Who defines if you’re a runner? You.

  • This was printed in July of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 63rd installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

A recent anti-jogging ad campaign by running shoe company Pearl Izumi has many

people pretty peeved.

“Runners sometimes jog, but joggers never run,” reads one such ad. Another says, “Our

ancestors never jogged down a meal.” Yet another asserts, “Running didn’t emerge as a

hobby. It emerged as a way to catch something edible.”

Pearl Izumi’s ads contend that running is endangered. Few, if any, of the people entered

into one’s local 10K are actually running, the ad says, most are “prancing around” and

“jogging.”

The ads make it seem like there is something wrong with that. I don’t think there is. By

some definitions, a “jog” is a slower-paced run. But it’s all running, isn’t it, even if it’s

slow?

I ran the 6-mile Wharf To Wharf race from Santa Cruz to Capitola on Sunday. My time

was 41:13, a PR (personal record) for me, but 11 minutes behind the first woman to

finish, Caroline Rotich, of Kenya. Obviously this extremely fast (5:02 per mile) Kenyan

was running. But does that mean that I wasn’t? Would she be able to run down a meal,

like the Pearl Izumi ad argues, while I prance along with my ‘hobby’?

What makes a person a “real runner”? It is just a matter of comparison? Is there a pace or

distance requirement? And for that matter, what makes a person an “elite” runner?

At Wharf To Wharf I joked that I was an Elite because I had earned the same Top 100

Finisher jacket that the ‘real’ elite runners had earned. Sure, those Kenyan and Ethiopian

women and Olympic-bound Americans ran a much faster pace than I did, but in the end I

was handed an identical jacket for coming in 71st.

Did I commit running blasphemy by (jokingly) calling myself an Elite?

Whether a mile takes 5 minutes to run, or 7 minutes or 12, it’s still a mile. And whether

you’ve run one mile, six of them, or 26.2, it’s still running.

By definition, walking means one foot is in contact with the ground at all times. When

you run, both feet become simultaneously airborne at some point during each stride. By

that definition, “jogging” is running. Can we just eliminate the word “jog” and all its

variations — and their seemingly derogatory connotation — from our vocabulary?

Why is there a need to distinguish a “runner” from something Pearl Izumi implies is

lesser?

Some runners are critical of people who sign up for “fun runs” like Color Me Rad or

other themed 5Ks. “Real runners” don’t have time for those. “Real runners” never wear

the race t-shirt during the race, they never bounce up and down at stoplights, and they

never, ever waste their money on an un-timed race.

But in my opinion, if it sparks someone’s interest in running and gets them moving,

what’s wrong with wanting to get covered from head to toe in neon-colored corn starch?

A Color Me Radder today might be a marathoner in six months. Or they might not — and

that’s okay too. The important thing is that people stay active.

As I progressed as a runner since I started a year and a half ago, I kept declaring, “I’m a

runner now, I have a GPS watch… I’m a runner now, I finished my first race… I’ve

completed a half marathon… I’ve run a full marathon…” I never considered the word

“jogger,” I simply went from a non-runner to a runner. End of story.

It should be up to each person to define what and who they are. If you think you’re a

runner, you’re a runner. If you think you’re a jogger, then you are. Pearl Izumi, or any

other company or person, has no right to define you.

Never allow yourself to be defined by someone else’s opinion of you.

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