What’s the difference between Running and Jogging?
When I first got this question I thought to myself “Don’t touch it! There’s no way you can answer this without making someone mad…” Then I asked some friends and fellow runners this question. I was surprised by the quick answers I got. It turns out most runners have, at least in their own minds, a solid opinion of what delineates ‘jogging’ from ‘running’.
We all know what running is, right? I mean the physical act of running, regardless of pace, form or effort is easy to differentiate from walking, sitting, swimming, crawling or laying on your back in a Hawaiian shirt in a hammock. The term itself isn’t controversial.
However when you ask a runner if they are going ‘jogging’ be prepared to get a scandalized dirty look. “We’re not jogging!” They protest. “We’re Runners!” It’s as if you’ve accused them of not being worthy.
I looked up the etymology of ‘Jogging’. As a word it is a gift of the British from the mid-seventeenth century that had none of the emotional overtones. It simply meant to perambulate in some form or other. Saying “I went for my morning jog” was just a tad more whimsical way of saying ‘walk’ or ‘brisk walk’. Those whacky Brits.
Jogging presumably acquired some of its less-favorable overtones when Bill Bowerman went ‘jogging’ in New Zealand with Arthur Lydiard and subsequently wrote the book titled, yes you guessed it, “Jogging” in 1966 proposing this recreational form of running as the solution to many social ills and health problems.
It would seem that during the first running boom of the 1970’s ‘jogging’ was just a way to describe running for your health with no particular competitive inclination. I think this is where jogging starts to get painted with a negative patina. It came to be seen as a slower, lower effort, non-competitive version of running.
It seems “Jogging” was originally intended to be a subset of running; a less strenuous, less serious form of running. It was running for the non-competitive masses.
Dr. George Sheehan is famously quoted as saying that the difference between runners and joggers is a race number. The thought being that as soon as it becomes a competition – you are running. This is one of the most common responses I got when I polled my virtual running friends with this very same question.
Curious man that I am I spent the weekend asking every runner I met if they could describe the difference in the terms.
I asked my friend Rich on our long run this morning and he immediately replied “8-minute miles”. I was expecting a more thoughtful, if not philosophical response. I asked him why 8-minute miles? He said, “Because that’s what the Garmin defaults are!” It turns out when you get your new Garmin GPS device it will have the transition from run to jog at an 8-minute mile.
Of course, that’s just an arbitrary number set by some Product Tech. Not all responses to my question were that definitive but many framed the difference as one of pace, effort or distance. People seem to sense that running is ‘more’ and jogging is ‘less’ in some way but they are hard pressed to come up with a quantification. The border between running and jogging is apparently amorphous and mostly self defined.
One interesting wrinkle I got on the ‘effort’ argument was ‘conversational’ pace. Meaning that if you can still hold a conversation while you’re running, then you’re jogging! I guess that would put an end to my long runs because they would now be long jogs.
When pressed, most people will cite ‘intent’ or ‘purpose’ as the difference. I tend to fall into that group. This cadre believes that the difference between running and jogging is not speed or distance. For this group running requires a more focused purpose, perhaps the existence of goals, maybe the following of a plan. This faction believes that the runner is not just aimlessly moving about, but is working, to the best of their ability and resources to achieve something.
I think my favorite response was ‘Sweat Pants’. Meaning if you’re out in your Chuck Taylor’s and sweats, chances are you’re a jogger. Another great observation made was that whenever the news talks about it, as in “Miley Cyrus was seen jogging” or “Jogger attacked in the Park”, they never say ‘running’, they always say ‘jogging’. Therefore, if you’re not on the six o’clock news, then you’re a runner.
Why are we so offended when someone asks us if we have been ‘jogging’? Why the personal affront? Because, when you call me a jogger you lessen the value of what I’m out there doing. You take away from the personal sacrifice, the miles and the pain I’ve invested in my sport. I’m not winning any races, but I’ve worked hard my whole life, as a runner, to walk the talk.
We see what we do as clearly different than the casual and occasional jaunt around the neighborhood in sweat pants. Is there a point where a jogger becomes a runner? Is it the point where recreation gives way to focus? Is it the point where we start to care? Is the very fact that we are offended by being called a ‘jogger’ proof in itself that we have made the transition?
Running, is not about speed, time or miles. Running is not in our legs. Running is in our hearts and our heads. Running is what we bring to the sport, what we sacrifice and what we burn on our alters of shoes and shorts and race bibs.
The truth? The truth is that a runner is that person that defines themselves as a runner because as soon as they do that, they have made the transition from jogging to running.