Monday, December 31, 2012

Running vs. Jogging

Interesting article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer by a high school/running acquaintance of mine:

She starts out by tracing the etymology of the word "jogging," which I find really interesting given my proclivity for language.  The term started out in the 70's with the first running boom as an innocent word to describe the activity of those lunatics in painters' caps and tiny shorts legging it down the sidewalk.  As we see in the article, and in this post of mine from awhile ago, it has since evolved into a bit of an insult.

Yes, this is another post about the age old debate in the running community regarding the use of the word "jog/jogger/jogging."

The author takes issue with faster runners appropriating the word as their own and leaving angsty slowpokes to reckon with the insulting nature of the titular word.  But is this so terrible?

One of the appealing traits of running is its egalitarian nature.  Cheap and simple and capable of doing just about anywhere, running all but demands the participation of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.  This is precisely what differentiates running from every other sport in that it is the only one in which elite professionals literally compete against average Joes just weeks removed from the couch.

Imagine what other sports would be like if they shared this approach.  Professional basketball players would have to worry about ladies in tutus crowding the court.  Professional ice hockey players would share the rink with a guy still two hundred pounds from goal weight.  Even minor league baseball players would see third base being covered by some asshole tweeting from his cell phone.

Is it so terrible to take a semantic stand in order to distance yourself from the hobbyists?  To separate the two into categories of running as competitive sport and running as recreation?

In the end, I think it's less an issue of speed and more an issue of taking the sport seriously.  I doubt most runners would balk at welcoming a 5+ hour marathoner into their ranks as long as he or she is genuinely busting his or her ass in training.  But with the advent of social media, in conjunction with the rise of themed fun runs, comes the worry over the loss of running's competitive edge.  Too many people make the leap too early to the half or the full marathon and congratulate themselves for their grit in completing it instead of racing it.

So what is my personal take?  Well, let's just say I don't call myself a football player because I join the occasional game of pick up football, nor do I call myself a writer because I keep a mediocre blog that no one reads.  I wouldn't call myself a runner if I didn't sign up for the amount of races I did and push myself as hard as I could.

Your turn.  What do you think of the debate?

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