Joggers are everywhere. I see joggers in the suburb. I see joggers in the city. They jog in the park, on the beach, and on crowded sidewalks. In New York I watch joggers on the East River promenade.

Joggers are serious people, serious in jogging at any rate. But they don't look happy. Maybe they are happy but can't look happy because they are straining so hard jogging. Maybe it's impossible to jog and smile at the same time. Tension and relaxation don't mix.

Sitting on a bench in Central Park and on the East River promenade, I watch joggers jog. There are men and women. Some are young, others are old, and many are somewhere between -- neither young nor old. There are fat joggers and lean joggers. They may be trim and muscular, slim and bony, or big and flabby. There are smooth legs and hairy legs, thick thighs and small hips, massive necks and slim shoulders. Some are half-naked; others are almost naked; still others are nearly totally covered.

Joggers move each in its own particular manner. They strut, hop, prance, trudge, plod, or dawdle. One goes racing, another keeps a healthy pace. Here is one who can barely walk, pumping, pushing, panting; here is another who goes whipping by -- too fast. Some don't jog but insist on fast walking, the body stiff like a robot and the face totally frozen. There are confident joggers, and there are floundering stragglers who shouldn't be jogging, breathing so heavily. There are heavy gaits, and there are light skipping steps. This one sways more than jogs; that one is stiff as a statue, cool and fresh. There are joggers who drink water from a bottle while jogging.

Many run alone, but some go in pairs. There is occasionally a whole flock together. Arms swing and ponytails fly; the body sways and flesh bounces up and down; sweat glistens on the chest and drips from the brow. There are T-shirts and sweat shirts, tank tops and sports bras, bike shorts and gym pants.

There are joggers who do a double duty, walking a dog or two or having one run with the runner. Some dogs run on a leash, others go free. There are joggers on wheel chair, and there are cyclists who are too impatient to jog. There are joggers with jogging strollers, a baby in it bouncing up and down. One day, a group of seven young mothers, each with a baby in a carriage, went skipping by joyously led by an enthusiastic jogging instructor.

They are all so serious. Obviously, it's all work and no pleasure. As I watch these joggers, I can't help asking myself. Are joggers healthy because they jog? Or do they jog because they are not but want to be because they wouldn't be if they didn't jog? If we relied less on the ever-dominating time- and labor-saving devices in our everyday life, we don't have to spend hours jogging everyday, do we? Why not take the stairs instead of the elevator? Why not walk instead of driving the car?

I don't jog. I only walk. But I don't walk for exercise. I walk all over the place when I am in New York. I say in jest that I enjoy streetwalking, covering block after block. So, I exercise without trying. It's all relaxation and no tension.

I enjoy watching joggers jog, however.



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T. Kaori Kitao, 11.15.02