When Monica Rivera was looking for company on her runs in New York City, she found a club that advertised “all paces welcome.” But on her first outing with the group, she was soon the lone runner in the back of the pack, and after a while, couldn’t even see the next runner in front of her. By the time she finished at the club’s headquarters, she felt like everyone had forgotten about her.
Experiences like these made Rivera feel like running wasn’t for her. “I put running back on the shelf,” she says. But after the pandemic inspired her to try low-stakes weekly runs on her own, she not only fell back in love with the sport, but decided to create a place where other back-of-the-pack runners would truly be welcome with her Slow AF Run Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Rivera and her club are part of a much-needed shift that’s opening up the competitive culture of running to people who care more about getting outside and having fun than setting a PR. And it’s not just those who’ve been excluded from the fitness industry who are reclaiming the fun of running slow: Even Equinox, possibly the pinnacle of high-end fitness, recently launched guided workouts focused on jogging—yes, jogging. Once (and to some, still) a cringe-inducing term in the eyes of “serious” runners, jogging is now being reclaimed by those who see it as an alternate—but not lesser—form of running.
The origins of modern jogging
Parts of this emerging running culture harken back to the running boom of the 1970s, when for the first time, average people were running casually en masse. Or, as many called it back then, jogging.
But soon after jogging came into style in the ’70s—replete with pastel shorts and matching sweatbands—the term “jogger” began to turn derogatory, thanks at least in part to serious runners who felt the need to distinguish themselves from the new swarms of recreational ones.
“Somewhere along the line, ‘jogger’ became pejorative,” says Mark Remy, a former Runner’s World editor and the founder of dumbrunner.com. “It became associated with dilettantes, beginners—people who went on very short runs or very slow runs, usually both, and who didn’t really care about how far or fast they were going.”
Writer Peter Flax pointed out in a 2020 Runner’s World story defending joggers that not only did the term come …….