Running Terms Explained – 101 Running Slang Terms and Definitions

Running Terms Explained – 101 Running Slang Terms and Definitions

Running terms and their slang verbage have become common language for me since I started running in 2006. But, when I try to explain what it is that runners do to a person that doesn’t run, I get a blank stare or disbelief. Yes, there really is such a thing as bloody nipples. No, a fartlek isn’t how it sounds. A runner’s high is a euphoric world. Below is a list of running terms to help explain some of what crazy runners do every day, from track workouts to ultra races and injuries to treatments.

Running Terms Explained

Running Terms for Shoes

  1. Flats – Track shoes built for fast running. Flats can also have spikes attached.
  2. Rock Plate – Part of a trail running shoe that provides more protection when stepping on rocks.

Minimal Shoes – Mimic the natural stride and foot strike of running barefoot.

  1. Barefoot – Barefoot running is designed to mimic natural stride and foot strike. Runners now have the option of numerous minimalist or five-finger shoes, but some do actually run barefoot, too.
  2. Stability shoe – Usually a little heavier shoe designed to increase medial support which may increase stability to the foot and lower leg. This in return should lower the amount of pronation in the foot.

Running Terms for How To Get Faster

  1. Fartlek – Training method where runners will accelerate for a brief time then slow back down to a jog. This kind of training can happen over many miles.
  2. Repeats – Training sessions that consist of a specified distance run numerous times. For example, 4×1 mile would be running four, one mile repeats with a rest period in between. Target each repeat at or around the same lap time.
  3. Interval Training – Type of training that utilizes high-intensity (HI) segments with low-intensity (LI) recovery segments. For example, after a warm up, 30 seconds HI with 60 seconds LI, 60 seconds HI with 60 seconds LI, 45 seconds HI with 45 seconds LI. Distances of intervals vary by training goal.
  4. Ladder Workout – Type of interval training that involves starting with a lower distance and increasing the next interval by a specified distance, and typically working back down by the same specified distances. For example, intervals of 200, 400, 800, 1200, 800, 400, and 200 meters run at target pace.
  5. Tempo Run – Type of training run involving a steady pace around 20 to 30 seconds slower than marathon goal pace and for 8 to 13 miles.
  6. Long run – Depending on the distance that a runner is training for, a long run might be 16-28 miles for a marathon or 30 to 50 for an ultra race.
  7. Doubles – A running term to describe running twice a day.

Other Running Terms for Training

  1. Strength training – Training that includes runner specific weight lifting routines to help become stronger and more efficient.
  2. Deliberate practice – Deliberate practice is a term coined by K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University, and refers to practice that incorporates setting goals, developing skills, and correcting mistakes. The effort is as much mental as it is physical.
  3. Taper – Easy running and a rest period prior to a race. This period can begin two or three weeks prior to the race date.
  4. Chi running – Type of running designed with the principles of relaxation, posture and mindfulness of Tai Chi.
  5. Simulator Run – Term keyed by Team Hansons Brooks in which a runner will run a 26.2k (16 miles) training race at their marathon pace, prior to their taper period. Hansons Brooks studies have shown that if a runner can hit their goal pace for the 16 miles, when muscles are tired, they should be able to run the same speed during a marathon after their taper. Hansons Brooks has had two marathoners make the Olympic team. One in 2008 and one in 2012.
  6. Dress rehearsal – Running a good training run while wearing the clothes and shoes, eating the same foods and drinking the same fluids, as expected to do on race day. This will help to build confidence and test anything that might be a question.
  7. LSD – No, not the popular 1960’s drug. LSD stands for a long, slow distance run. For beginners this run might be 5 miles. For more advanced runners, LSD can range from 18-30 miles. If training for an ultra marathon of 65 to 100 miles, some runners might go 50 miles on their LSD.
  8. Altitude training – Training for several weeks at elevations higher than 8000 ft. Runners that utilize this type of training can adapt to the relative lack of oxygen in one or more ways such as increasing the mass of red blood cells and hemoglobin. The result can be faster times in races at or near sea level.
  9. Walk breaks – Exactly as it sounds, this running term was made popular by marathon legend, Jeff Galloway.
  10. Easy run – Recovery run at least two minutes per mile slower than goal pace.
  11. Negative – Running the second portion of a course faster than the first.

Running Terms for Supplements and Stations

  1. Gels – Quick source of carbohydrate energy that comes in individual packets. Runners typically eat one every 30 to 45 minutes during a race.
  2. Glycogen – Long carbohydrate molecules that are made and stored primarily in the cells of the liver and the muscles. Glycogen is the secondary long-term energy source.
  3. Carb loading – Period of time prior to a race when runners cut back on proteins and fats and increase their carbohydrates to increase glycogen storage.
  4. Fuel – Fuel can come from different sources such as gels, food and electrolyte replacement drinks.
  5. Buffet – Ultra running aid station.
  6. Aid station – Station during a race where water, gels, electrolyte drinks and/or food are given to runners.

Running Terms for Injuries

  1. Chafe – Chaffing happens around the armpits or between the legs when the skin becomes irritated from friction.
  2. Chapped – When the insides of your legs become painful with a burning sensation due to the friction of repetitive motion. There are many other similar running terms to describe this, but chapping and chaffing are the most common.
  3. Dead toes – Maybe the most painful running terms. Dead toe nails that have turned black and have blisters.
  4. Runners knee – Knee pain around the kneecap. Usually more noticeable when squatting or bending.
  5. Runners toes – Black toe nails or toes that have lost nails due to the pressure and repetitive friction of shoes on the toes.
  6. RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate. To help recover from injury.
  7. DOMS – Delayed onset muscle soreness. This is the soreness that sets in days after training or racing. Some specially designed supplement formulas help decrease this.
  8. Bloody nipples – Occurence that happens when the friction from a shirt and the nipple rub together over a long race.
  9. IT Band – Band on the outside of the knee that can cause pain with overuse (also known as Iliotibial band).
  10. Runners trots – Having an upset stomach and needing to have a bowel movement during a race. This is one of those running terms that would only make sense to a runner who has experienced it.
  11. Lactic Acid – Acid biproduct of metabolism that builds up in muscles and blood during intense exercise. It is noticed when muscles begin to burn and/or ache, and can also result in a feeling of breathlessness or tachycardia.
  12. Stitch – Side ache. Stitches usually go away with some slower, deeper breathing.

Running Terms for a Track

  1. Quarter – One lap around a track.
  2. The oval – Another name for a track.
  3. Lanes – Track lanes. There are six on standard tracks.
  4. Track – A track is a surface that has six lanes and is 400 meters in distance for one lap from the inside lane.

Running Terms for Types of Runners

  1. Horse – Runner who doesn’t seem to ever get tired.
  2. Rabbit Runner – A runner that sets a goal pace for other runners so they might achieve a better time. Rabbits usually leave the race before the end. In some instances, especially in a marathon, rabbits may decide to finish.
  3. Pace Runner – A pace runner can be one of the most important running terms for someone trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Joining a pace group can keep runners on a desired goal.
  4. Masters – Division classified over a certain age. In some races, that age begins at 40 where as others start at 50.
  5. Streaker – No, not Will Ferrell in Old School. This running term refers to a runner who has finished the same race multiple years in a row.
  6. Clydesdale – Male division of 200+ lbs. runners.
  7. Athena – Division of female runners over a certain weight. That weight varies from 140 to 150 lbs.
  8. Bandit Runner – A runner who didn’t officially register for a race but runs it anyway.
  9. Front runner – A runner that doesn’t like to race from behind and sets the pace. Steve Prefontaine was a great front-runner –

Running Terms for Events or Races

  1. Ultra Marathon – Running event that is more than 26.2 miles. The most common events are 50k races through mountain trails. Other events include 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile races. There’s also the occasional race that is over 100 miles.
  2. Stage Race – Event when runners race to a certain point on a course. These races usually vary in distance from 10 to 26 miles per segment, and extend over multiple days. Some events even force runners to carry their own supplies.
  3. Hill Climb Event – Hill climbs vary in distance of 5 to 13 or so miles. Climbing courses typically have very little flat or descent sections. In Europe it is known as Sky Running.
  4. Relay – Type of race that is multi-day and usually covers 100 to 200+ miles with teams of 6 to 12 runners.
  5. Obstacle Racing – New trend of races including running in mud, climbing ropes, walls or ladders, ducking under barbed wire and jumping from high heights.
  6. Adventure races – Races that usually include running, canoeing, orienteering and biking. These events also take place over a couple of days.
  7. Marathon – 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers

Miscellaneous Running Terms

  1. Runner’s High – A euphoric mental state caused when the body’s endorphins kick in either towards the end of a race or after.
  2. K – A kilometer is a metric unit of distance equivalent to.62 miles. For example, 5k equals 3.1 miles.
  3. Single track – A mountain trail that has been formed into one lane.
  4. Fire Roads – Unpaved, off-road portions of a trail race used to help create a course.
  5. Black Diamond Trail – Ranking for a very difficult trail.
  6. VO2 – VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that an athlete can utilize during intense sessions of exercise.
  7. Hamster wheel – Another Name for a treadmill.
  8. Death march – Usually at the end of a marathon or longer race, when the body and mind have reached a limit and the runner is forced to walk or shuffle run.
  9. Form – Perfect running form incorporates head tilt, shoulders, arms, torso, hips, leg stride and ankles/feet.
  10. Cadence – The number of steps per minute.
  11. The Wall – One of my favorite running terms. The Invisible wall that runners can experience towards the end of a race due to the lack of energy and possibly training. There is no other way to mimic the feeling of “hitting the wall.”
  12. Supination – Supination is the excessive outward rolling motion of the foot and ankle during a running stride.
  13. Gait – A series of foot movements that propel runners forward.
  14. Shorty’s – Really short shorts.
  15. PR – A personal record for distance or time at a certain race.
  16. Out-and-back – a run or race that is run one-way to a specific point then reversed to end at the starting point.
  17. Point-to-point – a course that starts and ends at different locations. Usually in a line. Boston Marathon is considered a point-to-point.
  18. Ice Bath – Filling a bathtub with ice and cold water or utilizing a cool stream or lake to dip your legs in. The effect the cold has on recovery is to reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels.
  19. Endorphins – A biproduct of the “runners high”. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, chemicals that pass along signals from one neuron to the next that give us a happy feeling.
  20. Chip – Device used to help time runners during a race.
  21. Bib – What runners wear during a race, includes race number and sometimes a name.
  22. Bonk – Like the wall, this is a point during a training run or race where a runner gets tired due to low glycogen levels.
  23. Baby steps – When a runner is extremely tired, they might need to take very short steps to keep going.
  24. Packs – Packs can be used to carry gels, hydration packs and/or electrolyte replacement tabs, such as NUUN. The newest style of packs are ultra-lite vests that can carry multiple water bottles and have storage for small coats and gels.
  25. Ghost mile(s) – Miles that seem to go by fast and are hard to remember. Sort of like a ghost.
  26. Markers – In trail running, markers are typically flags attached to trees. A road race will utilize a mile label or flag as the marker.
  27. Trail running – Races that are all or mostly run on dirt trails and either in the mountains or sometimes on dirt portions of old rail road routes.
  28. FOMO (fear of missing out) – Fitting in a training run or race in fear of not maximizing fitness or performance. If runners choose to race due to FOMO, overtraining can occur.
  29. Overtraining – Training too much causing either burnout, injury or both.
  30. The Zone – Time in a race when everything from energy levels and how the body feels makes you feel like you could run forever.
  31. Vitamin I – Ibuprofen, and one of the best and most necessary running terms.
  32. Switchback – Section of single track trail that instead of going straight up a hill, will zig-zag up.
  33. LT (lactic threshold) – A point during an all-out training exercise at which lactic acid builds up in the blood stream faster than the body can expel it. Specific training can help the body remove lactic acid faster.
  34. RE (running economy) – The measure of how efficient a runner uses oxygen while running a specific pace.
  35. Corral – Starting location for runners based on time or other criteria. Usually used in bigger, busier races.
  36. Overpronation -.When at foot-strike the foot rolls inward.
  37. Drafting – When a runner or runners use the leader to block the wind and be able to run more efficient.
  38. Sleeves – Arm or leg sleeves. Arm sleeves are used to keep runners warm without having to wear an extra shirt. Leg sleeves help leg circulation which helps with recovery.
  39. Splits – Splits could be time per lap or time per mile.
  40. DNF – Did not finish. One of the running terms that no runner ever wants to see next to their name.

This list of running terms is a compilation of language that I have learned over the last few years that would have never made sense before but make perfect sense now. Hopefully this helps aid in your understanding of some of the most crazy running terms out there.