Flashback Friday: I am not a Jogger

I may waddle when I run, but I’m running all the same.

free-vector-jogging-boy-clip-art_109244_Jogging_Boy_clip_art_hightThe late Dr. George Sheehan, beloved “Runner’s World” columnist and arguably the first running boom’s premier philosopher, once wrote that the difference between a runner and a jogger was a signature on a race application. (For the youngsters out there, there was a time before online registration when you actually filled out a paper application, signed it, attached a check, and mailed it in. Quaint, I know.)

As succinct as Dr. Sheehan’s definition was, it made the point. If you were motivated enough to train for and participate in an organized running event, then you were a runner. Anyone willing to risk public failure in order to be a part of the running community – no matter what his or her pace per mile might be – was a runner. Period. Kind of hard for anyone to argue with that logic.

But a few months ago, an ad ran in this magazine that drew a very hard line between runners and joggers. I immediately heard from tons of readers who were upset by the distinction. To me, however, such definitions are meaningless, since those of us who call ourselves runners already know why we call ourselves runners. Your reasons may be different from mine, but here’s why I know I am a runner:

I am a runner because my runs have names. I do tempo runs and threshold runs and fartlek runs. I do long, slow runs and track workouts. My runs are defined, even if my abs are not.

I am a runner because my shoes are training equipment, not a fashion statement. The best shoe for me is the one that makes me a better runner. I choose the shoe that goes with my running mechanics, not my running outfit.

I am a runner because I don’t have running outfits. I have technical shirts and shorts and socks. I have apparel that enhances the experience of running by allowing me to run comfortably. I can say “Coolmax” and “Gore-Tex” in the same sentence and know which does what.

I am a runner because I know what effort feels like, and I embrace it. I know when I’m pushing the limits of my comfort and why I’m doing it. I know that heavy breathing and an accelerated heart rate – things I once avoided – are necessary if I want to be a better runner.

I am a runner because I value and respect my body. It will whisper to me when I’ve done too much. And if I choose to listen to that whisper, my body won’t have to scream in pain later on.

I am a runner because I am willing to lay it all on the line. I know that every finish line has the potential to lift my spirits to new highs or devastate me, yet I line up anyway.

I am a runner because I know that despite my best efforts, I will always want more from myself. I will always want to know my limits so that I can exceed them.

I am a runner because I run. Not because I run fast. Not because I run far.

I am a runner because I say I am. And no one can tell me I’m not.

Waddle on, friends.

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  • Waddle on!
    Totally agree, people should not define hobbies, passions, sources of enjoyment, passions’ call them what you will for other people :-). Sometimes my ‘runs’ are slower than my speed walks, but I still call it a run, and everyone should!

  • Bob says:

    Hello John,

    Sitting next to me on the couch, as I write this email, is ‘NO NEED FOR SPEED’. I want to thank you this book has been so helpful for me. I came back to running about 5 months ago and, at age 61, I feel like I’ve ‘rediscovered’ running once again. I used to run long, and often, very hard but that was almost 30 years ago. Since, rediscovering, running I’ve noticed I can no longer do the track splits, or km splits I once was able now I run 10km somewhere around 63 mins as (apposed to 43mins when I was 30 something).

    When I started running again I felt like I had to continue to run “hard and fast” and after each run (no matter how short)I would feel exhausted sometimes even ‘wiped -out’. Your book (in a very real sense) gave me ‘permission’ to run long and to run (In my case) very slow and I feel good about this. I now come home feeling good, positive (with fuel still left to burn) and my body seems to “thank me” for listening. Once again, I want to say a great big THANK YOU…JOHN!!!

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