Every other Wednesday I take a group of my students cycling. This week we were rolling through the countryside with me at the back of the pack and a student just ahead of me who is a decent 800m runner in his age group. From the other direction came two people running towards us on the other side of the road. They were working hard but not moving particularly fast, and the student in front of me said something along the lines of “pfft, joggers.”
I’m sure that this exclamation was in part related to the fact that he knows I run; indeed, we had spent most of the ride talking about training and racing. Perhaps he thought it was what I wanted to hear. Funny though it was, it reminded me that this isn’t the first time I’ve heard other runners being contemptfully labelled with the J word.
But why? Why are we not all one big happy running community? And besides, what’s wrong with jogging anyway? We all jog from time to time. Common running wisdom dictates that you alternate hard runs with easy runs to maximise the effect of your training. So why pour our scorn on joggers? By all means take the piss out of triathletes – they’re just weird, don’t hold back when taking a dig at fell runners – they’re just insane, and sprinters – well, all they do is stand around and lift weights. But the poor joggers. Leave them alone.
Maybe this resentment comes from a misguided belief that people who run slowly give a bad name to those who run fast, or a view that they simply aren’t trying hard enough and hence not paying enough respect to our oh-so-sacred sport. Even worse than this resentment is the runner’s fear that he or she will be branded a jogger by someone who doesn’t know better. We all get shouted at by non runners when pounding the tarmac and most of the insults bounce off us like water off a duck’s back, but for some the words ‘jog on’ or ‘keep jogging’ are the words they least like to hear.
This snobbery can sometimes extend to the use of ‘jogger’ as an insult. “He’s just a jogger” is just about the worst thing you can say about a fellow athlete. But by this logic, we are all joggers. Unless you are Mo Farah or Geoffrey Mutai, the two best athletes on the planet at the moment, there is someone in the world who could well unleash the J word upon you. One man’s runner is another man’s jogger. It’s how the sporting heirarchy works.
So with that in mind I salute the joggers of the world (after all, I am one of them) and urge you to think again next time you criticise a fellow athlete. You stupid jogger.