Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Never-Ending Story (Not the Movie): Running vs. Jogging

The word "jogging" strikes fear in the hearts of runners everywhere. My mother says on occasion, "I saw you out jogging yesterday," at which point I give her a look (see image below) and she responds by quickly correcting herself, "Oh, I mean running." Non-runners may think the two disparate terms are synonyms. So why is it such a big deal? It just is. According to Merriam-Webster, as an intransitive verb, to "jog" is to "run or ride at a slow trot; to go at a slow, leisurely, or monotonous pace; to trudge." That "trudge" really causes me to cringe. One trudges through snow, sand, and mud, but not on the sidewalk, track, or dirt surfaces most runners use. As a competitive runner, I shun this word, as it infers slow, laborious, tedious movement. On the other hand, in the context in which we use the word, Merriam-Webster defines the intransitive verb to "run" as "to go steadily by springing steps so that both feet leave the ground for an instant in each step; to go rapidly or hurriedly; to make a quick, easy, or casual trip or visit." Running obviously has a more positive connotation and describes a more fluid motion - one we would all like to believe describes our own.

This literal comparison of running and jogging brings about an argument of the more subjective variety: Is "running" defined by how fast an individual is moving, or by the effort level at which they are moving? Clearly, what might be a running pace to me might be a jogging pace to world-class elites such as Deena Kastor. While Ryan Hall's PR London marathon pace was 4:49/mile, the mortal runner might struggle to sustain this for a mere half a mile. According to my Garmin 205's Training Center software, 4:49/mile is in pace zone 9 and therefore dubbed a sprint. Yet, I highly doubt Hall, or for that matter, anyone, could sustain a sprint-level effort for the duration of 26.2 miles. *sigh* And the plot thickens.

Let's dissect our perceptions of the following statements.
  • Individual #1: "I jogged 7 miles yesterday. I felt like I was going so fast!"
  • Individual #2: "I ran 7 miles easy yesterday."

Individual #1, despite the comment, "I felt like I was going so fast," comes across as the recreational or novice runner (or jogger?). The second individual, although claiming to have gone at an easy pace, is perceived as the more competitive and advanced of the two. The word "jog" truly can evoke a sense of slow, aimless running, even though the person who "ran 7 miles easy yesterday" could just as easily have been moving at the same speed as his/her jogging counterpart.

After presenting all the evidence, it becomes apparent that there is both a technical and psychological difference separating the acts of running and jogging. Nobody wants to claim themselves as joggers, but are quick to log slow, easy miles of "running." There is a recovery and training purpose in taking it slow (AKA jogging), but for some reason we simply can't bring ourselves to use the correct term in all its seemingly lack of glory.

I, as well as many others, will likely continue to ostracize the word "jogging" while glorifying "running," but hopefully you have become more enlightened on the matter and will not judge any brave souls who raise their hand and embrace the seven-mile jog they embarked on this morning.

As of June 10, 2009, 10:22 AM, the English language officially added its one-millionth word (specifically, "Web 2.0," a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services) to its already vast supply. Chances are, I don't know and/or have not used 75% of them. Thus, we needn't boycott the verb "to jog" or expel it from the English language altogether. But at the same time, I see no pressing reason to utilize it.


  1. Ah. I know. About 5 years ago my aunt was talking about me jogging. I was offended and tried to clarify that it was running. My mom calls her workouts runs while I dub them jogs. It's hard to differentiate between the two because no two individuals are the same! I figure if anyone is out there doing it, then all the more power to them, whether it be jogging or running!

  2. i'm with elizabeth - i prefer to hear "runner", though i won't throw a fit when someone uses "jogging". i also don't correct slower runners because at least they are working on their fitness and health. it is a little offensive, but not the end of the world.

  3. I found your discussion on the subject very entertaining! Thanks for sharing. I think the terms are very psychological in nature. There's no clear definition between the two terms except a perception of relative speed. Like you said, what's running for one might be jogging for another. Good fodder for thought on a long run!

  4. I was having a conversation about this with my boyfriend the other day. Generally, I like to think that we all have a 'running' pace and a 'jogging' pace, and that the numbers corresponding to each will vary quite a bit from person to person. My boyfriend, on the other hand, seemed to be saying that there should be a cut-off point at which all running becomes jogging, regardless of who is doing it--say 10:00/mi, or something. I dunno; I think a case could be made for either side, really.

  5. I like this! Although I still like to think of myeslf as going for a run when I head out the door at an 11 min. mile pace while I'm recovering ;-)

  6. The way I view it, running and jogging is a state of mind. This is why I won't see someone who runs slow and congratulate them for getting out there and jogging! If a person views running more as a physical activity not necessarily down out of a love for the sport but because it's something to do or a requirement for their sport, I probs would consider that jogging/fitness running.

    What I find hilarious about this whole debate is that in any other sport, the level between competitive/elite and regular play is prefaced with "recreational", though in the end they all are basically playing the same sport. Except that if a pair is out on, say, the tennis court and really going at it, they probs would take offense to being called recreational. All the same!

  7. I LOVE this post! Yes! The psychology of our behaviors, how we attach meaning and WORTH to it, matters...we either compete with ourselves and deny our strength, or compete with others and fluff our skills for acceptance!
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