski for protecting his city from Turkish invaders. Since the king was a horseman, the baker shaped the bread to resemble a “beugel,” or stirrup. Instead of simply baking the breads, the baker boiled them first, creating the chewy texture and shiny crust runners know and love today.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jewish immigrants brought family recipes to North American cities, especially New York City, where bakers churned out increasing numbers of bagels plain or crowned with toppings like onions and sesame seeds.

Bagels’ popularity soared in the late 20th Century. Bakers created varieties like blueberry, spinach, and rosemary and olive oil. Machines may be used to shape the dough, and steaming may replace boiling, but bagels remain essentially the same.

They may not be as entertaining as Desi and Lucy or as funny as Tom and Jerry, but runners and bagels are a perfect pair. Now we find them at nearly every race, in nearly every home pantry or freezer, and at bakeries and coffee shops around town, ready to satisfy our next pang of post-run hunger.