The runner in the above photo is "stretching", but you'll have to read this article to find out what that means.
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A Glossary of 100+ Running Words, Terms, and Lingo
Running isn’t just a sport.
It’s an entire culture, one that includes plenty of subcultures, too.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are all kinds of “running words” unique to this passionate pocket of society.
While knowing them isn’t necessary to take up the activity, understanding the words, terms, and slang that runners often use will help you learn more about it.
100+ Running Words Every Serious Runner Should Know
That’s why I’ve compiled a list of more than 100 words, terms, and slang that I’ve learned over the years. You’re likely to hear these in Facebook groups, online forums, and when hanging out with other runners, so becoming familiar with them may help you become better at running, too.
You’ll know – no, you’ll feel – when you’ve hit your anaerobic threshold during a run because things will start getting challenging. Sometimes referred to as the “lactate inflection point”, it occurs after enough lactic acid has built up in your muscles and entered your bloodstream that an otherwise comfortable run becomes difficult.
I’m glad we’re getting this one out of the way early in case you were thinking about running as a bandit anytime soon without knowing it’s a major faux pas.
A “bandit” is someone who runs a race without registering for it first. They basically steal an entry for the race, a move that will never be well-received, especially during popular races like the NY Marathon.
As the USATF explains in their guide, “Road Racing Rules & Etiquette”:
"The term 'thief' would be more appropriate. These uncaring individuals cause numerous problems for race officials at the start, during and at the finish of a road race.”
If you have to miss a race, miss a race and plan better next time. Don’t be a bandit.
People who run barefoot are “barefoot runners.”
The definition is simple enough.
The explanation becomes a little more complicated.
In short, proponents claim barefoot running is better for you because men and women weren’t meant to wear shoes. Doing so screws up our body mechanics, especially when we run.
On the other hand (or foot), there is no shortage of people pushing back saying “barefoot running is BS.”
In any case, I’m just here to provide definitions. If you’re thinking about running barefoot, I suggest you keep doing your own research.
Speaking of breaking from tradition, if your Runner’s High isn’t quite doing the trick anymore, consider trying a Beer Mile.
And if that sounds remotely appealing to you, let me elaborate.
A beer mile isn’t a relaxing mile where you reward yourself at the end with a beer. It’s not even running a mile while you drink that beer. In the middle of a marathon on a hot summer day, that might not be so bad.
No, a Beer Mile is when you drink an entire 12 oz beer (of at least 5% alcohol) every ¼ mile. If you throw up (because, you know, you’re normal), there are usually penalties.
Perhaps most shocking of all, it turns out that Beer Miles are bad for you.
Long before goth kids in high school made it cool, runners had black nails all the time.
Specifically, runners often look down after taking off their shoes and socks only to see that one or more of their toenails has undergone quite the transformation.
If you’re a runner with toenails that have embraced the dark side, the reason isn’t that your toes hate their parents. It’s probably because you’re wearing ill-fitting shoes. While you could consider the barefoot-running lifestyle, at the very least, try out a new pair of shoes that give your feet a little more room.
This is another running term that sounds fun (e.g. a BEER RUN! YAY!) but actually has a fairly sinister definition.
Bonk running occurs when your body has reached its limit in terms of glycogen. Without any fuel left in the tank, it turns to fat. While this might sound like a positive for many people (“What’s wrong with burning fat?”), if you’re a competitive runner, you don’t have a whole lot of fat to spare/burn.
Bonking is basically every competitive runner’s worst nightmare. Countless runners have been brought to tears the second it settled in. Spend some time learning how to avoid bonking so you end your races with tears of joy.
BPM is just Beats Per Minute, which is another way of referring to your heart rate.
Most runners have a target BPM they’re trying to hit during their workouts.
To find yours, find your pulse (neck or wrist is fine) with your pointer and index fingers. Then, count how many times you feel it over the course of a minute.
Obviously, that’s going to be a little difficult when you’re running, so you might also want to consider a BPM monitor.
Depending on how old you are, you’re probably pretty good at breathing by now.
However, if you plan at excelling at running, you’ll need to learn specific breathing techniques that will help you control the flow of oxygen during exercise, so you make the most of every breath you take.
Every runner has a Bucket List, a list of races or events they absolutely must run before they “kick” the bucket. For me, it’s the Beer Run…which will probably be why I kick the bucket.
Arguably the most enjoyable part of being a runner, Carb Loading is when the competition is basically, “Who can eat more delicious bread and pasta before the race tomorrow?”
If I’m being honest, I’ve often won that competition many times and then completely foregone the one the following morning.
As if you need another reason, the point of Carb Loading is to maximize your body’s stores of glycogen. Many runners will carb load for days while simultaneously reducing their levels of exercise to make sure they come into race day with the absolute most glycogen possible.
So, while preparing for a run involves lots of actual running don’t forget about the important role your diet plays.
Chafing won’t kill you, but it can definitely make you murderous with rage.
It’s what happens when sweat and fabric team up against your skin, rubbing it until you have yourself some excruciatingly painful rashes.
Usually, it occurs on the inside of your thighs so that every time you move your legs – a fairly common movement in running – it feels like someone is using sandpaper on your skin.
Traditionally, runners prevent chafing by applying healthy amounts of Body Glide or Vaseline to the areas that chafe. You can also wear underwear specifically designed for runners that helps prevent chafing.
Very similar to chafing, “Chub Rub” is the deceptively cute name for a problem that is decidedly not: when your skin rubs together enough to cause a rash or even bleeding. You might get it between your legs when you run, but many runners also experience it between their arms and the sides of their torsos.
The same products we mentioned for chafing are your best bet for battling “Chub Rub”, too.
“Code Brown” is a term runners have developed for talking about the call of nature during a run where there may be no bathrooms in sight. You’ll often see it used in article comments or running forums.
It’s not to actually be used during a run. Do not announce “CODE BROWN!!!” during your next experience.
That’s something you can just keep to yourself (figuratively and literally).
One of the most noticeable trends in running over the past 10 years or so is that everyone appears to be wearing Compression Socks these days.
As their name suggests, these socks are designed to compress tightly around your legs so as to maintain blood flow. This makes them popular for runners who are worried about their legs getting sore after a long race.
However, many runners wear them during their races in an effort to prevent swelling and cramps. One line of thinking is that they may also prevent fatigue by keeping leg muscles from unnecessary movements.
After a nice long run, you can’t just come to a complete halt and get back to normal life.
You need an effective Cool Down that will gradually transition your body back to its normal blood pressure and heart rate.
Your fastest time on a given course is your Course Record or CR.
Passing another runner is acceptable. Passing gas while you do so – known as Crop Dusting – is not.
While many runners are content to keep their workouts to the trail, others employ Cross-Training to shore up any weak points that may be preventing them from hitting their best times.
Common forms of Cross-Training for runners include activities like Nordic skiing, swimming, and even strength training.
One of the acronyms you want to stay away from in running, DFL stands for “Dead #%@*ing Last.”
That being said, plenty of runners wear DFL as a badge of honor because finishing last means they didn’t quit.
The other acronym most runners try to avoid at all costs, DNF stands for “Did Not Finish.”
There could be a number of different reasons a runner isn’t able to finish their race. It’s never fun to accept this kind of ending, but just like DFL, there can be some positives to a DNF.
Sometimes, despite all of your preparation and excitement, you wake up on race day and don’t feel like you could take a single step. Maybe you worry that trying to run will make a mild ailment much worse.
In any case, if you decide not to run, you’ll earn a Did Not Start (DNS). Tough as it can be to accept, a DNS can be the right call.
Ever run a long, difficult race and felt absolutely amazing at the end?
Did you still feel great the next morning?
Did you become convinced that you had finally graduated to the elite ranks of runners who simply don’t get sore?
And then did you wake up a day or two after that to the horrible realization that, in fact, you are still very mortal and very much in a lot of pain.
DOMS can set in the very next morning after one of these intense runs, but it’s sneaky. It may wait 24-72 hours before finally showing up. When it does, grin and bear it and just treat it as you would any other types of muscle soreness (i.e. feel sorry for yourself and eat ice cream).
Drafting is a common tactic in just about any type of racing. In running, drafting is when you position yourself behind another runner so they can deal with the wind. All the while, you bide your time until it makes sense to pass them up and put them behind you.
Now, that being said, should runners draft?
That’s another conversation.
Drop the Hammer
Running a good race is as much about discipline as it is about eating right, getting enough sleep, and putting in enough hours on the track. You have to know how to control your pace.
That being said, you also need to know when it’s time to “drop the hammer”, a.k.a. decide to go FULL speed.
An Easy Run is just that. It’s running at a pace that’s comfortable enough that you could have a conversation with someone at the same time. Easy Runs are often done for the sake of recovery or on days when energy levels may otherwise be low.
There’s no formal definition, but most runners seem to agree that elite runners are those who regularly hit 100 miles a week. They run enough that they need shoe sponsorships because they go through them so fast. Between getting to the track, warming up, cooling off, and their actual runs, elite runners treat their passion as a part-time job.
Speaking of pushing your body to the limit, “endurance” refers to just how much of that pushing your body can handle.
Runners rely on endurance training to increase what they can physically handle in order to increase how long they can run at their top speed or simply how long they can run in one go.
Not a typo.
Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play” and refers to a specific type of training wherein you add short sprints at variable rates to your normal run. This is a fairly fun, easy way to improve your typical performance.
Fastest known time (FKT) is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the fastest time that anyone has completed a specific trail, route, peak, etc.
These aren’t formal races, though, and there’s no one governing body that decides what the FKT is for a specific stretch of earth.
Instead, there are forums like FastestKnownTime.ProBoards.com where people submit their attempts.
Most runners have a love/hate relationship with these popular foam cylinders. Foam rollers are used to help with everything from increasing blood flow to improving flexibility to speeding up recovery.
Runners love those benefits.
What most of us hate are the often not-so-comfortable exercises required to achieve them.
FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out. It’s the feeling you experience when you’re unable to run – maybe you’re injured, maybe your schedule is just too full at the moment – but seemingly everyone you know and their mother is doing nothing but. And they’re kind enough to put it all over social media, so you can see how much fun they’re having and experience a ton of FOMO.
Foot strike refers to how your foot strikes the ground.
Ideally, you want to land so that the middle of your foot hits the ground and that the foot strike happens directly below your hips.
However, the jury is still out and, for many runners, there seems to be nothing wrong with striking the ground with their heels first.
Form is just how you use your body when you’re running. The right running form is unique to each person’s body type, but the goal should always be to run efficiently while also avoiding injuries.
No matter what the body type, this means keeping your eyes facing forward, shoulders relaxed, spine upright, and your arms at 90-degree angles with your hands closer to your hips – not held up high.
A Front Runner is just the runner who’s at the front of the pack during a race. It’s usually a good place to be, though it’s no guarantee of victory. Many runners draft behind the Front Runner in an effort to conserve their energy until it’s time to drop the hammer.
We’ve talked about what you should eat before and after races before, but for especially long races, many runners feel they need some fuel during their run to do their best.
It really depends on the individual.
For many, there’s nothing better than energy gels. For others, those cause stomach issues.
I’ve seen runners use everything from Swedish fish to jellybeans to pretzels during their runs to refuel. So, if you’re planning on doing the same, I recommend doing some experimenting before your actual race.
Where do you keep this important fuel during a long-distance run?
A Fuel Belt, of course.
These are specific types of running belts that are big enough to hold the food you need to finish strong.
What’s the point of having an amazing run if you can’t show it off?
That’s what social media is for!
Thankfully, instead of actually typing out how well you did, you can just take a picture of your Garmin – or other GPS tracker – and upload it.
Plus, that’s undeniable proof of how absolutely amazing you just did. So, make with the likes, people!
Alright, you ready for this?
A half marathon is like a marathon…but only half as long.
In case you’re curious, that means a half marathon is 13.1 miles.
Hill Sprints might be the best way to improve your endurance while also burning fat and building muscle.
They are no joke, though.
As their name suggests, they involve running at an incline as fast as you can then going back down the hill at a recovery pace.
Then doing it again.
Hitting the Wall
This is similar to bonking, but “Hitting the Wall” usually refers to the mental side of calling it quits. Your mind can’t focus on the positives of finishing the race because your fuel tank is empty, your legs hurt, and you’re having trouble getting enough air.
Hypoxia is when your body doesn’t have enough oxygen in its tissues to support homeostasis. In other words, your lungs aren’t able to get enough oxygen to support your workouts.
This often happens when new runners put in a lot of training and make improvements to their physical capabilities in a short amount of time. If you experience hypoxia, dial down your training a bit and work on making slow, manageable improvements to your overall endurance.
Interval Training is when you alternate between low and high speeds during your run. This approach helps build up your overall speed while also increasing your endurance. You can do interval training over the course of something as short as a mile or a much longer run.
Though most people probably think of Tony Stark and his metallic suit when they hear the term, in the fitness world, an Ironman is a triathlon that takes a heroic effort in order to finish. This competition includes:
- 4 mile swim
- 112 mile bike ride
- 22 mile run
It’s hardcore and definitely not something you should attempt without any training.
For serious runners who regularly train, not all miles are equal. Simply running more miles doesn’t mean getting better overall results. Instead, they need to focus on quality over quantity.
Junk miles are any you run that don’t actually offer any benefits. If you are constantly running without any sort of plan or deviating from a plan designed to help you improve as a runner, those are junk miles you’re running.
It’s the end of the race. You’re almost there. The finish is within sight.
Runners call that last push you’re about to give a “kick.” It’s when you significantly increase your speed at the very end of your race to “leave it all on the field.”
LSD is an awesome drug everyone should try at least twice
Generally, this involves running for 2-3 hours at a pace that will put you 30-90 seconds short of your ideal race time.
A marathon is a footrace that lasts 26.2 miles.
On the other hand, Minimalist Shoes are lightweight shoes that are designed to allow runners to adopt a natural foot strike. They usually don’t weigh any more than 6 mm, so there’s basically just enough material to protect your feet from striking the ground. That’s it.
Moisture-wicking clothing is popular among runners because the non-cotton material is able to bring sweat to its surface where it then evaporates. If you hate the feeling of running in clothing that’s soaked in sweat, moisture-wicking clothes will change your life.
MUT stands for “Mountain, Ultra, and Trail” and is actually an official term used by the United States Track and Field Association. This is an extreme type of trail running that has grown in popularity in recent years.
The goal of running Negative Splits is that you’ll actually run the second half of your race faster than the first. Runners do this in an effort to conserve their energy so they’re less likely to bonk as it continues.
So, runners who use Negative Splits train to run each mile, say, a half-second faster than the last one.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Negative Splits take a lot of discipline.
A Neontino is a runner who dresses in all neon clothing.
Will it help ensure that motorists see you?
But it will also ensure that the rest of us can see you, too.
And you look ridiculous.
A newbie is just someone who is new to running.
We all started as newbies. There’s no shame in it.
A National Record (NR) is the fastest time recorded for a specific run in a given country.
Out and Back
An Out-and-Back race is one where you run out to a spot and then run back. So, you’ll cover the same ground – just running a different direction.
Overpronation is when the outside of your heel hits the ground first, then the inside of your heel, then the inside of your foot, then your big toe.
When you overpronate, you force your big toe to do the brunt of the work when pushing off the ground.
If you develop corns or calluses or pain in your heel, arch, knee, hip, or back, you may be overpronating. Hammer toes are another delightful symptom of overpronation.
Runners are a passionate group, which means most of us would rather do just about anything else than take a day off from our favorite pastime.
Unfortunately, overtraining is a very real problem that occurs when we don’t take enough time to relax and recharge.
If you have a nagging injury that keeps coming back, muscle soreness that never goes away, or you simply feel exhausted after low-effort activities, you need a break.
Your pace is how long it takes you to run a mile or a kilometer. There are also race-specific versions like your “5k pace.”
Your PB is your “Personal Best” and, like your pace, you’ll have PBs for every type of race and course you run. While many runners are focused solely on first-place finishes, plenty of us are competing solely with ourselves and just want to beat our Personal Bests.
Adding pickups to your normal runs means that you’ll add a sustained run at a faster pace. Aside from the physical challenge, this is also designed to push your mental game as running faster is usually the last thing people want to do when they’ve already been at it for more than an hour.
As opposed to an Out and Back, a Point-to-Point race is one that starts and finishes in two different places.
Your PR is your Personal Record: the fastest time you’ve ever run a given distance.
If you need to build up your quads – or you’re just a glutton for punishment – try a long, sustained run downhill. Just make sure you don’t have to get back up the hill to go home.
A rabbit is a runner who the organizers of a race sanction to lead elite runners out ahead of the rest of the participants at a pace they all agreed to earlier. Many racers are not fans of this practice.
“Rabbits” can also describe the type of runner who begins the race at their fastest possible pace only to burn out and fall behind relatively quickly.
A Recovery Run is one that’s slower and shorter than your usual version, but it’s done within 24 hours of completing a big race. The reason for a Recovery Run is to get your body accustomed to running when fatigued. This is good training for your next marathon.
Rest days are a good way to give your body – and your mind – a much-needed break. Work them into your normal routine so your love of running doesn’t lead to an unnecessary injury.
As the name suggests, a Road Race is one that’s held on an actual road. Obviously – or, at least, hopefully – these roads are blocked off, so you don’t have to worry about anything other than foot traffic.
You probably shouldn’t call them it to their faces, but “Roadkill” refers to runners who will not be finishing the race. They’ve injured themselves or just bonked and, like roadkill, can be found on the side of the road as you pass them by.
For those of us who really love running, few things are better than combining a wonderful vacation with the opportunity to run somewhere new. That’s a Runcation.
After a nice, long run, there’s nothing better than a nice, big meal. That’s because you’re Rungry and you have the “Runchies.”
A Runfie is a selfie you take when running, which is a sign you’re clearly having a good time but, perhaps, that you could also be running a lot faster.
A Runhole is someone who neglects everything in their lives – including friends and family – when they’re training for an upcoming race.
Your Running Cadence is how many steps you take per minute when running. Most runners’ cadences are between 160 and 170 steps per minute. It’s believed that elite runners often reach 180, but that’s definitely not always the case. Running cadence depends on the person’s unique body type.
Here’s the thing. I don’t want to ruin this for you, but there’s a really good chance that Runner’s High doesn’t exist in the way it’s often described.
Your body may release endorphins once you begin pushing yourself during a run. In theory, the introduction of this pleasurable hormone gives you this famous high.
In reality, those endorphins will help prevent muscle pain, they probably don’t pass the blood-brain barrier – which would need to happen to produce some sort of euphoria.
That said, if you’re certain you feel some sort of intense pleasure when you run, that could still be true. It’s just the feeling of really, really enjoying what you’re doing.
Runner’s Knee occurs when you feel pain on or around your kneecap, especially where it connects to the lower part of your femur. The formal name for it is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). It tends to be a dull, aching pain, which you may feel when you’re running but even when you’re simply walking or even sitting down.
A running belt is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: it's a belt designed to wear when you're running.
But running belts come in all shapes and sizes. Some are designed just to hold your keys and phone. Others have room for a water bottle. Others have room for two of them.
What a running belt IS NOT is a fanny pack.
For a better definition, it might be easiest to simply check out our post about the "10 Best Fanny Packs", which will show you the wide range of options available. We also have a post about "the best sling bags", which highlights similar options.
Runners are known for being fairly picky when it comes to their equipment and the hats they wear during their favorite activity is no exception. Running hats tend to be made from hydrophobic, antimicrobial materials that are moisture-wicking and ultralight, so their benefits don't come with any added weight.
A split is a racing term that refers to the time it takes to run a certain distance. Splits are usually used when describing races. If a runner keeps a consistent pace throughout, their splits will be equal. If they’re running a negative split, they’ll actually run faster as the race goes on.
If you live somewhere that gets cold during the winter, you’ll want plenty of pairs of Running Tights. Even if you wear track pants, having a pair of Running Tights underneath can make all the difference when the temperature turns against you.
A sandbagger is someone who downplays – or even flat out lies – about their training and preparation for a race to make it seem like they’re not prepared to do well.
In reality, they have been training like crazy and have every intention of winning. By telling their fellow runners otherwise, they’re hoping for an easier race.
Shin splints are the worst possible pain imaginable.
Alright, there might be a couple of rivals (e.g. shark bites, bullet wounds, etc.), but shin splints are definitely extremely painful.
If you’ve never had the pleasure, a shin splint feels like someone replaced your tibia with a sharp knife that stabs into your leg every time you step on your foot.
All you can really do is ice it and get some rest, but you should also consider getting some new running shoes.
Some trails get so thin that there’s only room for one runner to pass. On this type of SingleTrack Trail, one runner needs to be the courteous one and step aside for the other.
Speedwork covers all kinds of different strategies for improving your speed. This includes exercises like intervals, sprints, tempos, pickups, and hill sprints.
As opposed to Dynamic Stretching, Static Stretching involves lengthening a major muscle group to their limit and then holding that position. Aside from helping to improve your flexibility, runners also favor it as a good post-running method of cooling down.
No, not that kind.
A runner is someone who keeps a streak alive of running every single day for a certain period of time. Usually, it’s just a week or two.
However, some streakers will keep it up for years, which is what happens when a beloved pastime becomes an uncontrollable obsession.
Despite what a lot of people seem to think, we runners can actually benefit a lot from strength training. You’ll only get so far by running and doing nothing else. Strength training isn’t just good for building your running muscles, either. It’s fundamental to avoiding injuries. So, run as much as you like, but make sure you get in a couple days of strength training every week, too.
Stride can actually mean one of two things in running.
The first is the obvious one. It can refer to your gait.
However, it can also refer to a 100m sprint you add on before or after your normal run. Instead of doing full-on sprints, though, you cap yourself at 60-80%. Doing 6-8 strides on a regular basis should help boost your normal running speed considerably.
SWAG stands for Stuff We All Get.
Most races now give contestants some type of SWAG.
Should you run a race solely because of the SWAG they give?
Tapering means cutting back on your normal training regimen as you get closer to the day of your race. This usually involves some combination of running less far, running less fast, and simply running less in general.
While this might sound relaxing, those of us who really love to run are known to suffer from taper tantrums during this period.
A Tempo Run is a type of speedwork where you run for 20-40 minutes at a pace that you could only maintain for about 60. The idea is to approach your anaerobic threshold so that you’re able to push it come race time and improve your overall mental toughness.
If you really want to take yourself to the limit, try Threshold Runs. These runs are shorter than Temp Runs, but you also have to run much, much faster. The goal is to build up your lactic threshold by running as fast as you can over and over with no more than 30-60 seconds of rest between each interval.
If simply running just isn’t doing it for you anymore, add biking and swimming and complete a Triathlon.
While there are a number of different types, Olympic Triathlons are 1.5 km of swimming, 40 km of biking, and 10 km of running.
Trail Running is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of running on a track or a treadmill, you take it to the trails. While there is a subculture of people who only run trails, many more traditional runners simply enjoy mixing it up every now and then by running in nature.
This is going to blow your mind, but a triathlete is someone who runs triathlons. I know. I know. You’re welcome.
Technically, an ultramarathon is any race that is longer than a marathon at 26.2 miles.
However, most ultramarathoners will tell you that it doesn’t count unless it’s 50 kilometers or longer, which would mean at least 31 miles.
And you should probably just go along with whatever ultramarathoners say because those people are insane.
Ultramarathoners are crazy people who love running races that go for at least 30 miles but usually last for 50 or even 100 miles. The most popular example of an ultramarathon is the Comrades Marathon, which clocks in at 56 miles.
VO2 Max refers to aerobic capacity or how much oxygen your body can utilize during an intense workout. As the maximum amount – or VO2 Max – increases, you’ll have an easier time running faster and longer.
Warmups are the necessary exercises and stretches that you have to do before you train to prevent injuries.
Of course, many runners have a habit of forgetting to do their warmups and then suffering from nagging injuries they just can’t explain.
Aside from a little light running or walking, other good warmups for runners include lunges, leg swings, and plenty of stretches.
WR stands for World Record. If you have one of those, congrats, you’ve run a distance or specific course faster than anyone else in the world. Surprised you didn’t know about that.
Did We Miss Any Important Running Words?
If you think we missed any essentials or there’s new running slang that deserves a spot, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
We’ll keep adding to this list until it includes every single running term that matters!