Running Terminology You Should Know

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Running terminology may not be the most fascinating topic at first glance.

However, running like any other sport or profession has a language of its own and it is very important to understand the definitions and terms that will be referred to so you can be in the know.

This might be the most exhaustive list of running terms on the internet!

Running Terms and Lingo


  • 100 meters= shortest common sprint race held outdoors
  • 200 meters= 1/2 lap around a standard track
  • 400 meters= 1/4 mile, one lap around a standard track
  • 800 meters = 1/2 mile, two laps around a standard track
  • 1200 meter = 3/4 mile, three laps around a standard track
  • 1500 meter = .93 mile, metric mile, 3 3/4 laps around track
  • 5k= 3.1 miles; 5,000 meters
  • 10k= 6.2 miles; 10,000 meters
  • 15k= 9.3 miles; 15,000 meters
  • Half Marathon= 13.1 miles; 21.1k
  • Marathon= 26.2 miles; 42.2k
  • Ultra marathon= any distance greater than 26.2 miles but typically referring to a 50k race or beyond
  • 50k= 31.1 miles
  • Tri/triathlon= a race which involves swimming, cycling and running, the most common triathlon distances include the sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5k run), Olympic or standard (1.5k/40km/10k), ½ Ironman (1.2 miles/56 miles/13.1 miles), Ironman (2.4 miles/112 miles/26.2miles)

Agencies and Common Abbreviations

  • IAAF= International Association of Athletics Federations; the worldwide organization that governs running
  • BQ (Boston Qualify)= the Boston Marathon requires runners to meet certain time standards based on age and gender
  • USATF= USA Track and Field
  • RRCA= Road Runner’s Club of America
  • CR= course record
  • WR= world record
  • FKT= fastest known time
  • DNF= did not finish
  • DNS= did not start

Training Terms

  • Heart rate (HR)= the contraction of the heart, usually measured as beats per minute (bpm)
  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR)= your heart rate when you first wake up in the morning and before getting out of bed
  • Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)= the highest number of contractions your heart can make in one minute; a common way to estimate this is to take 220- your age= max HR. But this method only provides a rough estimation.
  • Heart rate monitor (HRM)= a device that measures the electrical activity of the heart; this may be through a wrist based monitor, chest strap, or in ear monitor
  • Aerobic= using oxygen to generate energy
  • VO2 max= aerobic capacity, maximum amount of oxygen that can be utilized by your body during activity
  • Anaerobic= without oxygen, usually used to describe very high intensity exercise (going anaerobic)
  • Pace= a measurement of speed of running, usually measured as how many minutes it takes you to run a mile or kilometer
  • Endurance= the ability to run for long periods of time
  • Endorphins= brain chemicals which cause feelings of euphoria and the “runners high”
  • Runner’s High= a happy and relaxed feeling that can happen during or after a run from the release of endorphins
  • Second wind= feeling more energy and using less effort after running for at least 15-20 minutes
  • PR/PB= Personal Record or personal best; the fastest time you’ve done for a given distance
  • Cadence= the number of steps you take in a minute of running; ideal cadence is thought to be 180 steps/min
  • Gait= describes how we run or walk and consists of two phases: stance where part of the foot touches the ground and swing during which the same foot doesn’t touch the ground
  • Lactic Acid= a byproduct of the body’s use of carbohydrates-the anaerobic metabolism of glucose; usually associated with muscle stiffness and burn after a hard workout
  • Glycogen= the storage form of glucose (sugar) found primarily in the liver and muscles
  • DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)= discomfort, stiffness, or soreness in a muscle related to microscopic tears of a muscle doing more work than it’s used to, typically noticed primarily 24-72 hours post-workout
  • Hitting the wall/Bonk= a state of exhaustion where your glycogen stores are depleted and blood sugar levels are low; this sometimes hits from mile 18 on in a marathon without proper fueling
  • Stretching= movements to increase muscle, ligament, and joint flexibility; best done after exercise when the muscles are warm
  • Dynamic stretching= stretching involving movement which is most beneficial for runners
  • Static stretching= a stretch held in a challenging but comfortable position typically for 10-60 seconds
  • Weight training/Strength training= these are sometimes used interchangeably and refer to exercises focused on developing the strength and size of muscles; weight training would involves weights while strength training could use just body weight exercises
  • Pylometrics= a type of exercise designed to produce fast, powerful movements; the muscle is loaded and contracted in rapid sequence
  • Core/core training= specific strengthening exercises targeting the core muscles which include the muscles in the abdominals, back and pelvis
  • Water/aqua jogging= a cross training exercise in which the running motion is done in a pool or body of water usually using a buoyancy belt so that your feet don’t touch the bottom and the workout is low impact
  • Elliptical= an exercise machine that mimics the running motion in a low impact manner
  • Doubles= doing two runs in one day
  • Brick workout= doing two different workouts back to back—often used in preparation for a triathlon

Terms on a Training Plan

  • MPM= minutes per mile
  • MPW= miles per week
  • XC= cross country
  • XT/cross-train= a low-impact activity to perform on the days you don’t run that will increase your conditioning, help prevent injury, and add variety to your workout schedule. Examples: swimming, cycling, elliptical, rowing, walking, weight-training, yoga, Pilates, exercise videos, etc)
  • Hills= important to build leg strength and endurance; run in a hilly area or set the treadmill at an incline
  • Hill repeats= run up hill then down, repeat for determined number of times or distance
  • Easy run/recovery run= an easy, steady pace for recovery or enjoyment; improves aerobic conditioning; intensity should permit conversation and be no more than 60-70% maximum heart rate
  • Zone 2= this refers to keeping your heart rate within Zone 2 for easy and recovery runs—prescribed by the Maffetone Method of heart rate training. Subtract your age from 180 for the upper zone 2 limit
  • Marathon pace= the pace you plan to hold during your goal marathon; many training plans will call for some marathon pace runs
  • 10% rule= a general guideline which discourages increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week
  • Warm up= walk for at least 2-5 minutes before starting a slow jog to warm up and loosen the muscles prior to workout
  • Cool down= slowing your pace significantly for a couple minutes at the end of your run, then walking to further cool down and slowly lower your heart rate to avoid letting blood pooling in your extremities
  • Speedwork= increasing the pace of your run according to a schedule to improve leg power, strength, and confidence; training yourself to go faster
  • Tempo run= maintaining a comfortably hard or challenging pace; builds speed and teaches the body to run at a certain pace; usually run at a maximum of 80-85% HR
  • Intervals= a speed workout where a set distance is run repeatedly with recovery jogs in between to build speed and aerobic capacity
  • Ladder intervals= a workout where increasing intervals are run with recovery jogs in between; 200m-400m-600m-800m
  • Cutdown intervals= decreasing intervals; 800m- 600m- 400m- 200m
    Pyramid= combining intervals; 200-400-600-800-600-400-200
  • Strides= short, controlled bursts of running (50-150 meters) to work on form and efficiency; sometimes done at the end of a workout
  • Fartlek= Swedish word meaning “speed play”; an informal speed workout; example: run hard to next telephone pole, slow pace, run hard to next…
  • Yasso 800= a speed workout and marathon time predictor invented by Bart Yasso, it involves running 10 sets of 800 meters with 400 meters easy in between, by using the average of your 800 meter times you can get an estimate of what your marathon time could be
  • LSD= long slow distance
  • Rest day= no running or intense physical activity, an important day to rest your body and mind
  • Base training/running base= running that builds a solid foundation of aerobic fitness and muscle strength over a period of weeks or months before starting a focused training plan
  • Peak= scheduling your training so that your best performance is timed for a race
  • Taper= decreasing mileage and intensity for several days to three weeks before a race to ensure peak performance
  • Long run= the weekly mileage buildup, the most important run of the week consisting of 25-30% of your weekly mileage, depending your on goal race and experience level it could be from 4-26 miles
  • Overtraining= doing too much in training which can lead to fatigue, injury, or burn out

Terms that Pertain to Race Day

  • Certified course= Most marathons and half-marathons are certified by USA Track & Field which makes sure that the distance of the race is accurately measured. For any running performance to be accepted as a record or for national ranking it has to be run on a USATF-certified course
  • Out and back= a course where you run out a certain distance and then turn around and run back the same way
  • Loop= starting your run or race at one point and then running in a big circle to end at the same location
  • Point to point= a course that begins and ends at widely separated locations
  • Chip/net time= your personal time recorded from when you cross the start line to finish line
  • Clock time= the time recorded from when the race first begins
  • Kick= a fast finishing sprint at the end of a run or race
  • Splits= a race or run’s total time divided into parts (usually km or miles)
  • Negative split= running the second half of a race faster than the first half; ideal way to pace most races
  • Positive split= running the second half of the race slower than the first half
  • Even split= running the first and second half of a race at a consistent pace
  • Corral= a designated area for runners of a certain pace or who hope to run a certain race time at the start line of a race, this can be strictly or informally controlled
  • Wave start= each corral starts the race staggered anywhere from a few seconds to minutes apart to help with course congestion
  • Timing mat= an electronic device placed across the course that records your personal time when you cross it, usually found at the start line, halfway point and finish line (but there may be more)
  • Pacer= this is someone who runs with you to help keep you on pace, this can range from a running partner to a sanctioned pacer during a race. Using unofficial pacers (an unregistered runner) during a race is not allowed
  • Master= an athlete 40 years of age or older
  • Clydesdale/Athena= a category to describe a heavier runner—typically over 150lb for a woman and 200lb for a man
  • Aid Station= an official section containing things like water, sports drink, and fuels during a race; often spaced evenly throughout a race course
  • Volunteer= a person donating their time to help out during a race
  • Unofficial aid station= a private individual(s) who have a spot to hand out food or liquids during a race—be careful because accepting unofficial aid from anywhere except official aid stations can result in disqualification for awards
  • Single track= a trail running term referring to a course that is only wide enough to allow for one runner at a time
  • Double track= trail running term referring to a trail wide enough to allow for two people abreast
  • Technical= a trail running term referring to how challenging or difficult the trail is- a highly technical trail would include things like natural obstacles (water crossings, rock climbs, steep up and down hills, ungroomed trails, etc)
  • Road runner= a runner who does most of their training and races on the roads
  • Elevation gain= the amount of feet or meters that the course goes up during a run or race
  • Climb= often refers to a hill or stretch of elevation gain during trail running
  • Quad buster= long downhill stretches of running
  • Altitude training= specific training at over 1,500 meters/5,000 ft for several weeks to trigger increased red blood cell production which can boost endurance
  • Heat Index= the combined effects of the temperature and humidity in the air
  • Wind Chill= refers to the lower temperature caused by a combination of the ambient temp and the wind
  • Run/walk/run or Galloway Method= a system of planned running and walking intervals during a run or race, can be anywhere from a certain distance to time ratio, distance/distance ratio, or time/time ratio
  • Timing chip= a device you tie to your shoe or that is attached to the back of your race bib that measures your time when you cross a timing mat in a race
  • Bling/hardware/medal= the finisher’s prize given out which usually takes the form of a medal, belt buckle, mug, hunk of wood, etc. Some runners are known to look this up in advance before signing up for a race
  • Swag= the goodies or items given either before or after a race- this can include coupons, samples, food items, apparel, cups/mugs, etc
  • Crew= a group of friends who have been recruited to provide you with aid or support during a race (most typically during a 50+ mile event)
  • Drop bag= a collection of items that you think you’ll need during an ultra race that is transported by the race to a specific location for you. This can be handy if you don’t have a crew
  • Gear Check= a bag of items that you’d like available at the end of the race. Usually placed in a designated bag and transported from the starting area to the finish by race officials
  • Fuel= term that refers to any food or calories taken in before or during running to keep your energy up, can be anything from traditional exercise fuels to “real” food options
  • Gu/gel/chomps/blocks= various types of fuels for running; a gu/gel usually has a thicker gel-like consistency; chomps/blocks/gummies are usually more solid and need to be chewed
  • UCAN= a slow release carbohydrate fuel from Generation UCAN
  • Carb loading= a dietary habit of eating high carbohydrate diet (60-70% total calories) for 3-7 days before a race to maximally fill glycogen stores
  • Hand-held= refers to a bottle that you can carry in your hand as you run
  • Fuel belt= a belt that allows you to carry one or more bottles for liquid around your waist area
  • Hydration pack= a lightweight breathable backpack that contains a bladder and hose to carry water or other fluids that you can drink on the go, usually also contains other pockets for storing fuels and other necessities

Gear and Shoes

  • Foot strike= how and where your foot hits the ground as you run: heel strikers- heel hits the ground first, midfoot striker- mid to ball of foot hit the ground first, forefoot striker- ball of foot to toes hit the ground first
  • Pronation= refers to the inward roll of your foot during part of your running stride
  • Overpronation= foot rolls over to the inside too far during the running stride which can lead to injury and muscle imbalances
  • Supination= foot does not have a sufficient inward roll or even may roll to the outside during the running stride
  • Normal/medium arch= refers to an arch that ideally supports your body weight and pronates normally under load- half of arch region filled in with paper bag test; most common foot type
  • Flat/low arch= foot often overpronates inward for shock absorption which can lead to ankle and knee problems- entire arch region filled in with paper bag test
  • High arch= foot does not roll much with ground contact which doesn’t absorb as much shock; will just see ball of foot and heel on paper bag test
  • Orthotics= shoe inserts to correct biomechanical problems
  • Stability or motion control= a shoe designed to offers some degree of control for over-pronation
  • Cushioned= a shoe designed with extra softness sometimes preferred for those with a more rigid foot
  • Drop= also known as heel to toe drop or heel-toe offset, heel-toe differential, or heel-toe lift in a shoe; it is the difference between the heel height and the forefoot height in a shoe; expressed in millimeters
  • Zero drop= equal height between the heel and forefoot in a shoe, this does not necessarily mean it is a minimalist shoe. If you’re transitioning to a zero drop shoe for the first time you should be careful and do this very gradually
  • Minimalistic= a shoe with little or no cushioning and often a thinner amount of materials between the foot and ground
  • Maximalist= a shoe with a lot of cushioning and materials between the foot and ground; see Hoka
  • Hokas= a brand of maximalist shoes
  • Ride= the feel of a shoe during the foot strike, should be a smooth feeling but this is subjective
  • Naked running= without gadgets/lots of gear
  • Wicking= the ability of a fiber to move moisture from the skin to surface of fabric so it can evaporate and keep you dry
  • Technical/tech shirt or gear= a running shirt made of wicking fabric
  • TM= treadmill; also known as the dreadmill
  • Foam roller/rolling= self myofascial release using a cylindrically shaped firm foam roller
  • Ice bath= submersing in cool to cold water for 10+ minutes after a hard workout to reduce inflammation; also see torture
  • Buckle= hardware often given after completing a 100 mile race
  • Bib= the race number that you attach to your clothing before the race
  • Gaiters= gear that attaches to your shoes and goes up your ankle or leg to keep out dirt, rocks and other debris
  • GPS= global positioning system; to track location, velocity and time anywhere in the world
  • Garmin= a company that makes a number of GPS watches; also slang for whatever running watch you have (I forgot to stop my Garmin at the end of the race)
  • Training Log= a training record to increase your motivation, monitor progress, and spot trends in your running, this can be an online log, spreadsheet, or paper
  • Strava= an online training log and community
  • Tights= form fitting running pants
  • Shell= lightweight jacket worn over other clothing which is useful for mildly cool temps; can be compressed to fit in a pack
  • Body Glide= a brand of roll on anti-chaffing lubricant to prevent chaffing; there are many brands of anti-chaffing products but are sometimes just called body glide
  • Compression socks/gear= a garment that provides graduated pressure to help improve blood circulation and provide support to body parts
  • Singlet= a technical tank top worn while running, often used for races

Injury and Mishaps

  • RICE= Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation; used to treat certain injuries
  • Stitch= side cramp
  • Runners trots= gastrointestinal (GI) problems on the run resulting in diarrhea
  • Code brown= desperately in need of a place to have a bowel movement; this may or may not end in an unfortunate accident (shart=a fart you should not have trusted)
  • Fitness leak= urine leakage caused by high impact activities; most common in women affecting at least 25%
  • Chaffing= an irritation or rubbing of the skin caused by skin to skin or skin to fabric contact made worse by the presence of moisture and heat
  • Chub rub= thigh chaffing from skin rubbing together
  • Stress fracture (SFX)= a hairline crack in the bone
  • Tendinitis= inflammation of a tendon
  • Plantar fascitis (PF)= involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes
  • Piriformis Syndrome (PS)= Irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by compression of the nerve within the buttock by the piriformis muscle
  • Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)= inflammation of IT band which runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to just below the knee; most often occurs where the band crosses over the outside of the knee and also at hip
  • Runner’s Knee or (Patello-femoral Syndrome)= the kneecap (patella) rubbing on the front of the thigh bone (femur) causing pain under or around the kneecap
  • Black toenails= bruising to the nail bed caused by excess pressure or pounding during running (often during downhills); the toenail will be sore post-race and you may end up eventually losing the nail
  • Bloody nipples= chaffing to men’s nipples that causes bloody patches on their shirt—usually the man is wearing white
  • Biff= a fall that does not lead to a trip to the ER
  • Face Plant= using your face to catch a fall
  • Snot rocket/farmer’s blow= ejecting snot from your nose by closing one nostril with a finger and blowing forcefully out of the other
  • Sniffer= sniffing back snot in absence of a tissue; usually caused by exercise induced rhinitis or allergies


  • FOMO= fear of missing out
  • Bucket list= a race or event that you really want to do in the future; “that’s a bucket list race for me”
  • Bandit= someone who runs a race who hasn’t registered, this is frowned upon
  • Rabbit= someone who goes out with the intention of setting a fast pace but then often drops out; a rabbit may be sanctioned by the race to pace elite runners
  • Elite= a professional runner who aspires to or achieves race wins or Olympic qualification, a very nebulous term
  • Chicked= a man who gets passed by a woman in a race
  • Geezered= a young person passed by an older person during a run or race
  • Streaker= running at least 1 mile a day for a certain period of time. To register an official running streak you must complete at least 365 days
  • Post-race blues= a sad, letdown or directionless feeling that can happen after completing a big race
  • Sponsored= an athlete who is partially or totally supported by one or more companies
  • Brand Ambassador= an athlete who promotes a certain brand or product and usually receives free gear in return
  • Ragnar= short for Ragnar Relay–long distance, team, overnight running relays; they have both road and trail events
  • Parkrun= organized free weekly timed 5k runs that take place on Saturday morning all over the world
  • OCR= obstacle course racing like Tough Mudder and Spartan Races
  • C25K= a term referring to couch to 5k; going from not running to completing your first 5k distance
  • Beer Mile= a race that consists of one beer (12 oz, minimum of 5% alcohol by volume) consumed every ¼ mile. Penalty laps are given for vomiting.
  • Runchies/Rungry= the hungry sensation produced by running, this is followed by a short temper if food is not quickly obtained
  • Trackster= someone who runs mostly on the track or follows track events closely
  • Ghost runner= someone real or imagined who is on your heals during a race or run
  • Runcrastination= putting off unwanted tasks to go for a run or think about running
  • Browsing= searching for races online via Marathon Guide, Running in the USA, Active, Ultra-Sign Up, this is part of runcrastination
  • Runhole= a term assigned to a runner who talks incessantly about running and neglects friends and family for training and races
  • Runcation= planning a vacation around a race
  • Roadkill= a person sitting or laying alongside a road or trail during a race
  • Mountain goating= walking or running uphill in a crouched position using hands and feet to climb
  • Bombing downhill= running downhill fast or in a nearly uncontrolled manner
  • Leap frogging= continually passing and being passed by the same person(s) during a race
  • Wizard sticks= trekking poles
  • Hammer/drop the hammer= running hard at a challenging section or at the end of a run or race; Hammer can also refer to the company Hammer Nutrition
  • Sticky= covering your car with running related stickers
  • Going Barkley= bushwhacking it through an unmarked section of land
  • Crop dusting= the act of passing someone on the course while simultaneously eeking out the results of last night’s 15 bean and pasta dinner extravaganza
  • Maniac= A term referring to someone who belongs to the Marathon Maniac club, to join you have to run 2 marathons in 14 days or 3 in 90 days. If someone calls you a maniac (or crazy) in running related terms it’s supposed to be taken as a compliment
  • Fanatic= A term referring to someone who belongs to the Half Fanatic Club, to join you have to run 2 half marathons within 14 days or 3 in 90 days
  • Double Agent= a person who belongs to both the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs
  • Back to back marathon= running marathons on two consecutive weekends
  • Double marathon= running marathons on two consecutive days (there are also triples, quads, etc)
  • Grand Slam= completing all four of the most prestigious 100 mile races in one calendar year, the races are Western States in CA, Vermont 100 miler, Wasatch Front 100 miler in UT and Leadville Trail 100 in CO
  • World Marathon Majors= six prestigious marathons: Tokyo Marathon, London Marathon, Boston Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon, NYC Marathon


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6 Responses to Running Terminology You Should Know

  1. Mel March 27, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    Thank you for the podcast. Estimating maximum heart rate using the 220-age method is so inaccurate I’m surprised you would mention it without stressing its inaccuracy.

    • Angie Spencer March 28, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

      You’re right that using the 220-age method only provides a very rough guess for estimating maximum heart rate. I’m sure I mentioned this on the podcast (unless Trevor edited that part out) 🙂

  2. ricardo April 6, 2016 at 3:40 am #

    Hello Angie and Trevor.

    It is the most useful MTA episode ever.
    As non native english speaker now I can understand a 100% of running articles.
    I’ d like to specify a issue:

    PB and PR are the same thing, however PB is most common in the the UK unlike PR is used in the US

    • Angie Spencer April 6, 2016 at 7:27 am #

      Thanks Ricardo. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You’re absolutely right that PB and PR can be used interchangeably.

  3. ricardo April 6, 2016 at 4:12 am #

    There are several ways to obtain your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). I’ll give you 3:

    A- Londeree and Moeschberger of Missouri-Columbia Universit: MHR= 206.3 – (0.711 x age)

    B- Miller, of Indiana Universit says: MHR= 217 – (0.85 x age)

    C- An practical and reliable way to obtain your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR):

    -Warm up for 20 minutes and find a long hill.
    – Run uphill 3 times.
    -The first and second attempt the rate should be medium-high.
    – The third and last attempt you must run as fast as you can for 2 minutes and must try get the maximun speed the last 30 seconds.
    – When you finish, you’ll obtain your MHR.

    • Angie Spencer April 6, 2016 at 7:29 am #

      Thanks for these very helpful ways to estimate the MHR. I’d say the third method is one of the best (besides doing a VO2 max test in a lab) to get a personal MHR.

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