A few days ago my friend Ria, who is training for her first half marathon, asked me a question: “What is the difference between running and jogging?”
This was a relevant question because Running and Jogging are profound words for a runner.
The problem with the answer to that question is that words, in general, and their perceived meanings, cause all sorts of problems. Communication is difficult business, even when people speak the same language. We ascribe meanings to words according to our own realities, experiences and understanding. Words convey and yet don’t convey. The interpretation of words is where the problems lie.
I have heard that once upon a time, George was coming home, completely drunk, in the early hours of the morning. On his way home, he passed a cemetery where he noticed a signboard. On it was written in large letters: ‘RING FOR THE CARETAKER’ – and that’s what he did.
Being the middle of the night, the caretaker was disturbed. He came out, groggy, disoriented and angry. When he saw George, totally drunk, he became angrier. He shouted, “Why? Why did you ring for me? What do you want?”
George looked at him for a long silent moment. Then he looked at the signboard and said, “I want to know why you can’t ring the damn bell yourself?”
The signboard had read: RING FOR THE CARETAKER.
Words can be interpreted in any number of ways.
In fact, the spoken word is as open to misinterpretation as the written word. Empires have been won and lost because of such misunderstandings.
One of my favourite books is The Histories by Herodotus. It is considered by many to be one of the seminal works of history in Western Literature. Written around the 450s BC, it stands as one of the first accounts of the rise of the Persian Empire. It covers the Greco-Persian wars between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states in the 5th Century BC.
The book tells the story of Croesus, King of Lydia from 560 to 547 BC. In Greek and Persian culture, the name of King Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man. Even today, the expressions “rich as Croesus” or “richer than Croesus” are often used.
Croesus, like most men, wanted more power and more wealth. He wanted to declare war against the Persians. However, before declaring war against Cyrus the Great of Persia he turned to the oracle at Delphi and asked whether he should go to war against the Persian Empire.
The oracle answered that if Croesus attacked the Persians, he would indeed destroy a great and mighty Empire! Feeling secure with these words, Croesus attacked the Persian Empire in 547 BC. An initial inconclusive battle was fought. As usual in those days, the armies would disband for winter and after the battle, Croesus did accordingly. Cyrus however did not disband his army and attacked Croesus again and captured him.
Tied to the pyre, to be burned alive, the words of the Oracle at Delphi must have finally become clear to Croesus: The great and mighty Empire he was about to destroy by going to war was his own!
Hindsight is 20/20, one can easily assert that when the oracle told him that, if he attacked the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire, he ought, if he had been wise, inquired which empire was meant, that of Cyrus or his own? He neither understood what was said, nor took the trouble to seek enlightenment.
Words cause a lot of problems and misunderstandings.
Ria asked, what is the difference between running and jogging. I knew the answer and was willing to share it with her.
A few Sundays ago I ran a hard 21k and was very satisfied with my time. Monday was consequently a rest day and towards Monday evening, I called my friend Sushant to ask him his Tuesday morning plans. Sushant told me that he had run a hard 25k himself and planned to run an ‘easy’ 10k. This perfectly coincided with my plan to run an ‘easy’ 10k. We met exactly at 6:00 am on the beach and started our ‘easy’ run. Sushant set the pace for our ‘easy’ run. By the time we reached 4k, I realized that I was on pace for a personal best 5k time. Sushant was flying. I was dying. As far as he was concerned, he was jogging. As far as I was concerned, I was sprinting. For him an ‘Easy’ run meant running at 5:15 min/km, for me that speed would mean I am running at my fastest possible pace.
At 4k, I abandoned my run and bid him goodbye.
Words can cause a lot of misunderstandings.
What is the difference between running and jogging? I knew the answer. I had learnt it the hard way.
Like a wise old man I answered, “One man’s jog is another man’s sprint.”