Friday, October 19, 2012

Not your grandfathers BENGAY (Ben-gay).

I recently returned from a run to find a FedEx package at my doorstep (sweet!).  What could it be?  More running shoes from Salomon?  A new energy drink from FRS?  10 million dollars from Publishers Clearinghouse?  None of the above - instead it was an updated version of the unofficial scent of cross country running - BENGAY.

My first experience with BENGAY was as a 14 year old cross country runner in upstate New York.  Cross country running season meant Fall foliage was in full kaleidoscope, ankle twisting roots hid beneath a thick blanket of fallen leaves and cold temperatures blew down from Canada.  We had two weapons to combat the chill; scratchy polyester long sleeve warm-up suits and a large shared tub of BENGAY.

Your's truly rocking the cycling cap in 1985

Our stiff blue & green matching polyester suits would be ironic hipster gold today but back in the 1980's we thought they were cutting edge - a vast improvement over simple gray cotton sweat suits.  Their only liability was exposure to open flame, a hazard that would cause the fabric to become a napalm dripping inferno.  Our BENGAY was equally vintage. It came in a large, unbranded team issue tub and was dispensed with wooden tongue depressors.  Sanitary?  Perhaps not, but it was an essential tool for getting some heat into our spindly leg muscles.  Our coach would often yell, "put on some BENGAY; I don't want you pulling a hammy out there!".  It wasn't just our team, all the coaches seemed to have BENGAY in their cold weather essentials kit.  At large invitationals with hundreds of athletes, the starting line smelled like a BENGAY factory.

John Wilkin and I at the 1986 McQuaid Invitational 

Known as "Ben-gay" until the year I got my first email address (1995), this 114 year old topical analgesic is now missing a hyphen (and tongue depressors) and is available a blue colored "zero degrees" formula.  Unlike our old white tub from the 1980's this new formula comes packaged in a convenient deodorant style applicator with it's own zip-lock bag.  This seems like a good idea because when I broke the seal on the bag I got a strong whiff of menthol powered nostalgia.

Yeah, that's me winning the 1985 Section 5 Championship race

So, what's this fancy new Johnson & Johnson product supposed to do?  According to the BENGAY website it "blasts away pain", provides "medicated pain relief", "lasts for hours", has an "instant icy-cold sensation", a "vanishing scent" and is "ideal for muscle and joint strain or sprain pain relief".

Top step of the podium in full polyester glory

Since I love testing new products I gave it a try after this mornings Alter-G treadmill run.  Unfortunately, I wasn't sore so it was impossible to validate any of the pain relieving claims.  That said, it does have an instant icy-cold sensation and the scent does vanish but, what's the best feature of BENGAY?

It induces nostalgia.