Where Your Dreams Become Reality

Main Front Page

What's Let's Run.com?


Training Advice

World Famous:
Message Board

Turn Back The Clock!
Today's Top Runners Talk About Their High School Careers

Miler Scott Anderson's Journal

Wejo Speaks

Rojo Speaks

JK Speaks

LetsRun.com Privacy Policy

Contact Us

Advertise on LetsRun.com 
Click Here for More Info


LetsRun.com Message Board Helps A Guy Get Into Grad School
The Semantics of Speed: The Difference Between Run and Jog

May 19, 2009 - Every week we get a ton of fascinating emails. The one below certainly got our attention:

Hey letsrun guys,

A little less than a year ago I sent you a copy of a paper I wrote for a college class that cited your site and message boards extensively. It was mainly about the difference between the words run and jog. I don't know if you actually read it, and I don't blame you if you didn't. Anyway, I thought I'd provide you with a little update. I ended up presenting the paper at a legitimate academic conference at Case Western and used it for a writing sample for my application to their cognitive linguistics graduate program. They ended up accepting me, and since my GPA kind of sucks I firmly believe that it was the writing sample and therefore indirectly your website that got me into grad school. So thanks for helping out my education, and if you're interested I can provide the paper for your or others' reading, or posting on the site, or whatever else you might want to do with it.

Chris Peverada

We wrote Chris back and said we'd love to share the paper with the LRC community. It's called "The Semantics of Speed" and talks about the difference between running and jogging. Enjoy it below. He used the LRC messageboard as one of his two sources.


Chris Peverada
University of Chicago
Writing Sample
Cognitive linguistics graduate admissions

The Semantics of Speed

In a famous scene from a well known American movie, Rocky Balboa wakes up early and goes out for some endurance training to complement his other preparations for an upcoming boxing match. During this scene, he certainly is moving faster than walking speed. However, just how fast is he actually moving? What word or words can accurately describe this type of motion? One might easily say, “He's running.” Another might just as easily say “He's jogging.” Is there a difference between these two statements other than the spelling of the words? Could one also assert that Rocky is moving along at a brisk trot? If not, why not?

With the words run and jog in common English usage, mainly describing motion at a pace faster than a walk, one could easily assume that the distinction between the two is simple and actively known by all. However, there is actually some amount of debate on the matter, especially within circles which use the terms frequently. This paper attempts to address the above questions, as well as shed some light upon and perhaps settle the debate. Mainly, for the run and jog terms, three things will be looked at. The general category of speed for run and jog will be addressed, as well as the differences between those two and other terms of motion faster than walking, such as trot. The metaphorical uses of run and jog, and how those terms are viewed by those who use them frequently or specialize in them in some manner, will also be discussed.

The data for this paper is primarily gathered from two sources. The Brigham Young Corpus of American English (BYU Corpus) is a 360 million word database of American English from a wide variety of genres. This source is intended to give the paper's data a representative sample of the use of the terms in question throughout the English language as used by Americans as a group. The LetsRun.com message board is a website directed towards those who follow and compete in the sport of athletics. This source is included in order to give data relevant to the debate on the nature and use of the words run and jog.

First, general definitions of run and jog should be established in relation to their speed. A search of the BYU Corpus for the forms run/runs/running/ran and jog/jogs/jogging/jogged revealed the following data, among others.

(1) They don't run. They walk.

(2) Against his own will, Peter quickened his pace to a jog.

(3) ...the ceremonial center was not far; a man traveling at a running jog could have reached it by noon.

(4) He walks off the porch. He begins to jog across the lawn. His speed increases as he runs farther away. Forrest runs down the drive away from his house.

The uses of run and jog in these data can give an idea of the relation between the two with regards to relative speed. From (1), it can be deduced that run is not the same action as walk. Additionally, it is fairly common sense that run denotes motion faster than walk. From (2), it is evident that jogging is at a quicker pace than some other action, namely walking. (3) suggests that although run and jog are related, and can be combined, the modification of jog by the word running implies that running and jogging are done at different speeds. Finally, from (4), it becomes evident that running is indeed faster than jogging, which is in turn faster than walking. This is seen through the progression from walking to jogging, and the subsequent increase in speed which results in running.

Now, what of other words, such as trot? Some examples of use of the word trot follow.

(5) He trottedup our drive like an overwound toy.

(6) One Who Cries glowered, then trotted ahead faster

(7) He turned smartly on his heel and trotted to the squad.

It seems, given (5)-(7), which were gathered from the BYU Corpus, that although trot can refer to speed of motion, that its focus is more upon the manner of motion. Looking at (6), one can see that trotsuggests motion that is not at a slow pace. However, looking at (5) and (7) one can see in the context a focus on the manner of motion, i.e. “like an overwound toy” or “turned smartly [then] trotted”. Although the speed does seem to have some slight weight in the definition of trot, the main part of the meaning seems to be a description of the manner of motion which is taking place. In the cases above, it seems that trot refers to some kind of motion that is particularly choppy, flashy, or meant for display.

Many words have definitions that are grounded in the concrete, spatial world. However, in addition to these definitions, some words extend their meanings to a more metaphorical sense. Run, jog, and trot are no exception. Concretely, they all describe a type of motion. Metaphorically, though, each has other meanings. For example, the BYU Corpus contains the following example of the use of trot.

(8) I said nothing original or profound and trotted out old sway-backed advice

In (8), the advice itself is not trotting. Rather, the manner in which it is introduced is cognitively close enough to the physical definition of trot to merit its description with the same word. Trotting out advice is putting it out on display, perhaps with some intent to grab attention by those actions. As the main physical definition of trot deals with the manner of motion, rather than the speed, it makes sense that the metaphorical definitions also would focus on manner to the exclusion of any kind of speed. Run and jog, however, have a larger part of effort or speed in their physical definitions, and as such should have a similar focus on effort in their metaphorical definitions.

A search of the BYU Corpus reveals the following among the metaphorical uses of jog.

(9) I am only doing this because it might help jog somebody's memory.

(10) The alley takes a jogbefore it empties out on Fifteenth, which, if you're not up on the local geography, can give you a nasty shock.

(11) Seth imagined it was the thunder that had jogged him out of sleep.

(12) Milton's stomach joggedover the pommel with the horse's easy gait.

Next are some metaphorical uses of run, also gathered from the BYU Corpus.

(13) Grant ran into a lot of people who were skeptical

(14) In May 1975, he said, he ran away from Covenant House and moved to Ithaca.

(15) the Boeing 707, having aborted one landing attempt at Kennedy, apparently ran out of fuel

(16) He ran for the Senate with big money supplied by Richard Nixon

(17) But his views sometimes ran counter to accepted Freudian wisdom.

Some of these metaphorical uses of run and jog actually do contain spatial references, but the references are not those of the primary meanings of the words. That is, they do not directly relate to self-propelled motion at a pace faster than walking.

Looking at the uses of jog, some common themes can be established, as well as plausible cognitive reasons for the extensions from jog as a verb of motion to jog as these different verbs of metaphor. The meanings of jog used in (9)-(12) should each be defined, and then the cognitive relations explored. In (9), jog is used to refer to a stimulation of one's memory. Jogging one's memory brings it from a resting state to an active, searching state. (10) uses jog in the sense of a sudden turn in an alley. This turn is evidently not what one would normally expect. (11) refers to someone being jogged out of sleep. He was sleeping when the sound of thunder woke him up. Finally, (12) refers to a regular motion of someone's stomach while riding a horse. The person is in his normal mounted position, from which he is regularly jostled by the rhythm of the horse's walking.

A common thread through all four examples given seems to be a disturbance from the regular state of things. That jogging is a change from a regular state, one need only note that in (9), someone's memory lies dormant but is then jogged into action. In (10), the alley follows along its expected route but subsequently takes a surprising, non-normal turn. In (11) someone had been sleeping, but the sound of thunder changed this state and awoke him. In (12) the horse rider's stomach has a regular position which is disturbed by the motion of the horse.

In short, it seems that the overall meaning of jog may be unrelated to motion or speed, although that is the common, concrete version in wide use. Rather, it might be more accurately or fully defined as a change from an expected and normal state to a state of higher awareness or agitation. This basic definition can remain consistent with the data collected from the BYU Corpus as well as the more motion related meaning of the word. A normal state for humans or other animals is resting or at ease. Jogging, then, would be when the jogger is at some level of agitation above the state of rest. Likewise for the corpus data, the jogged memory is agitated to a level above rest, the jog in the alley agitates its normal course, being jogged out of sleep certainly agitates one out of a resting state, and the rider's normal position is agitated when the horse's motion jogs his stomach. This similarity, a change of state from rest to agitation, is a a possible reason for the extension of the definition of jog.

A similar analysis can be performed on run with the data gathered from the BYU Corpus. Once again, the metaphorical meanings of run in the data should be defined. Like jog, these do not refer to the speed of motion but rather a cognitively related common ground. In (13), run is used non-literally to mean that someone met someone else rather suddenly or unexpectedly. In (14), someone may literally have run away, but the literalness is not a requirement. Rather, here run instead denotes that someone left a location with a purpose or intent. In (15), in which an airplane runs out of fuel, run is used to signify that there was an end to the amount of fuel that the airplane originally had. In (16), someone runs for the Senate. He does not literally run, but the rather holds a specific intent to win the Senate seat if at all possible. Finally, in (17), something runs counter to something else. It is not actually running, but instead moving in the completely opposite direction to the opposing views.

The examples of run also have a common thread. In all five examples, someone or something acts either quickly and suddenly or with a specific purpose, usually with a focus of the context on the final state. This contrasts with jog, where although states could suddenly change, the focus was more on the processes than on the ends. For example, (13) uses the common metaphor of running into someone. Here the focus is on the sudden meeting of someone. Running into someone does not conjure up images of going through friendly introductions, but rather focuses on how unexpected it was to meet. In (14), with run away, a specific source is stated, and a specific ending, separation of source and goal, is implied. In this use the focus seems to be on both the source and the goal rather than the process of leaving the source for the goal. (15) also focuses on an end state, which in this case is the complete absence of fuel in the airplane's tanks. The phrase ran out of fuel focuses on the final endpoint of no fuel, rather than the process of using the fuel up. (16) also focuses on an endpoint. In this case, the endpoint is not definite, but it is a concretely intended endpoint nonetheless. In running for Senate, the unnamed subject of the sentence is focusing specifically on winning a seat in the Senate. Perhaps because the endpoint in this case is not definite, a bit of focus is put on the process of running, but the main focus still seems to be on the endpoint of winning the election. Finally, in (17) and the phrase ran counter to, the main focus is put on the specific purpose of opposing the accepted Freudian wisdom. While this opposition itself may be a process, the strong sense of purpose implied in the opposition seems to be the main result of the use of run.

Thus, it seems that the overall definition of run includes a connotation of reaching a certain end or of having a specific purpose or intent. Like with jog, this also can potentially remain consistent with the definition of the verb of motion. Run, as has already been established, denotes motion faster than a jog. It stands to reason then, that if jogging is a more relaxed activity then running and its metaphors should have a more purpose-driven theme to them. As such, the theme of specific intent or reaching a definite end, as opposed to focusing on a changing process between two states, seems to be a fitting definition for run as a whole, both metaphorically and in the more literal sense of motion. Moving at a faster pace implies a more specific intent than moving at a slower one. Running away from a location, running for a seat in the Senate, and running counter to accepted wisdom all also show specific intent. Running out of fuel and runninginto people show a related definition of a specific endpoint.

These definitions of run and jog appear to be consistent with everyday use. However, are these definitions arrived at by examining the metaphorical uses of the two words consistent with the ideas on the matter of those who are competitive in athletics? To examine this question, data were gathered from the LetsRun.com message board and website.

(18) Another advantage of slow, exertion-free running is that it provides some light muscle activation and blood flow with extremely low impact stress and little chance for muscle cell stress or overload.

(19) Very easy jogging is also beneficial for management of metabolism.

(20) As the run progresses, lock in to the pace which will train youyet force a slower runner to strain. In layman's terms, this means "relax and train a runner, kill a jogger".

(21) Some of those joggers will turn into runners

(18) and (19) are produced by the same person. In these two examples, he seems to use the terms “slow, exertion free running” and “jogging” interchangeably. This suggests that, to a competitive athlete or someone deeply involved in athletics, running and jogging are very intertwined and defined in terms of each other. The definitions suggested by (18) and (19) are consistent with the continuum of speeds arrived at earlier, and the concept of jogging being exertion-free runningis consistent with the continuum as well as the metaphorical definitions of run and jog. If one is not overly exerting himself, his purpose may be less urgent or altogether nonexistent. In this case, his efforts could be classified as a jog, perhaps even if a definite purpose is present. Alternatively, intensely focusing on a change of state may be enough to introduce a distinct purpose of action into a context. If this is the case, then joggingintensely enough could change the definition of one's actions to running.

(20) suggests that runners and joggers are different people as defined by speed, “in layman's terms”. That is, classification as a runner or a jogger is a matter of relative speed. This is shown by the equating of training someone on a run that would be a strain for a slower runner to training a runner and killing a jogger. However, (20) also suggests that this equation only is valid in the layman's terms. Thus, it appears that although the general public possibly differentiates running and jogging by speed, those involved in athletics differentiate between the two using some other basis.

(21) supports the assertion that with the introduction of purpose into one's jogging, one can make the transition from being a jogger to being a runner. Presumably, by the definitions already arrived at, a jogger, to those involved in athletics, would be someone who trains his cardiovascular system through bipedal motion at a faster than walking pace, but without any specific focus on a discrete purpose or intent. Rather, his focus is on the process of jogging, and he may have some nonspecific purpose, such as getting “in shape”, as his desired ending point. If this is a jogger, then a runner is someone who also trains his cardiovascular system, but rather than having some nebulous, ill-defined purpose or focusing on the process, he has a focus on some specific future race, perhaps with goals of a certain placement, time, or distance to be achieved. With these definitions, it is easy to see that if one is currently a jogger, by introducing a specific purpose or goal for his training, he can make the transition from jogger to runner. For example, he may start out simply wishing to lose weight, but he may in the end desire to finish a marathon. It should be added that for the purposes of these terms within the athletics community, a specific goal might have to do with a specific running goal. That is, one may have a specific goal of helping himself to quit smoking through exercise, but as his goal is not within athletics, but his process is, he is not a runner as defined by the community but instead a jogger.

With the above analysis, it seems that the physical definitions of verbs of motion very readily make extensions into the metaphorical definitions of those same verbs. As has been seen, the manner of trottingin the physical world makes its way into metaphorical uses of trot, and the differences of purpose and intent behind physically running and jogging (as seen by running athletes at least) make their way into the commonly used metaphors for those words as well. Verbs of motion have also shown sensitivity to specialization. When one frequently uses the words run and jog, as in the athletics-related cases above, the words take on more specific meanings. The physical speed definitions of run and jog tend to remain the layman's terms, as in:

(22) lover had taken her on his runs, five miles a day and not jogging.

However, as seen, with specialization the terms run and jog can take on the overarching metaphorical meanings as their physical meanings. Thus, it seems that in the layman's terms Rocky may be either jogging or running (perhaps trotting, depending on his manner). Whether or not he is running by the runner's definition, though, depends on whether he is training specifically for a purpose. He is training for a discrete point in time, his boxing match, which is, however, not within the space of athletics, and thus he would likely be considered to be jogging.

It would be interesting to look at similar terms across languages and see if the tendencies are the same. Unfortunately I myself am not proficient enough in a language other than English to easily pursue such a task. It may also be of interest to research how terms such as run, jog, and trot become differentiated from one another. E.g., do more goal-driven societies develop languages with more such distinctions than others? That is, does life experience give way to metaphors such as “FASTER HAS MORE PURPOSE” in the vein of “LIFE IS A JOURNEY”, suggested by Lakoff and Johnson in Metaphors We Live By? The conceptual metaphor platform does seem to lend itself to further analysis of these findings and would be an interesting path to jog (or run) down.


BYU Corpus of American English. http://www.americancorpus.org/

LetsRun.com Message Board. https://www.letsrun.com/forum/forum.php?board=1


Tell a friend about this article
(Dont worry we won't email your friend(s) again. We send them a 1 time email)
Enter their email address(es), separated by a comma.
Enter your name:

Don't Worry: We
Back to Main Front Page
Questions, comments or suggestions?Please email the LetsRun.com staff at [email protected]

Save on Running Shoes

Runner's World &
Running Times

Combined Only $22

a Year
Save $87

Running & Track and Field Posters

Search the Web
or LetsRun.com



Advertise on LetsRun.com

Contact Us

Privacy Policy