Saturday, April 05, 2008

I Jog, Therefore I Am

I’m a jogger. I don’t consider myself a “runner,” though technically jogging and running are the same, the only difference being that runners are faster than joggers. I don’t know at what point a jog turns into a run. Maybe it’s when you realize that you’re actually faster than that 85-year-old lady walking her Pekinese.

Being a runner might have something to do with the clothes, too. Fashion attire for the runner includes spandex leggings, a skin-tight tank top and designer socks. The jogger, on the other hand, prefers sweat pants, a baseball cap and the “I’m The Jogger Your Mama Warned You About ” t-shirt. And while runners carry MP3 players or ipods for their favorite tunes, joggers enjoy vintage Sony Walkman cassette players and can be found bobbing along to “Help Me Rhonda.”

But there’s one thing runners and joggers have in common: shoes. When I first started jogging in the early 1980s, it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was not a good idea to go on a three-mile run wearing my K-Mart “Dennis the Menace” canvas sneakers. Not only did they cause painful blisters, the soles were so thin that I could feel the cracks in the sidewalk. I still remember the shocked stares of passers-by as I found myself maneuvering down a gravel path, waving my arms and screaming in agony every step of the way. Children clung to their mothers in fear and loathing. Young lovers ran for their lives. Even stray dogs ran whimpering with their tails between their legs. Oh, the humanity!

Needless to say, I was forced to journey into a strange new world called “Shopping For Running Shoes.” I discovered that there are hundreds of brands, and each brand had hundreds of features. “Running Shoe” terminology was foreign to me: multi-piece heeling system, stability, pronation, lug patterns, gel pods, forward propulsion, shoestring theory. I needed a Ph.D. in physics to figure it out.

After finding the perfect shoe, I was ready to explore the training rituals of the die-hard runner. One of these is a delightful little secret called “carbo-loading.” This takes place the night before a marathon when a runner will feast on huge amounts of carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and potatoes to improve his performance. I won’t tell you what happened when I did this the night before my three-miler. Let’s just say between the stomach cramps and the feeling that I was wearing cement shoes, my typical 35-minute jog took four hours.

I’ve come to the realization that I will never be a “runner.” I have no interest in marathons, training journals and stopwatches. I’m happy to just jog down the road, smell the lilacs and try to outrun the lady with the Pekinese.

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