I showed up at the beach run last night to see a good friend in the parking lot. Ron had just returned from a six-week sojourn in Michigan. After the requisite insults and innuendo we started our trek on the six-mile loop, at a mutually-agreed upon pace; laughable for him, comfortable for me. I knew he was going to want to talk about his time in the Great White North, so the pace was soon to become one where I could speak little.
We initially joked about the weather conditions, which explain why I live in the South...
Ron: "I was scraping ice off my window two days ago."
Me: "The only glass. I want ice to touch. Is one filled. With unsweetened tea. Or an adult. Beverage of choice. Depends on time of day."
Ron then told me about a couple of track workouts he ran with a local running group, and the running club affiliated with the (multinational) company for which he was briefly employed.
"They said, 'oh, we have some really fast runners in this group. One of our guys ran a (blank)-minute 5K.' I went out running with him twice. The dude was a hockey player; in decent shape, but not really fast." Having seen his rear at more than my share of road races I know what Ron defines as "fast."
I responded, "Gee, thanks, Ron. Glad you're being. Nice to me. Since I haven't. Run that time. For 5K. Since my injury." At least he didn't call me "fat." Or a "jogger."
What is a jogger? Why is there this insulting connotation to a term which, to the majority of runners, seems as nebulous as a presidential definition of sex?
The English language has used the term "jog" to talk about movement (running included) since at least the mid-16th century. Arthur Lydiard made "jogging" popular in New Zealand during the early 1960s; fitness and sociability seemed to be the rationale for very easy running (defined by UK-based running coach Mike Antoniades as a pace slower than 10 minutes per mile). Bill Bowerman, coach of Steve Prefontaine, literally "wrote the book" on jogging and its benefits, way back in 1966.
The running philosopher Dr. George Sheehan, in 'Running and Being,' wrote "the difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank." If you started running because of an event put on by a running club, or you joined a running club which didn't exist before 1962, you most likely owe your running habit (obsession? routine?), and perhaps a word of thanks, to a jogger.
So where and why does the arrogance toward joggers exist in the running community? From what I've observed it certainly isn't the elite or former elite road racers who harbor such animosity, pity or contempt. One usually needs to look a little farther back in the pack than the elites, a little closer to the point where the bell curve starts to rise. These are the guys/gals who (often) didn't quite win the genetics, training, coaching, recovering or incentivizing lotteries...or didn't buy the ticket...and prefer to tell how good they could have, would have, should have been...and how others will never be.
In their mind, THEY are runners. Everyone else behind them are just joggers.
I've engaged in such arrogant behavior in the past. I've also been called out for it. There are values, assumptions and closed beliefs, bordering on the edge of dogma, which exist in the mind of the "jogger haters."
They (falsely) assume other persons are not exerting the effort they are, therefore they lack the desire and are "children of a lesser god." Boy, was I disabused of this assumption by my loving wife, a long time ago. She took me to task one night after a track workout, saying, "Michael, just because we're running our quarters a minute slower than you are doesn't mean we aren't working hard. Believe me, we are."
The value system also is different. "Real runners" consider their title earned because they are faster on race day. They consider themselves superior to those pitiable souls who are still plodding about on the course as they reach for their first post-race beer. Their medals, beer glasses and coffee mugs were hard-won, and sometimes, considered to be their right: Why go five-deep at a race? It's only the first three in the age group who should be lauded.
Then, there's the near-religious dogmatic belief that one particular training group, training plan, workout, magazine, shoe or nostrum is guaranteed to make a better runner. "If you really wanted to improve as a runner you would do exactly what I do, or train with my group, or do this particular workout. Because you don't I can only guess you are lazy or unmotivated." This point of view has probably been the most difficult for me to get past as a group coach. I have learned over time there are more viable obstacles than strictly:
1. "Parentism," the nearly-two-decade extension of the state of maternity
3. Work, and
I've heard excuses, and I've heard rationales over the past six years. After that period of time you smile, shake your head, and continue to promulgate an "open door" policy.
I only hope, on that "invisible door" of my life, there's a sign posted for all to "see:"