Runners don’t seem to agree on much. Even a question with as seemingly obvious an answer as whether or not to wear shoes as you beat your feet for thousands of steps, mile after mile, against unforgiving mother earth can cause actual fistfights when asked in a room with the wrong composition of experts (which leaves me terrified about the future of the sport if someone asks about the efficacy of pants). But if you ever find yourself in need of an overwhelming sense of togetherness, know that you’re only one specific question away from an absolute consensus. Should you jog in place while waiting on a stoplight? The answer is always no. Absolutely not. NEVER. And not because copying the running motion without actually moving forward could eventually lead to hiccups in your form. Not because unnecessary steps just add to the general wear and tear you’re putting on your joints. Not even because of ancient Chinese proverbs. The reason not to jog in place when the sign tells you “Don’t Walk” is simple and timeless. Because it makes you look stupid, and damns the rest of us runners to apelike dumb assitude by association.
Which leads me to some bad news for the givers of such advice. Sorry kids, but we all look a little soft-headed. All the time. And it isn’t just because running clothes only seem to come in varying shades of “You know fuchsia’s really pretty drab, why don’t you take a look at-OH MY GOD MY EYES WON’T STOP BLEEDING!” (I’m not the only person to ever buy a pair of running shoes solely because I thought they were comfortable, only to find out later that the damn things literally glowed in the dark, right?). Or any event that draws more than 100 of us is statistically guaranteed to feature at least one “person” in face paint and a tutu. Runners look stupid, because to those uninitiated into our cult of defiance, i.e. the public at large, the act of running itself looks kinda dumb.
Think about it. Running isn’t the best way to get from point A to point B. We have faster things with wheels and motors for that. Science’ll tell ya, especially in light of running’s high impact nature, that it’s probably not the most efficient form of exercise. And, face it, modern society has rendered most of the classic reasons to be good at the actual act of running fast, and/or far, obsolete. I mean, if you find yourself physically attempting to run down your dinner tomorrow night then may I suggest packing an especially generous tip for your very unfortunate Domino’s delivery guy. It’s no wonder to the unwitting outsider our little hobby takes on the appearance of a hollow-headed masochistic sweat fest.
So if you’re going to look stupid either way, why not run in place? I know when I was just getting started my big training goals involved hitting certain distances or amounts of time running without stopping, and pausing at a street light felt like cheating. You always hear you should train specifically for the race you’re hoping to run, and I have yet to see a race that involves stopping for traffic lights. And even now that I’m seasoned enough not to have to worry that a stop here or there would ruin the endurance part of my run, there’s still that creeping part of me whispering away when I feel near death on a 20+ mile circuit, telling me if I stop moving for a light, I might not be able to start again.
So, hell, there’s plenty of good reasons to go ahead and jog in place at a stoplight if that’s what you feel like doing. And if someone rolls down their car window to laugh and tell you what a moron you are… Well, actually, it’s probably me. You look like an idiot.