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Runners are a strange bunch, and none of us will deny it. In addition to the slew of strange characteristics that come with being a runner, such as paying other people to let us run, and perfecting the art of the snot rocket (see “Farmer Blow” definition below), our community has its own special language. The terminology included in many pre written workouts is often running specific and unfamiliar to race novices; but the added slang and “runner lingo” that comes up in everyday running conversation is enough to leave a beginner (or non runner) utterly confused. In no particular order (I’m a trail runner, I prefer the unexpected), I present you with definitions of common running terms and acronyms, mostly serious, some sarcastic.
(And a huge thank you to all of my friends and readers who helped provide pictures for this post!)
FOMO: An acronym for the Fear of Missing Out. This typically happens when all of your friends have signed up for a kickass race, and you simply can’t stand the thought of missing out on the fun, even though you know you probably shouldn’t sign up due to training/financial/personal reasons. For example: If seemingly everyone you know is running a local race next weekend, but you can’t because your sister is getting married and your family would disown you if you missed the wedding, you are likely suffering from a case of FOMO. In reality, not EVERYONE you know is running said race, but FOMO sure makes it feel that way. Kind of like when you were 8 years old and EVERYONE in school had a Trapper Keeper, so you just HAD to have one too? That’s FOMO. Note: FOMO can leave you bitter at times. Don’t let FOMO ruin your fun.
Carb Loading: The act of building up glycogen stores in muscle prior to a big race. Though technically carb loading is an intricate process that involves carb depletion then a few days of loading, most runners simply use the excuse of “carb loading” to eat massive quantities of pasta the night before a race.
Hardware (Bling): Most large races give out finishers medals to all participants who finish the course in the designated time. Those finishers medals are often referred to as “hardware” or “bling”. Medals can vary from standard medallion size, to large and intricately shaped.
Marathon: 26.2 miles. Runners will give you the side eye if you ever refer to that 5K your cousin ran as a “marathon”. While we are at it:
5K: 3.1 miles
10K: 6.2 miles
Ultra: Any race distance that is longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). Typically ultra races start at the 50K mark (31.07 miles), but other popular distances include the 50 miler, 100K (62.14 miles) and 100 mile races. Yes, people willingly run 100 miles for fun. Some run even further.
Foot Strike: Essentially, which part of your foot hits the ground first during while running. In the past, many people were instructed to run with a heel strike (heel hitting the ground first) and then rolling forward and pushing off of your toes. Now, research is showing that a midfoot strike (hitting the ground with the center to ball of your foot) is more natural and less stressful to the body. Regardless, go to any race and you will see that the foot strike of runners, even the elites, varies greatly.
Runners High: The coveted euphoria that stems from a particularly good, or even sometimes bad, run. Scientifically speaking, a runners high stems from the secretion of norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and arguably endorphins, all of which can have a positive effect on mood. Realistically speaking, a good runners high is worth a thousand bad runs, and might be one of the main culprits for the addiction to this sport in the first place.
Gait: Simply put, running gait is the manner in which a person runs. Many runners will have their gait analyzed by a professional to help them determine any biomechanical deficiencies that can be corrected by running shoes or even physically changing running form.
Ragnar: Though relay races have existed for some time now, the Ragnar Relay series seems to be one of the most popular event. Teams of 11 runners (or 5, if you really like running) pile into two vans and tag team running 200(ish) miles, day and night, relay-style. Check it out: www.ragnarrelay.com
PR: Short for “personal record”. This can be both in distance (furthest ever run) and in time (fastest ever run for a specified distance).
Farmer Blow: Also referred to as the “snot rocket”, a farmer blow is the art of plugging one nostril and with one solid blow, evacuating the contents of the other nostril hopefully onto the sidewalk or road and not all over your face or arm. Bonus points for being able to complete a farmer blow while still running.
Millimeter Drop: the difference in height between the heel of a running sneaker versus the forefoot of a running sneaker is referred to as the shoes “drop”, and is measured in millimeters. Yes, it makes a huge difference. For example, if you are barefoot, there is zero millimeter drop between your heel and forefoot. If you are in 5 inch stiletto high heels, there is a 127 millimeter drop (approximately). In reference to running shoes, the drop is often much smaller, anywhere from 0 to 12 millimeters or slightly beyond. Runners who prefer a more natural shoe will typically look for a smaller heel drop.
GU: Though GU is the actual name of a specific brand’s product, it has become a proprietary eponym (kind of like “Kleenex” or “Q-Tips”) for any gel food substance runners ingest to keep their blood sugar at an even level, typically during longer endurance events. It’s sticky, doesn’t always taste good, and often has the consistency of glue, but it works really well aiding to avoid the bonk (see definition below)
Streaking: Not to be confused with running through a football game in your birthday suit, “streaking” in the running world refers to consecutive days running. Typically one mile per day or more is required for a valid running streak.
Fartlek: Fartlek training is a continuous interval workout that combines fast paced, higher intensity running with recovery periods of medium to lower effort running. Typically, these bursts of speed are added into the middle of a regular training run. Unlike traditional interval training, which consists of specific distances or timed intervals, fartlek training is intuitive and unstructured. The runner will choose the distance and pace of the faster interval based upon perceived effort.
Bib: The number assigned to you during a race, typically displayed on a square piece of paper. Pro tip: bibs are worn on the front of your shirt, not the back.
LSD: Acronym for “Long Slow Distance”, and LSD is a long distance training run that is performed at a pace significantly slower than expected race pace. Typically, an LSD is programmed once a week into a race training plan to both train your muscles to cover the distance but also to train the body to effectively utilize varying fuel sources (stored fats, muscle glycogen, etc).
DOMS: Acronym for “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”, DOMS is what happens when you run 20+ miles one day then can’t walk up, or worse…down, the stairs the next day. Though many theories exist, scientists are still baffled by exactly what causes DOMS. Most runners have a sadistic love/hate relationship with DOMS.
The Wall: A not so magical place that typically exists between mile 19 and 26 of a marathon. You’ll be running along, feeling on top of the world, when BAM! a switch is thrown and everything hurts, you feel physically and emotionally drained, and for a few minutes, wonder why on earth you decided running a marathon would be a good idea. There might even be tears. You have hit “the wall”.
Bonk: Similar to “The Wall” (see above) but a “bonk” can happen at any time, during any race. When an athlete goes from seemingly strong and well trained to a an utter, exhausted, mess, they have “bonked”. A bonk is often related to poor nutrition and low blood sugar, and can often be overcome mid race with the right snacks and a second wind.
Junk miles: Miles run without rhyme or reason to simply add numbers to your total mileage are often referred to as junk miles. Proponents of specific training plans are often anti junk miles. Those who don’t keep track of such things simply refer to this as “running”, and believe there is no such thing as a “junk mile”.
Chicked: Getting passed by a female athlete is also known as getting “chicked.” While often used as a term of respect, many community members (male and female alike) aren’t fans of the word (or, I suppose, aren’t fans of getting “chicked”.)
Body Glide: Another proprietary eponym for any sort of lubricating substance that helps prevent chafing, blisters, and bloody nipples (it’s a real thing, unfortunately). Body Glide typically comes in a deodorant-type-stick making it easy to apply.
Dreadmill: Derogatory term for a treadmill. (The treadmill is not THAT bad, you guys…)
OCR: Acronym for Obstacle Course Racing. More than simply a mud run, OCR has taken running and mud and added a number of obstacles to test your mental and physical strength in varying situations. Running is hard. Climbing up ropes and over 10 foot walls mid half marathon is even harder.
Splits: The time it takes you to run a specified distance. If you are running repeats or laps on an 800 meter track, a “split” could refer to the time it takes to complete one 800 m lap. If you are running a marathon, splits are typically measured in miles.
Negative splits: running the second half of a race or training run faster than you ran the first half, is referred to as running “negative splits”
ITBS: Acronym for Iliotibial band syndrome, ITBS is typically the cause behind knee pain in runners, or “runners knee”.
Bandit: A bandit is one who runs an official road race without officially registering for the event or paying registration fees. Bandits are popular in large races that sell out fast, and are generally frowned upon by the running community. While banditing may appear innocent at first, a bandit may actually end up taking resources from registered runners, from water to race medals to even the attention of emergency medical staff. Don’t be a jerk: don’t bandit.
Runchies: When you come back from a really long run and feel like you could eat absolutely anything and everything in the kitchen, you have the “runchies”. This condition is also referred to as “Rungry”.
Garmin: A GPS watch designed to keep track of overall pace, distance, split time, etc. Though many brands of GPS watches exist, “Garmin” tends to be the most recognized and therefore used name (even if your watch isn’t technically made by Garmin)
DNF: “Did Not Finish.” This can be due to pulling yourself out of a race, or simply not finishing in a designated course time.
DNS: “Did Not Start.” If you registered for a race, but for whatever reason didn’t show up to the start line, then you are a “DNS”
DFL: “Dead F*cking Last”. The very last person to cross the finish line. Doesn’t matter, you still finished. As the equation goes: DFL>DNF>DNS (if you’ve been paying attention, this equation makes sense. Though in certain cases such as an injury, it doesn’t always apply. Which is where the term “live to see another race” comes into play.)
BQ: “Boston Qualifier”. Many non runners don’t realize that in order to officially run the Boston Marathon, you must gain entry by either a charity slot OR running a qualifying time at another race. Boston Qualifying standards are moderately difficult for the average runner, and thus achieving a “BQ” is a great honor and source of pride (and frustration when you are mere minutes or seconds away) for many. (see the full Boston Qualifying Standard Times here)
Clock Time: During a race, the clock starts from the time the official “gun” goes off. Your clock time is the amount of time it took you to finish the race from the moment the race started to the moment you cross the finish line.
Chip Time: Some races are large, and because of the crowds it may take a few minutes or more to cross the start line after the official clock time starts. In many races runners are given a timing chip that attaches to their shoe or race bib. The chip starts the second the runner crosses the starting line, and stops the second the runner crosses the finish line. Chip times are far more accurate to the runners actual race time than clock times.
C25K: Acronym for Couch to 5K, a beginner training plan to take non runners from “the couch” to running their first 5K.
Tempo Run: A tempo run is typically run at your 10K race pace, or about 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Unlike speed intervals, a tempo run is usually sustained for a longer period of time or distance, usually around 20 to 30 minutes or a specified number of miles. Tempo runs should be performed at a challenging, yet manageable pace. The goal of a tempo run is to help develop and increase your anaerobic, or lactate threshold, as well as increase speed
Speed Intervals / Speed Work: Also referred to as “repeats” or a “track workout”, speed intervals are short bursts of fast running, usually done on a 400 meter track. A speed interval workout will traditionally prescribe a certain number of various distance sprints or hard runs, such as 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, and sometimes even 1600 meters, with walking or slow jogging recovery intervals.
Pronate: Pronation refers to the inward roll of the foot during normal motion and occurs as the outer edge of the heel strikes the ground and the foot rolls inward and flattens out. A moderate amount of pronation is required for the foot to function properly, however damage and injury can occur during excessive pronation
Supinate: Supination is the opposite of pronation and refers to the outward roll of the foot during normal motion. A natural amount of supination occurs during the push-off phase of the running gait as the heel lifts off the ground and the forefoot and toes are used to propel the body forward. However, excessive supination (outward rolling) places a large strain on the muscles and tendons that stabilize the ankle.
Yasso 800’s: A running workout devised by, and named after, one of the greatest guys in the running community (Bart Yasso). The workout involves 10X 800 m repeats with in a specified time, with an equal rest period in between, that in theory, can help predict a marathon finish time. Check this page out for more information: Yasso 800’s explained.
Warm Up: The same concept as the warmup you learned in gym class. A warm up consists of 5 to 20 minutes of easy running, jogging, walking, or other exercise before a race or a prescribed workout. A warm up is a vital to an athlete, as it slowly and safely raises ones heart rate and circulates blood to the muscles, helping to prevent injury.
Cool Down: A cool down is performed after a workout or race, and should consist of slow running or jogging. The purpose of a cool down is to allow the heart rate to safely return to its resting level, as well as loosen up the muscles before ceasing exercise.
Base Mileage: The average number of miles per week a runner typically runs before starting a specific training cycle.
Aid Station: Typically tables set up along a race course where water, sports drinks, and sometimes snacks are given out
Cross Training: Cross training consists of physical activities or forms of exercise other than running, such as swimming, cycling, or weight training. Cross training is used to increase conditioning and injury prevention for running, as well as a means of adding variety to your workout schedule.
Pace: Pace refers to the expected time it takes to run one mile. Often times a workout will refer to a specific race pace, for example, a 10k pace is the expected time it would take you to run one mile during a 10k race.
Beer Mile: Ever popular among the amateur and professional running crowd alike: the beer mile consists of one beer consumed every 1/4 of a mile. Official rules state that each 12 oz beer must be a minimum of 5% alcohol by volume, and vomiting leads to penalty laps.
Recovery Run: A recovery run is an easy run, typically 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate, for the purpose of recovering from a hard workout, or simply for enjoyment. Recovery run pace is often referred to as a “conversational pace”, in other words, a pace where the effort is relaxed enough that you are still able to carry on a conversation while running.
Strides: 50 to 100 meter bursts of fast running, typically done after a warm up, but before a race or speed workout. Strides help an athlete ease into faster paced running, and help improve running efficiency by brining blood flow to the muscles, and recruiting muscle fiber groups.
Have any running terms or runner lingo to add? Comment below, and I’ll add them to the post!