Newsflash, Runners: Jogging Isn’t a Bad Word

Contrary to popular opinion.



I discovered running about five years ago, when I reached a certain (read: middle) age and was looking for a physical activity that would easily fit into the available spaces in my life as a housewife. To say I was not the athletic type during the previous four decades is a generous understatement: In my high school physical education class, I chose “race walking” as a “sport” because I knew I could smuggle cigarettes onto the wooded walking trails surrounding the campus.

The first thing I learned as a self-coached adult-onset runner with an insatiable appetite for information is this: Never, ever refer to running as “jogging.” It doesn’t matter whether the runner in question has just risen from the couch to embark on a 5K program, or if she’s training for the Boston Marathon: She’s running. If both feet leave the ground at any point during any treadmill or outdoor session: running. My own inelegant shuffling, scampering gait: running. 

Still, self-doubt tends to seize those of us who occupy the slower half of the pack: I’m not a real runner. I’m only jogging. Even with several training cycles and races under my belt, I asked Google, “Am I a jogger?” which naturally resulted in plenty of conflicting opinions. Clearly, I was not the only runner who was repelled by the j-word.

In Tales From Another Mother Runner, a collection of essays written by runners who happen to be moms, Nicole Blades reacts to being casually referred to as a “jogger” by her doctor, writing, “…the whole jogger thing just rubbed me the wrong way. It sounded lukewarm and lethargic, and I knew that what I was doing out there — pounding uneven pavement, confronting plantar fasciitis, pushing through long after my music stopped and my motivation wanted to do so as well — was not even a little bit related to laziness.”

Far from being a quaint term used to evoke the carefree times of feathered hair, tracksuits and fun (and heart attacks), an innocent “So, you jog?” posed by a non-runner is likely to hang in the air for a moment, followed by an icy corrective response. (Disclaimer: I have delivered the icy correction, followed by a bunch of really boring information about my training that has likely turned off countless friends to the idea of jogging. Running. Whatever.)

I have, as they say, evolved my position on the subject of jogging, in part because I’m training for the New Jersey Marathon and I have an abundance of time to think. Many middle-of-the-pack runners, including me and the majority of people who call ourselves runners, incorporate the easy run, the recovery run, and the long, slow run into our marathon training. Serious runs for serious people. Guess what? Most of us are jogging. To paraphrase a charming line from Blades, I now have enough confidence in my unremarkable abilities to admit I’m a “jogging jogger who jogs to jogger jogging.”

The opportunity to take back the word jogging came over a recent lunch with a friend with whom I’d lost touch over the years. She knew me in the days prior to my “running career,” as my son disarmingly refers to my obsession. She shared that she had run a few 5K races, but said, “I just can’t get my breathing under control, and I feel like I’m cheating if I slow down or stop to walk.” She couldn’t imagine running 18 miles, the most recent distance I’d covered. “The thing is,” I told her, “I’m jogging. Most of my training is spent jogging.” And there it was: instant comprehension by a person indulgent enough to inquire about my training that I am not spending all of my time gasping for air and, yes, this will prepare me to successfully race a marathon.

Matt Fitzgerald, running coach and author of 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower asserts, “If jogging is a synonym for low-intensity running (and of course it is) then not only does jogging have a place in the training programs of all runners, but in fact it should have a bigger place than any other type of run. Jogging-based programs are simply more effective than programs based on high-intensity intervals. A nice side benefit is that low-intensity running is more comfortable and pleasant than faster running.”

Put another way, jogging is fun: Friends can go for a morning jog while gossiping animatedly. Jogging is good for the soul: An early morning jaunt while taking in the scenery is a pleasant way to begin the day. Jogging is inclusive: A new friend who is also new to the sport joined me recently for a portion of my weekend distance run. What’s more, jogging is good for you: The Copenhagen City Heart Study, reported on here by an obvious non-runner, concluded that light joggers have the lowest mortality rates, significantly lower than those of sedentary people and speedsters alike. For all of these reasons, it’s time to rescue jogging from its pejorative purgatory.

I think I’ll call my old friend and invite her to join me on a jog.


Susan DiLeo lives in suburban New Jersey and fully expects to be shunned by the running runners in her running club.

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