Whether you’ve been running for one year or twenty, running terms can still be a bit confusing at times. Between all the funny running lingo and abbreviations, it can be hard to keep up. Here is a list of all the running words you’ll need to know.
Glossary of Running Words
Spending time completing training in areas that are above sea level. Many elite and competitive runners train at altitude in attempts to improve their cardiovascular system and give them an advantage during road races.
The point at which your body switches from aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism. This is helpful for intense speed workouts that might include short intervals or strides, as well as determining your goals and physical capabilities.
Sometimes called pool running, this term refers to running in water. Many runners utilize aquajogging in training when they are injured to avoid the impact and pounding of running, while still benefiting from similar physical efforts.
Someone who participates in and runs a race unofficially – without registering or paying.
The paper number that is pinned to your shirt during a race. You receive a bib for most races to prove you have registered and provide tracking throughout the course. Most runners pin their bibs to the front of their shirt on race day.
This is a common running word and is used to describe exactly what it sounds: a black toenail. Black toenails are when all or part of a toenail turns black or blue. They occur frequently in distance runners and usually fall off after a few weeks when they are replaced with a new, fresh toenail.
Another running word used to describe exactly what it sounds: bloody nipples. Men can sometimes suffer from bloody nipples after running due to the rubbing on their shirt directly against their chest.
Bonk/Hitting the Wall
These running terms can be used interchangeably to describe the same situation. Bonking and hitting the wall refer to the point during a long run or race when you run out of energy, both physically and mentally, and are unsure if you can continue.
The phrase “hitting the wall” is commonly used during a marathon when the runner faces the inevitable point at which they have to choose to power through while feeling miserable and tempted to give up.
Commonly used by triathletes, this term describes a type of workout that includes biking followed immediately by running.
This word is typically used in running language to describe the point when a runner feels unmotivated and tired. It typically occurs after tough or particularly long training seasons.
A fancy running term used to describe the number of times your feet come in contact with the ground.
Your cadence is typically measured in beats per minute; for example, a cadence of 180 bpm means that your feet come in contact with the ground 180 times in a single minute while running.
Also simply called carb loading, this term describes exactly what it sounds: loading up on carbs. Most runners practice carbo loading before a race or long run by consuming meals high in carbohydrates the night before to help their bodies stock up on fuel for the miles ahead.
This means that a race course has been reviewed and officially certified by the United States Track and Field association. Certified courses are usually approved Boston qualifiers, meaning that your finishing time on this course can be used to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
This strange sounding word is used by runners to describe the rubbing that occurs when their clothes and skin are in contact during a run. Chafing usually burns or stings as the clothes repeatedly rub up against the skin with each step.
Most races have now converted to chip timing, which means that there is a small chip attached to your race bib that automatically tracks and records your time along the course. Many races offer spectators a way to see their runner’s splits at various points throughout the course with these chips.
The start of a race often begins in what is called the corral. Runners line up in a big group, usually on a street of some sort. The sides of the corrals are often blocked off to help funnel runners to the start line in an orderly fashion.
Runners use the phrase cross training to describe exercise that is different than running. During training, cross training includes various forms of cardio or strength training and is used to maintain running fitness and reduce the risk of injuries.
Many elite and pro runners utilize drafting during a race to decrease resistance as they run incredibly fast speeds. Drafting refers to strategically running behind or to the side of a runner near you so that they block the wind.
Dynamic Stretching/Warm Up
Dynamic stretches and warm ups refer to exercises that involve movement, rather than holding one position. Common dynamic warm up exercises include leg swings, stretching pulses and knee circles.
Professional runners just about always fall into the elite category, as well as recreational runners who run faster than a certain threshold. The term elite runner refers to the select group of runners who are the fastest.
This word describes the feel-good chemical that your body releases during and after exercises. Endorphins are what give us that “runner’s high” or moments of bliss and incredible satisfaction after finishing a run or workout.
This running term refers to a style of training that involves varying the pace at random times. Many runners complete fartlek runs as a means of speed training, which involves running faster for random, unstructured periods of time during a run.
Form refers to your stance, stride, cadence, arm swing and posture during a run. All of these together create your overall running form.
This term is used to describe the way in which a runner lands on the ground with each foot while running. Foot strike usually describes the area in which the runner first makes contact with the ground – such as a heel or mid-foot strike.
Someone who others anticipate winning a race or having a good chance of finishing in a top place.
The number of times your heart beats per minute. Heart rate can be used in many different styles of training, and is sometimes the sole statistic that is used to determine pace and effort.
Related: 5 Running Heart Rate Zones
This term is not specific to running, although it provides a very helpful metric for runners to use to prepare for their runs.
Heat index is an estimation of the level of discomfort the average person will experience under the current weather conditions. The higher the heat index, the more discomfort you will experience outdoors.
This word describes a recovery method most commonly used by long distance runners to help speed up their body’s healing after a run. Most runners fill a bathtub with cold water or add ice to the tub and then sit directly in the water as a way to ice their muscles after a long run.
This is the strip of muscle that extends on the outside of your upper leg. It begins at your outer hip and continues down your leg all the way to your knee.
Runners sometimes use the terms interval and repeat interchangeably. Interval refers to a specific distance that is usually repeated during a speed workout. Runners complete intervals and repeats at a quick pace, much faster than their usual easy run speed.
This running term is used to describe shoes with lots of underfoot cushion. Maximalist shoes provide plenty of support and cushioning.
In contrast, minimalist is used to describe shoes that are lightweight, with little support and very low heel-to-toe drop. These shoes provide basic coverage with little else.
Some runners use orthotics to provide extra support based on their unique foot shape. Orthotics are inserts that are placed in shoes which have been specifically formed to the runner’s foot.
This is a type of run or race course that involves running in one direction for half of the total distance, and then turning around to finish the second half by running back to the start.
Overpronation is a running word used to describe a specific foot strike. When a runner overpronates, they land on the outside of their foot and roll inward toward the arch. This type of landing can lead to a variety of different injuries.
This term is often used when runners have completed too many miles or hard workouts during training. Some runners mistakenly believe that more is always better, but when they do too much, they overtrain and put their body at risk for injury or burnout.
The speed at which you run is referred to as your pace. Pace is often shared in a mile-per-hour format.
A type of running injury that is caused by inflammation along the bottom of your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs within the plantar fascia, which is the fibrous tissue that runs from your heel bone to your toes. It can be incredibly painful, making it hard to run or even walk.
Many runners aim to run negative splits during their training runs or on race day. Negative splits refer to each mile getting faster and taking less time. As the distance increases, the pace also increases slightly with each mile to result in negative splits.
This running word is used to describe time off. Depending on the context, recovery could mean a short interval in between repeats during a run, the time immediately after a run is over, or the time spent between workouts during training.
A popular type of training for beginners who are hoping to increase their distance. The run/walk method refers to repeating intervals of running followed by walking.
Runner’s experience knee pain so frequently that it has been given the name “runner’s knee”. This refers to a generalized pain that occurs in the knee during running and seems to remain constant when exercising. The term can sometimes be used as a generalization, describing everything from minor aches to serious injuries.
This term is common in running lingo, and is used to describe pain in the front of the shins. Beginners often experience shin splints when they start running faster or longer, while seasoned runners sometimes notice them if they try to increase their pace too quickly.
Runners use the word speedwork to describe workouts and runs that specifically focus on running faster paces. Speedwork can refer to intervals, repeats, hill training, fartleks, track workouts, tempo runs and more.
The word split is used in reference to each lapped distance during a run. Splits are commonly measured in miles, but also might reference different intervals if runners are completing a specific repeat workout.
Most bigger races assign runners to a specific starting wave, which is often identified by letters, numbers, or pace. Races might have starting waves from A – Z, 1-10 or identify them by the pace of runners starting in each group.
These starting waves usually group runners who run a similar pace so they are all able to cross the starting line around the same time.
In contrast to dynamic stretching, static stretching refers to holding a pose with little to no movement. This type of stretching is what is most often thought of when someone mentions a stretch, and is usually completed after a run.
Some runners experience stress fractures when they overtrain, which is a small crack in the bone due to repeated pounding. These stress fractures are not true breaks, but can become much bigger if the activity continues without time to heal.
The term “streaker” is used to describe a runner who has completed a run every single day for a certain amount of time. Completing a streak means that you have consistently run multiple days in a row without a break or rest in between.
Related: 30 Day Running Streak Challenge
Runners use the phrase strength training to refer to either bodyweight or weighted exercises that are designed to increase muscle strength throughout the body. Strength training is usually a key component of all running training plans to help avoid injury when increasing distance and pace over time.
In the plural form, this running word is used to describe a short acceleration to maximum speed. Runners complete strides by beginning at a slow, easy pace and quickly accelerating to the max speed for just a few seconds, before decelerating back to their easy pace.
This fancy running word is used to describe the landing of the foot when it rolls outward toward the side. Supination can lead to a variety of injuries if not corrected.
Runners use the word taper to describe the last few weeks of training before a race, when mileage and effort decreases significantly. Taper is usually a 1-3 week at the end of a training plan leading up to the goal race.
The term tempo is used to describe a workout that involves running at a moderate pace, requiring more effort than usual. This pace is usually the maximum speed that runners can maintain over a longer distance – usually multiple miles at a time.
Ten Percent Rule
This running phrase is a popular rule used when increasing mileage. The ten percent rule states that runners should increase their mileage by no more than ten percent each week to avoid injury and burnout.
Threshold runs describe a type of speed workout that involves running at the highest level of effort that can be sustained for longer periods of time. A runner’s threshold can be determined using heart rate calculations, or simply based on feel while completing the workout.
Many runners complete workouts and speed training at the track – looping the 400 meter (.25 mile) distance around a football or soccer field.
This phrase is used to describe running that takes place off the roads. Trail running might take place in a small forest nearby or a local mountain range. It typically involves varying terrain and singletrack courses.
Here is a word runners use to describe the unpleasantries of having to poop on the run. Runner’s trots refers to diarrhea, poop or generalized digestive distress that often occurs while running.
This type of race involves any distance greater than a marathon – longer than 26.2 miles. An ultra typically occurs on the trails rather than the roads, and can span anywhere from 30 miles to 200 or more.
This is a fancy phrase used to describe the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during a sustained period of exercise. Runner’s often hope to increase their VO2 Max as their body adapts to the sport and becomes more efficient.
Runners utilize this term to help gauge the outdoor weather conditions for a race or run. Wind chill refers to the temperature that the air feels when the wind is taken into account as well.
Understanding running lingo will help decipher various workouts, race directions and conversations among other runners.
Aside from these words and phrases, there are also some abbreviations that are commonly used in the running community. Here is the meaning of the most popular abbreviations you might find.
Common Running Abbreviations
PR – personal record
PB – personal best
DNS – did not start
DNF – did not finish
DFL – dead freaking last
CR – course record
NR – national record
WR – world record
BQ – Boston qualifier
USATF – United States Track and Field
BPM – beats per minute
ITB – Illiotibial band
MUT – mountain/ultra/trail runner
DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness
LSD – long slow distance
RICE – rest, ice, compress, elevate
Having an understanding of these running words and abbreviations will help you make sense of the running community – whether you are training on your own or heading to a race.
Further reading: The 12 Golden Rules of Running