Four women, bundled up in their warmest running gear, are keeping a steady pace down a road that runs through a park in Elgin, Illinois after a snowstorm dumped 4 inches on the ground the night before. They are all dilligently training for a marathon that they signed up for in Chicago in the spring. Their fingers are protected from the numbing cold with gloves, and they are wearing ear muffs to protect their ears from the rushing wind.
But these women are doing something else that has piqued the interest of scientists. They are farting, seemingly in sync, in what sounds like some kind of choreographed song as they are running. It sounds like a joke, but there is some serious science behind the toot symphony the women are conducting.
A Little Boost
Rhonda Roader of Elgin, Illinois has run over 25 marathons in her 56 years, and the marathon in Chicago is one she looks forward to the most each year. Her friends and training partners–Judy, Sandee, and Marla–will be running the marathon with Rhonda for the first time. They’ve been training together for over a year and have ran two other smaller marathons together. The ladies think this method is going to help them be more efficient runners, as it has done for Rhonda.
“She is one of the best paced runners I have ever seen,” Judy says of Rhonda. “And every once in a while, she gets this little boost of energy. This little spurt where she increases her speed for a few seconds. It’s hardly noticeable, until she’s outpaced you! So I asked her what her secret was.”
So what is Rhonda’s secret? Timed farting. But why does it give her the energy boost?
Judy was hesitant to reveal any specifics about the method, citing a confidentiality clause as well as a close, personal friendship with Rhonda, the inventor of the method. But we did some research and delved into the science behind the wind breaking that is helping these women succeed.
Cars Need Gas To Run, And So Does Your Body
It’s no secret that our bodies need fuel like carbohydrates, protein, water, and minerals to keep our energy up. Many runners participate in an act called “carbo-loading” before a run, indulging in high energy super foods like Cheez-It® Crackers before a marathon. This helps the body generate enough energy to keep moving without wearing out.
Our bodies also need gas to run, just like cars. Gas is just air in the digestive tract, but this gas is released from the mouth by burping or from the rectum by farting. Normal people produce as much as four pints of gas a day. That’s a lot of farts!
Nitrogen is a nutrient that is critical to survival, and ironically in one of its forms is also used to put people to death. It can also be combined with other chemicals to become an explosive power source. Nitrogen tanks are used in paintball guns, to pressurize beer kegs, and even used as an air replacement in aircraft tires because it holds pressure better.
Everyone has gas and most of us accept that farts are a part of daily life, but how many realize that the power of their flatulence can be used to their advantage? The average fart is made up of 59% nitrogen, which is a lot of nitrogen.
When the nitrogen from within the body that forms toots becomes oxidized, it turns into nitrous oxide. This type of internal gas system is very similar to the high-pressure gas systems used by race car drivers for an added power boost. If utilized correctly, this could give a runner a significant competitive advantage in a race by providing short bursts of power at opportune times. Runners who know this can time their toots so their power can be used at the best times during a race, or during those times when they are feeling drained and slowing pace.
“Other runners may be butt chugging whippits, but we are not. That’s nasty, and it’s very unsportsmanlike.”
An Unfair Advantage?
Rhonda’s method has created some rumbling in running circles in the Midwest. Some say the method gives an unfair advantage to those runners who use it. Others say it’s just a misunderstanding of the method.
“Rhonda’s method is all natural,” Judy says reassuringly between puffs on her Marlboro red. “The only thing we do is eat, run and fart. That’s it. There is nothing artificial about what we are doing. The people who are complaining think we are using laughing gas. We are not. Other runners may be butt chugging whippits, but we are not. That’s nasty, and it’s very unsportsmanlike.”
Judy is upset that people say those things, but part of her is glad, she admits. This misunderstanding of Rhonda’s method may have been responsible for the buzz about it. Had some gossipmongers not started spreading lies about Rhonda and her friends, word may not have gotten around about them, they may not have been investigated, and science may not have gotten involved–and getting science involved is always a good thing.
“Rhonda is a very private person, so she’s not too thrilled about all this,” Judy laughed. “But I think it’s good for science to look into this to see what else they can use it for.”
Researchers are currently looking into how else this method can be used, including how it can give the United States an advantage in the next Olympics and adding the method to the next training program that is being designed for running backs in the NFL.