Last week Bassman told me that one of his friends, who lives on my running route, had seen me jogging past his house. Jogging? As in, 'trotting at a slow or leisurely pace'? Is that what I'm doing?
A couple of years ago, there was a debate amongst the readership of Runner's World about the number of articles that were being targeted at non-runners, interchangeably referred to as joggers. There was a sizeable contingent who argued that running is defined purely by speed, that anyone who runs less than a 10-minute mile pace is by definition a jogger, and that there was no room for joggers in a running magazine. There was even a bit of an outcry about the 10-minute mile criteria, with some people insisting that even that is too slow to be considered proper running. Certainly, the pacing tables for training programmes rarely give timings for anyone running slower than a 9-minute mile, implying (to me, anyway) that if you're slower than that just getting around the course should be enough for you.
Now, I am not particularly fast. If I go strictly by speed, some days I am a runner. Other days, though, I'm a jogger or even a walker. And sometimes, I'm all three within the space of one run.
But I think of myself as a runner. I read magazines and books and websites about running. I have proper running clothes. I have a fancy watch and a heart rate monitor and I know how to use them. I run outside regardless of the weather. I have a sports physio on speed dial. I feel restless if too many days pass without a run. I know what it feels like when legs, cardio, and head all work together (and I know what it feels like when nothing works but you keep on going anyway). I enter races. I am competitive with myself and I push myself, but I also run simply because it makes me feel happy and strong.
Words are powerful, and the meaning that we take from them affects the way that we think about ourselves and influences how we live our lives. I am a runner; regardless of what it looks like on the outside, in my heart, I am running.