Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Runner vs Jogger

It is All in Your Mind

Published October 22, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

"Hi, my name is Bob." - "Hello Bob, I am Steve." - "So, Steve, are you also a runner?" - "Actually, no, I am a jogger." - "Tell me, Steve, what is in your mind the difference between a jogger and a runner?" - "Joggers do it for fitness. Runners race seriously and keep track of their times." - "Let me give you my definition. A runner runs even when he or she is injured. A jogger does not."

There we were, dressed in suits at a business dinner, revisiting an old argument. I jumped into the conversation and offered George Sheehan's timeless definition of a race entry form as the difference between a runner and a jogger. "Oh, I have jogged many races, but I am not a runner," retorted Steve, a veteran journalist. "Have you run any marathons?" he asked me. "Of course," I replied proudly. "I have run the Marine Corps Marathon." "I jogged two Marine Corps Marathons in about four hours," he said.

The Encarta Dictionary defines jogging as a fitness or recreational activity that involves running at a slow steady pace. It defines running as rapid movement on foot, with long strides and both feet momentarily off the ground. Intent - fitness or recreation, as opposed to competition - and speed - slow steady pace versus rapid movement - define Encarta's concept.

A leading question on a running forum asked: "At what speed does one go from a jogger to a runner?" The spirited replies included: "when both feet are airborne, you're running," "a jogger uses minimal effort to run," "a jogger listens to a walkman, wears a flashy outfit (Sorry, Bob) and runs the same course at the same speed for 14 years!"

So, what makes a runner? Besides a fascination with numbers - miles, minutes and seconds, calories and pounds, temperature and humidity - runners tend to be goal driven. The racing calendar drives our running. Our social map is dotted with race dates and locations. Our circle of close friends numbers in the hundreds of like-scarred similarly-injured runners.

An old cliche proclaimed: "Once a runner, always a runner." Many former race warriors retired their racing spikes but continue to run. Locally, my good friends Kathy, Barb and Ed, who humbled me all too often in the early nineties, have shunned the start line for years. Internationally, Grete Waitz and many others retired from racing when they no longer cared for it. Could one ever consider them joggers?

As my endless faith to cross many finish lines this winter fuels my slow recovery from foot injury, I concur with one poster on the running forum: "no matter how slow my pace, in my heart I am a fluid, long-striding, fast runner."

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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