I’m a Runner…Don’t Drop the J-Word

Don’t call me a jogger. You can call me any other kind of name, throw insults at me like rapid fire, but once you bust out the J-word it’s on.

girl runner
Okay, okay, that may seem a little extreme and I do say it half-jokingly, but as a runner I would be lying if I said the hairs on the back of my neck didn’t prick a bit anytime someone says, “Hey, I saw you out there jogging the other day.” I then feel compelled to kindly, jokingly correct them, “Hey, now, you saw me running…don’t be busting out the J-word.”

Don’t worry, I make sure to laugh, but there is some truth behind it. There is a difference between runners and joggers, but where does that line exist? Yesterday this very thing came up and my friend said to me, “Okay, then what exactly separates running from jogging?”

I’ve had this discussion plenty of times with different folks, of different levels of fitness, backgrounds, and over time I think my definition of running has evolved.

runner sitting on track
I used to have a little time cut-off, where once you go above a certain pace you are no longer running, but jogging. That got to be pretty black and white, and I thought solved the debate easily, but then I had my injury and when I FINALLY got to the point of testing out the legs I knew for DARN sure that what I was doing fully fell under the jogging (if not walking) category of that definition.

I was embarrassed, a little appalled, and hung my head for a second, thinking, “Well, that’s where it lands, you’re now fated to be a jogger.” But then I thought about it more, and I knew in my bones that I was a runner. I was a runner, regardless of the fact that I was painfully, excruciatingly slow. (I wish I had a video of my first few attempts actually!)

runner optical illusion
Running is a state of mind. It’s something you build into yourself; I like to think a part of it is always there but it’s in chiseling it out that you uncover the passion. Like finding your niche.

So yesterday my answer to my friend was along these lines: I think it’s all how you think about it. There is a degree of perceived exertion level, so for a 4 minute miler, to them running at a 9 minute/mile pace would certainly feel like jogging. But if your mile best is 9 minutes, to you perhaps it would FEEL like a 14 minute/mile pace was more like jogging. The perceived level of exertion.

But then, let’s add more gray area, say that 4 minute miler was left unable to run for an extended amount of time and when they came back they were busting their bum to run that 9 minute/mile pace. I still would qualify them as a runner…they get a little freebie pass because I’ll bet they know what a fartlek is and it isn’t some grammerschool joke. They know what a tempo is, they know that a 5k is 3.1 miles, they know that it takes four laps around a track to equal a mile. All of that is built in and retained.

They feel at home around runners, they can flash that nod wordlessly to someone they just met but find out is also a runner and they both smile knowingly. ‘Ahhh, a fellow member.’ It’s like a cool cult, where we don’t drink the Kool-aid but we chug from our own waterbottles. We may still wear Nike shoes but it’s only because we train in them. 😉

Eventually I got down to a faster pace that does fall into the old ‘safe time-cut off’ of my antiquated running definition. But now I see that doing that is too black and white and there needs to be a more flexible definition.

What makes a runner is purely mental.

1) What do you think separates a runner from a jogger?

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4 thoughts on “I’m a Runner…Don’t Drop the J-Word

  1. I agree that it’s a mentality more than a specific speed. For me, 9 minute miles is running, but 11 minute miles is a really slow jog. For you–those 9 minute miles would be super slow! I think it’s about whether or not your push yourself as well.

  2. Pingback: I’m a Runner and I’m Not Complaining, But… |

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