50 Running Terms: Terminology All Runners Should Know

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Whenever you start a new sport, activity, or hobby, there’s some unfamiliar lingo you have to learn, and running is no exception.

Running terminology spans the gamut from running terms that describe specific types of workouts to running lingo that runners use to describe feelings associated with being a runner, sometimes in sort of a tongue-in-cheek manner.

For example, running terms and running terminology of the first sort include things like threshold intervals and VO2 max, while running jargon of the second ilk include acronyms like DNF and terms like bonking.

There is such a rich vocabulary of common running terminology that there could be a glossary of running terms several pages long.

This article is essentially a mini running glossary of sorts, as we will highlight some of the running terms and jargon every runner should know. 

From important training terms to common acronyms and fun running slang, let us transport you back to the days of learning new vocabulary words in grammar school with our list of 50 running terms all runners should know.

The word terminology.

50 Common Running Terms and Terminology

#1: Aqua jogging

Also called pool running or deep water running, this is a popular type of cross-training for runners that involves running against the resistance of water in the deep end of the pool (or natural body of water), where your feet can’t touch the bottom.

A flotation belt is typically used although not always. 

#2: Base Mileage

The average number of miles (or kilometers) you run per week before beginning a specific training plan or starting speed workouts.

#3: Body Glide

This is a case where the brand name of a product has come to serve as a substitute for the generic item, much like Kleenex for facial tissues.

Body glide, or lube, is a stick of anti-chafing skin protectant lubricant that you apply on areas of your skin prone to chafing or blisters, such as nipples, inner thighs, under arms, and toes.

Someone running on the road.

#4: Cadence

Cadence refers to how many steps you are taking per minute as you run, measured in steps per minute.

An ideal running cadence is typically said to be around 170-180 steps per minute.

Running cadence is also referred to as turnover or step rate.

#5: Cool Down

A cool down refers to the easy recovery portion at the end of your workout. 

The cool down helps gently guide your heart rate back to resting levels and helps flush out metabolic byproducts in your muscle from hard exercise.

#6: Cross Training

Any type of exercise other than running that you add into your training plan. 

Cross training is a good way to reduce the risk of injury while still improving fitness because it uses different muscles and motions than running, and is often lower impact.

Examples of cross-training exercises for runners include cycling, swimming, aqua jogging, yoga, and strength training

People walking on treadmills.

#7: Dreadmill

A cheeky running term for the treadmill, said to encapsulate the love-hate relationship of this exercise machine. Most runners would rather run outside than run on the treadmill.

#8: Form

Your running form is how your dynamic body posture looks and moves when you run.

Proper running form is an upright posture, head and spine neutral, very slight forward lean of the trunk, engaged core, arms swinging back and forth with a 90-degree angle in the elbows, midfoot strike, and an even stride length.

#9: Fartlek

You might have a giggle the first time you hear this running term, but Fartlek is a Swedish word for “speed play.” 

A Fartlek workout involves varying your pace as you run by adding in bursts of fast running interspersed into your run without stopping after each “on” interval.

For example, you might do a 5 mile fartlek run where you do 10 x 90-second surges at 5k pace during the run. 

In between each of these surges, you would resume your normal training pace or slow your pace just a tad.

A close up of someone taking a step.

#10: Foot Strike

Foot strike refers to the area of your foot that first contacts the ground when you are running. 

With heel striking, the rearfoot or heel is the location of the foot that makes initial contact with the ground.

With midfoot striking, you land on the center of your foot, while forefoot striking involves landing on the ball of your foot.

#11: Gels

Gels, also known as energy gels, are viscous, carbohydrate-rich sports nutrition products used by runners for fueling during long runs and endurance races to replenish glycogen stores to prevent “bonking.”

#12: Glycogen

The storage form of carbohydrates in the body. Muscle and liver glycogen are the primary fuel sources during vigorous running.

An exhausted runner leaning against a wall.

#13: Hitting the Wall

Another running term for “bonking”; both words are running lingo for suddenly running out of energy during a race or workout.

Bonking or hitting the wall typically occur due to total glycogen depletion (as in the last few miles in a marathon if you didn’t fuel properly) or going out in a race way too fast

#14: Junk Miles

Some runners consider miles you run that don’t serve a specific purpose other than adding to your overall training volume to be “junk miles.” 

Many running coaches are proponents of being deliberate with your training rather than just accruing mileage for mileage’s sake.

#15: Marathon

A long-distance race that’s 26.2 miles or 42.195 km long.

#16: Out-and-Back Route

An out-and-back route takes you from your starting point along a course to a turnaround point, which marks the halfway point of your run. 

A tired runner stopped in the snow.

#17: Overtraining

Overtraining syndrome occurs when your training exceeds the capacity of your body to recover. 

Your training volume or intensity can cause too much stress on your body in the context of the rest of the stressors in your life.

Symptoms can include physical and mental manifestations, such as sluggishness, low energy, appetite changes, hormonal imbalances, difficulty sleeping, irritability or other mood changes, compromised immunity, and reduced athletic performance.

#18: Pace

Your pace refers to how fast you are running, usually in terms of how long it would take you to run a mile or a kilometer at the speed you are running. 

For example, if you are running at a 9-minute pace, you are covering one mile every 9 minutes.

#19: Recovery Run

A recovery run is a relaxed, easy run performed at a conversational pace, or about 60 to 75% of your maximum heart rate.

Someone running fast on a track.

#19: Runner’s High 

A running term used to describe a state of euphoria brought about by running.

#20: Splits

The time it takes you to run a specific sub-distance of the distance you are running. For example, if you are running a marathon, you might track your mile splits. If you are running 1,000 meters on the track, you might pay attention to your 200-meter splits.

Your splits help you keep track of your pacing. 

#21: Even Splits

Running the same pace for each split.

#22: Negative Splits

Running the second half of your race faster than the first, or ending faster than you started.

People running a road race.

#23: Speedwork

Speedwork is a running term that encompasses running workouts that involve running faster than your standard training pace. 

Examples include intervals on a track, hill repeats, tempo runs, and fartleks.

#24: Streaker

Although this piece of running terminology sounds like someone who runs naked, it refers to a runner who has run every day without a day off for an extended period of time.

You might hear of someone maintaining a “running streak.” 

#25: Strength Training

This one of our running terms is also referred to as resistance training or weight training. Strength training involves doing specific exercises under some kind of load or resistance in order to build muscle. 

Examples of strength training exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks. Strength training can reduce the risk of injury in runners.

A person doing a squat.

#26: Strides

Strides are bursts of fast running or sprinting, usually 50-100 meters in length, that might be performed before a race or workout to get your neuromuscular system firing and ready to run fast.

Strides are often run as accelerations, and are a great way to improve your form and increase your cadence or turnover.

#27: Surge

This refers to when a runner increases their speed or picks up their pace during a run or race for a short period of time.

#28: Taper

A reduction in training volume (mileage) and intensity leading up to a race (usually the final week or so).

The purpose of the taper is to allow your body to rest and recover a bit before the hard effort of a race, enabling you to feel fresh and have more energy, fewer physical aches, and less fatigue.

A person doing a knee hug.

#30: Tempo Run

Tempo runs involve running at a “comfortably hard“ pace (somewhere around 80-85% of your max heart rate) for usually a sustained 20 minutes or more.

Tempo runs improve your running economy and lactate threshold.

#31: Warm-Up

The warm-up is the often neglected, yet important, part of a workout that involves walking, jogging, or easy running at the start before you start running your usual training pace or begin faster intervals.

The warm-up elevates your heart rate, which increases circulation and loosens your muscles to prepare for more intense exercise.

Now let’s take a look at specific running terms found at races:

Running Terms and Terminology At Races

#32: Aid Station

A table with water, sports drinks, and sometimes fuel options like fruit or other snacks is set up along a race course where participants can hydrate and refuel during the race.

#33: Bandit

A runner who is participating in a race, but unofficially because they did not properly register nor pay for the race. Bandits will not appear in the results.

It is generally quite frowned upon to run as a bandit, especially if you take water or fuel at aid stations or drop in and out of the race as you please.

A running bib, shoes and medal.

#34: Bib

Also called a bib number, this is the paper number you get when you enter a race that is used to identify you specifically in the event.

#35: Corral

When you run a large race, runners are often grouped into sections behind the starting line, known as corrals, based on their projected finish time. 

#36: Hardware

Also called bling, running hardware refers to the race medal, trophy, or other goodies you get for finishing the race.

#37: Clock Time

The clock time is how long it took you to cross the finish line of a race after the gun went off. 

It does not take into consideration when you crossed the official start line, which can sometimes be several seconds to several minutes or more, depending on the size of the race.

Runners in a race.

#38: Chip Time

In contrast to clock time, chip time is the amount of time it took you to run a race from the moment you personally crossed the start line to the moment you crossed the finish line.

For this reason, chip time is faster than clock time for all runners aside from those who are lined up directly on the starting line.

Now we’ll move from running terms to acronyms and abbreviations:

Running Acronyms and Running Abbreviations

#39: BQ 

Runners focusing on the marathon are likely familiar with the term BQ, which stands for Boston Qualifier.

In order to be accepted into the Boston Marathon, you have to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time at another full marathon. 

If you “get a BQ,” you have run a time that is under the Boston Qualifying time for your age and sex, and you can apply to run the race.

Note that even if you get a BQ, you won’t necessarily be accepted into the race because usually there are more applicants than the allotted field size.

Still, even getting a BQ is often a goal and badge of honor for runners because the Boston Marathon qualifying standards are fairly difficult to achieve for most runners.

People running a marathon.

#40: C25K

An acronym for the wildly popular and successful Couch to 5k training plan, which progresses non-runners from a sedentary lifestyle to running their first 5k.

#41: DNF

This running acronym stands for Did Not Finish, so it’s typically used when you drop out of a race or did not finish under the cut-off time. 

Some runners also use DNF in their training log to denote workouts they had to stop prematurely.

#42: DNS

This running acronym stands for Did Not Start. It is used in cases where you registered for a race but didn’t line up and start the race.

#43: DFL

With the middle letter standing for an expletive, this running acronym refers to the runner who finishes very last in a race, as it stands for Dead F*cking Last. 

Remember if you are DFL, it’s a heck of a better accomplishment than a DNF or worse, DNS.

A person on the ground holding their knee in pain.

#44: DOMS

DOMS stands for delayed-onset muscle soreness, which is a feeling most runners become well acquainted with. DOMS typically occurs 24-48 due to microscopic damage to the muscles from running.

#45: FKT

This running acronym stands for Fastest Known Time. It is mostly used within the trail running and ultramarathoner communities to describe the fastest recorded time someone has run a particular route or course.

#46: LSD

A common running acronym that stands for long slow distance run.

LSD runs build your stamina and help train your body to handle longer distances and higher training volume.

#47: OCR

A running acronym for obstacle course racing. This type of event combines running with taking on obstacles like ascending walls, climbing ropes, and running through fields of tires.

Someone climbing a wall.

#48: PR

Running abbreviation for Personal Record. It refers to your fastest time for a specific distance or timed running event. For example, if you’ve run three marathons and your finish times were 3:43:19, 3:37:27, and 3:38:12, your marathon PR is 3:37:27.

#49: PB

A PB in running stands for Personal Best. It refers to the fastest time you’ve clocked for a certain race, distance, or run. PB is often used in the UK and Canada instead of PR.

#50: VO2 Max

VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can take in and use during exercise. It is a measure of your aerobic capacity.

Don’t worry about learning all these running terms at once; you have a lifetime to be a runner. Welcome to the club!

If you would like to get into more detail about running terms regarding the different workouts types, look at our guide, here.

Someone taking a stress test.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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