Monday, October 24, 2011
Running or Jogging
I ran up the road toward my house finishing up a 10 miler and the obligatory two mile steady uphill churn that ends all my runs from home. A strange looking character walks toward me. As I get closer I realized that it is a guy with a parachute wrapped around his shoulders and bundled in a bunch in his arms. He weaves about, looking this way and that. He's on a cell phone and it becomes clear once I get closer that he has just landed and is trying to tell his pick-up crew where he is. As I pass him I hear him say; "Yeah, I see you, I'm right ahead. Do you see a jogger?"
Argggggg. What did he just call me? A 'jogger'? A 'jogger'? I am not bloody jogger chump-face!
My husband and I have a little game we play whenever we see someone running veerrrry slooooowly - we instantly turn to each other and ask: "running or walking?". Then there's the "running or jogging" distinction that's even more challenging to discern. I will say, from the outset, that I am NOT a jogger. Never have been, never will be. But what really separates the runners from the joggers? Is it speed? Is it running races? Do runners run everyday? Do runners have to be obsessed with running? Is it high tech fabrics vs. cotton sweats? Is it 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers and piles of old running shoes filling up the closets? Is it one's own subjective definition of one's self? Is it attitude?
Is it speed? I say 'No'. When I run slow I'm running slow, not jogging. Or, perhaps I am a runner who's out for a jog. But does that then make me a 'jogger'. Ooooff. I hope not. Likewise, do I need to be running a 7 min/mile pace to be a runner? I once read, years and years ago in Runner's World, that running started at an 8 min/mile pace. I can't remember who said it, but it was someone (a running authority!) who should have "known" what "running" truly was and wasn't. For some reason this stuck with me like a tiny thorn in my foot. At the time this pace wasn't difficult for me to maintain even on easy runs. But today - well let's just say, most of my 15-24 milers (and plenty of shorter and easier runs) must qualify as jogs according to this (bogus) definition. Hey, what do you say we go out for a nice 24 mile jog ;) Piffle I say.
Is running about racing? I say 'No'. I ran for years without racing. I ran 50 miles a week, and never ran a race for probably 10 years. I was still a runner because I ran. I was not, however, a racer at that time. Not racing just meant I was a non-racing runner. However, runners usually know that a marathon is 26.2 miles, not 5k or 10k, even if they haven't run one.
Do runners need to run everyday and be obsessed with running? I say 'No'. I take a rest day most weeks. And, I have a life besides running. Running is ONE of my many interests and pursuits. Yes, it is important. Yes, I make an effort to fit it into my life, but it isn't my whole life. It's part of a full life.
Is it running in high tech gear? I say 'No'. I spent many, many years running in tattered old t-shirts and a dorky vintage 1980s colored nylon wind jacket that I bought for 15 bucks at a discount store. My husband delicately encouraged me to update my wardrobe, cringing each day as I ventured out into public. Hell, it worked fine. Why replace it. Last year I finally broke down and purchased a tasteful, sweet GoLite wind shirt at a warehouse sale that I absolutely love to pieces. It will probably work for the next 15 years. (I still have the old dorky one and it's awesome on sub zero days). Conversely, strutting around in spiffy running duds and the latest minimalist shoes, doesn't make you a runner.
Is it 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers and piles of old running shoes? I say 'No'. Um, anyone can buy these things. I have to admit that I've got a few telling stickers on my car, but that's a relatively new thing for me. Stickers don't make the runner. And I also have an embarrassingly huge collection of old running shoes. These things are indicative of something, but they don't make me a runner. All those shoes could just indicate that I have a thing about running shoes (which, admittedly, I do), or perhaps a hording problem.
Is it attitude? I say 'Yes'. I think it's all about attitude. Running is not speed, attire, racing, - it's attitude. There's a level of commitment and a desire to make running happen even when it's difficult. Runners want to run. Runners enjoy running. Oh, we all have those days when we just don't want to do it - but we do it anyway - and once we do, we usually (but not always) love it. Runners run as an end in itself, not as a means to an end only. Sure, some runners run to lose weight, or for their health - but true runners keep running after they've lost the weight and feel healthy and strong. Runners sometimes run when they're sick or injured, even if they shouldn't. Runners run in the rain and the snow and the cold, and realize that it's actually always great weather for a run. Or, they might suck it up, and run on the treadmill, if there's no other way to get their fix.
I think that some runners are worried about calling themselves 'runners' - like it's some sort of elitist claim. Some seem to feel that they aren't fast enough, or they don't run far enough, or they're too new to running, to call themselves runners. I teach philosophy and think about philosophy and write philosophy - but I am very reluctant to call myself a 'Philosopher". It sounds so high falutin. Perhaps some runners feel the same about calling themselves runners. But runners don't care how fast or far you run. Runners are runners because they make running happen. Runners call themselves runners because they know they're runners.
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