Runners are accustomed to receiving flak from the Sedentary Class, whose motto seems to be, "If you can't join 'em, throw stones at 'em!" However Malcolm Lawrence, in attributing billions of dollars of the federal budget deficit to "jogging boondogglers" {Close to Home, Oct. 25}, has heightened the debate to levels formerly attained only by Josef Goebbels and Milton Berle. Perhaps next month we shall learn that runners are responsible for the nuclear arms race.

And yet Lawrence raises a legitimate concern when he suggests that taxpayers are getting less than full value from this subclass of chiseled bureaucrats ("attired in little more than the briefest of undergarments"). He assumes an average midday running period of 1 1/2 hours at government expense. Regardless of the quantitative accuracy of this arbitrary estimate, a few obvious questions spring to mind:

Are federal employees no longer to take lunch breaks? Or is this quaint custom to be restricted only to those who choose to eat rather than exercise?

As any ex-bureaucrat should know, a lot of federal employees work many uncompensated hours beyond the standard eight-hour day. Is compensatory time off a subversive concept? Or is it an abuse only when taken by runners?

Has Lawrence considered the matter of employee efficiency? Is punching a time clock more important than getting one's work done timely and well? Presumably, a federal bureaucrat who was off jogging while his/her in-box filled up would soon be given the option of all-day running at no government expense. But could not a daily dose of fresh air and exercise be at least as beneficial to an employee's output as the proverbial three-martini lunch?

Until the Lawrence Plan succeeds Gramm-Rudman-Hollings as the operative means to reduce the deficit, I intend to continue running at lunchtime. Those who disdain running may continue to enjoy their power lunches at McDonald's -- and discuss how jogging brokers are responsible for the Crash of '87. -- Lee Nesbit

Malcolm Lawrence owes me and a lot of civil servants a big apology. His piece on lunch-time jogging reveals his vast ignorance of the facts.

I run on my lunch hour, routinely cramming showering and changing clothes into a 60-minute period, and eating my sandwich or yogurt at my desk while doing work. I make up for the rare overrun by staying late to help clients. Some days I take no lunch hour at all. I know I'm not that unusual.

I just saw my doctor for a complete physical and he said to keep on running and to tell everyone else. It's the best thing for cardio-pulmonary fitness. Running for health as well as running our jobs conscientiously is what most federal workers are all about. We know our time and we're more than honest with Uncle Sam. Giving the taxpayer the best possible run for his or her money is what government runners, joggers and exercisers are all about. -- J. Michael Donnelly

I volunteer my lunch hour to teach aerobic dance in the basement of a government building. Many of the people who attend my class come to improve their well being and reduce stress. No class of mine runs over an hour. If an employee choses to expand lunch hour beyond the designated time limit, then it is up to the employee's supervisor to take disciplinary action.

If a majority of the taxpayers really knew what it is like to work in a government building (i.e., ones that are rodent-infested, have poor ventilation, high asbestos levels in the air and inadequate security), they too would support some sort of physical activity outside the building.

Let's put things into perspective. Those who abuse their lunch hour by taking too much time for exercise are wasting taxpayer dollars. However, those who waste taxpayer dollars by spending too much on hammers, toilet seats and coffee pots for airplanes need to be reprimanded as well.

-- Anne E. Baker