Friday, July 2, 2010

Running Lingo

Marathoners sometimes seem to speak an entirely different language. Use this cheat sheet to decode their pre- and post-race utterings.

gel [jel] n. Runners carry and consume gels throughout the marathon to prevent hitting The Wall (see below). Usually about 100 calories, the gels provide easy-to-digest energy during the run and contain varying amounts of sugar, sodium, potassium and caffeine. They come in a variety of flavors, from fruity to chocolate, and are the consistency of melted jelly.
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually craving a gel right now.”

hyponatremia [hi-po-ne-tre-me-e] n. It’s crucial to stay hydrated while running, but drinking too much water—more than a runner sweats out—decreases sodium concentration in the blood, which can cause vomiting, seizures, coma and even death. The International Marathon Medical Directors Association issued a warning in 2001 urging runners to drink only when they’re thirsty.
“I kept chugging water like I was back at a kegger. Do you think I’ll get hyponatremia?”

negative split [neg-uh-tiv split] n., v. The strategy of running the second half of a race faster than the first half. On a flat course like Chicago, this is thought to be the best strategy for PRing (see below).
“I let everyone sprint in front of me at the start line so I had enough energy to negative split the marathon.”

PR [P-R] abbr. n., v. Abbreviation for “personal record,” the fastest a runner has completed that distance. After months of training, a PR is a very big deal.
“The weather was perfect for a PR today!”

taper [tey-per] n., v. Reduction of mileage during the two to three weeks before the marathon by as much as 50–75 percent of peak training volume. This allows muscles to recover from three or more months of hard training effort.
“Dude, I was excited to taper, but now I’m bouncing off the walls.”

The Wall [thuh wahl] n. Runners can store only a limited amount of glycogen in their bodies—when it runs low, the body turns to stored fat for energy, which does not burn as readily. It pretty much sucks when this happens, and the runner will experience extreme fatigue, muscle soreness and mental fuzziness—kind of like hitting a wall (not to be confused with the Pink Floyd album). 

“My legs cramped up and I felt dizzy when I hit The Wall—but at least I didn’t throw up.”

Running Terms

10-K pace

10-K pace, when used in a workout to describe how fast to run, is simply the pace of a runner's last 10-K race.


K is for kilometers, 1,000 meters. A 5-K is equal to 3.1 miles; 8-K is 4.96 miles; 10-K is equal to 6.2 miles.

400 meters

Equivalent to a quarter mile or 1 lap around a standard track.

800 meters

Equivalent to a half-mile or 2 laps around a standard track.


Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that's sufficiently easy for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and slow enough that lactic acid doesn't appreciably build up in your muscles. Generally, you can sustain a slow aerobic pace for long periods of time, provided you have the endurance to go long distances.


Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that makes it impossible for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and fast enough that lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles, thus producing a tired, heavy feeling. The pace associated with anaerobic running cannot be sustained very long.

anaerobic threshold (AT)

The transition phase between aerobic and anaerobic running. Good training will increase AT by teaching the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently, so that less lactic acid is produced. Also known as "lactate threshold."


See "hitting the wall."

chip time

Finish time, as measured by a computer chip that's usually worn on the shoe.


Slow running or jogging done after a workout or competition to loosen muscles and rid the body of lactic acid.


Course record.

cushioning (or shock absorption)

The ability of a shoe to absorb the impact of footstrike.


Did not finish.


Did not start.


Delayed onset muscle soreness. This type of muscle soreness normally peaks about 48 hours after a particularly intense or long run.

elite runner

An athlete who has reached the highest level in his/her sport.


Swedish for "speed play;" variable pace running; a mixture of slow running, running at a moderate pace and short, fast bursts. Fartlek training is a "creative way" to increase speed and endurance.

"hitting the wall"

The dreaded point (and awful feeling similar to what your body would feel like if you ran into a wall) during a race when your muscle glycogen stores become depleted and a feeling of fatigue engulfs you.


Training in which short, fast "repeats" or "repetitions" often 200 to 800 meters, are alternated with slow "intervals" of jogging for recovery; usually based on a rigid format such as "six times 400 meters fast [these are the repeats] with 400-meter recovery jogs [the intervals]," interval training builds speed and endurance.


According to the IAAF, a junior is any athlete who is under 20 on December 31 of that year. For example, an athlete whose birthday is November 12, 1979 will be a junior in 1998 but not in 1999.

junk miles

Runs at an easy pace inserted into a program in order to reach a weekly or monthly mileage total rather than for any specific benefit. Despite the name, "junk miles" often serve as recovery from harder workouts. The value of "junk miles" is still hotly debated among training theorists.

lactic acid

A substance which forms in the muscles as a result of the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Lactic acid is associated with muscle fatigue and sore muscles.

lactate threshold

See "anaerobic threshold."


A shaped piece of wood or metal on which the shoe is built. The shape of the last determines the shape of the shoe. Shoes are made in three basic shapes: straight, curved and semi-curved, but all three shapes vary from company to company as each company has its own lasts.


Refers to the outer edge of a shoe.


LSD is an abbreviation for "Long, Slow Distance," which refers to the practice of running longer distances at an "easy" pace rather than shorter ones to exhaustion. The slower pace allows the runner to go longer and, therefore (supposedly), gain more fitness.


26.2 miles; According to legend, in 490 B.C., a Greek soldier name Philippides ran the distance from the site of the battle of Marathon to Athens, where he died after the Greek victory over the Persians.


An athlete 40 years of age or older is designated a "master" in the U.S. Many other countries use the term "veteran."

maximum heart rate

The highest heart-rate reached during a specified period of time.


Referring to the inner side (or arch side) of a shoe.

"metric mile"

1500m, the international racing distance closest to the imperial mile.


The area of the shoe between the upper and outsole that's primarily responsible for the shoe's cushioning. Most midsoles are made of foams: either EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or polyurethane. EVA is lighter and more flexible than polyurethane, but it also breaks down more quickly. Many midsoles also have additional cushioning elements such as air, gel and various embedded plastic units.


1609 meters, 5280 feet, or 1760 yards. Note: 1600m is not a mile.

motion control

The ability of a shoe to limit overpronation.

negative splits

Running the second half of a race faster than the first half.


National record.


The material, usually made of hard carbon rubber, on the bottom of most running shoes; the layer of the shoe that contacts the ground.


The excessive inward roll of the foot before toe-off. Overpronation is believed to be the cause of many running injuries.


Accelerations done during a run, normally done in shorter durations than fartleks. Pick-ups are simply another way to spice up what would otherwise be an easy-run day.


Bounding exercises; any jumping exercise in which landing followed by a jump occurs.

post (or medial post)

Firmer density of midsole material added to the inner side of the shoe. A post is designed to reduce overpronation.


In the U.S., a high school athlete. From the term "preparatory school," a school for preparing for college. Slightly different from the IAAF definition of "Junior."


Pronation begins immediately after the heel contacts the ground. It is a normal and necessary motion for walking or running. Pronation is the distinctive, inward roll of the foot as the arch collapses.


Personal record/personal best.


See "intervals."


The ability of a shoe to provide a smooth transfer of a runner's weight from heel-strike to toe-off. Ride is a largely subjective quality, but shoe wearers know it when a shoe has or lacks a good ride.

runner's high

A feeling, usually unexpected, of exhilaration and well-being directly associated with vigorous running; apparently related to the secretion of endorphins.

running economy

Refers to how much oxygen you use when you run. When you improve your economy, you are able to run at a smaller percentage of max VO2 (your maximum rate of oxygen utilization).


Refers to your times at mile markers or other pre-planned checkpoints along the way to the finish line.


The ability of a shoe to resist excessive foot motion


Short, fast, but controlled runs of 50 to 150 meters. Strides, which are used both in training and to warm up before a race, build speed and efficiency.


The opposite of pronation. It's an outward rolling of the forefoot that naturally occurs during the stride cycle at toe-off. Oversupination occurs when the foot remains on its outside edge after heel strike instead of pronating. A true oversupinating foot underpronates or does not pronate at all, so it doesn't absorb shock well. It is a rare condition occurring in less than 1 percent of the running population.


Runners usually cut back mileage (or taper) one day to three weeks (depending on race distance) before a big race. Tapering helps muscles rest so that they are ready for peak performance on race day.

target heart rate

A range of heart rate reached during aerobic training, which enables an athlete to gain maximum benefit.

tempo runs

Sustained effort training runs, usually 20 to 30 minutes in length, at 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace. Another way to gauge the pace of tempo runs: a pace about midway between short-interval training speed and your easy running pace.

threshold runs

Runs of 5 to 20 minutes at a pace just a little slower than your 10-K racing pace; Threshold pace is roughly equivalent to what exercise physiologists call "lactate threshold," or the point at which your muscles start fatiguing at a rapid rate. Running at or near lactate threshold is believed to raise your lactate threshold, which should allow you to run faster in the future.


The front portion of a shoe's upper. A wide toebox allows plenty of room for the toes to spread.


Underpronation is less common than overpronation. The shoes of underpronators show outsole wear on the lateral (outer) side not just at the heel but all the way up to the forefoot. Typically, underpronators tend to break down the heel counters of their shoes on the lateral side.


The leather or mesh material that encloses the foot.


International term similar to "master" in the U.S. According to the IAAF, men become "veterans" on their 40th birthday; women, on their 35th birthday.

VO2Max (maximal oxygen consumption)

The maximal amount of oxygen that a person can extract from the atmosphere and then transport and use in the body's tissues.


See "hitting the wall."


Five to twenty minutes of easy jogging/walking before a race or a workout. The point of a warm-up is to raise one's heart rate so the body (and its muscles) are looser before a tough workout begins.

"world best"

A recorded best time for an event in which formal world records are not kept. For instance, the fastest time at 150m, a non-standard distance, is a "world best" rather than a "world record." Similar distinctions are made for road races which do not meet certain standards, such as races with excessive amounts of downhill.


World record.

Funny Running Terms

Achilles Tendinitis: the Greek God of running injuries.
Aerobic: when your pen becomes airborne.
Antioxidants: those who rally against oxygen intake.
Bandit: cheapskate, "Can you believe he ran that race without paying the registration fee?!!"
Base training: working out on the grounds of a military base; you should do most of your steady aerobic running here before you do speed or hill workouts.
Blade Runner: a runner who is as skinny as a blade of grass.
Bonk: 1, when one is lacking in fuel and feels weak is cause of this during a run. "You don't want to bonk during the race. Eat something!" 2. Where British citizens keep their money. 3. British term with the same meaning as "shag". (You may want to think twice before talking to a Brit. about your last bonk,)
Bunions: The mother and father of Paul.
Capilene: the way a runner's cap or hat naturally leans or tilts while running. "Your capliene is stylin".
Carbo load: a garbage truck full of bread and 6" pasta.
Carbo gauge: not to be confused with carbo load.
Cherry picker: a runner who hates to lose.
Clydesdale: a special racing division for really big horses; not to be confused with the Shetland division for the really little ones, CR. Course record, 2. Crappy race.
Cross training: training when you are very upset.
Didathoner: those who run marathons and ultra marathons for quantity not quality. A didathoner will tell you they did London, Boston, Big Sur and Avenue of the Giants, all within a three-week period. They may have finished each one in 10 hours but hey, they "did it."
DNF: did not finish. There are many reasons to "DNF" but not completing a race because someone you don't want to be ahead of you, is in fact, ahead of you is not one of them.
DNS: did not start. Popular low key event: DNS. DNF. DNC. (Did not start. Did not finish. Did not care) 5K. Double: completing two workouts in one day; doing a two mile warm up jog followed by a six mile tempo run doesn't count. 2. What you drink after you DNF.
Endorphins: friendly little parasites that you usually feel in the middle of a good run. 34"'The endorphins are kicking in.Expos: outlet shopping malls for runners.
Fartlek, (1): speed work after a meal of refried beans.
Fartlek, (2): When a runner increases his or her pace sufficiently enough to put adequate distance between themselves and the rest of the group so they can take a quick pottie break before the group catches up. "There goes Jim on another Fartlek!" (TMMRC)
Food and Drug Administration: pre-race ritual Involving carbohydrates, plenty of fluids, and plenty of anti-Inflammatories.
Free Balling: happens when the liner of a male's running shorts looses their elasticity; things hang loose.
Gel: something in your running shoe or your hair; both of which are supposed to make you run faster.
Glycogen stores: stores where you can get a limited supply of fuel before you have to visit the fat stores.
Good Job: thinly veiled words of encouragement during a race or serious workout that really mean,"What the heck are you doing ahead of me?"
"Gotta Love Those Hills!": For runners believing that "hill work" is "speed work" in disguise, this is the "War Hoop" that mentally convinces us that running up hills hurts less than running at top speed around a track. (Also see Dementia) (TMMRC)
Hamstring: the leash you hook to your pet pig's collar.
Harcormorner: hard core morning runner.
Hash: an event hosted by any local chapter of the International Hash House Harriers, a drinking club with a running problem.
Heart rate monitor: an annoying piece of equipment that constantly beeps, usually worn by someone who is hearing-impaired or etiquette-impaired and running the same pace as you in a race.
Illotiblal band: a musical group made up of runners, popular with Beatniks in the U.S. and U.S.. The band disbanded due to bad knees from constant bending while playing the bongos.
Injury: worse than the bubonic plague; when In need of sympathy or a little attention, tell your running friends you have an injury (use words like "ripped ilio-tibular ligament'. "Lacerated plantar', and "torn metatarsal') then go out for a run. You will earn instant respect and admiration for running through your Injury.
Logging: 1. what your nonrunning friends and coworkers say they saw you doing when you were out running the other day. 2. Only done by a runner to their memory
Kenyan of the Week: term used to describe any one of a huge and growing number of very talented runners from this African nation who win American road races.
LSD: let's slow down.
Marathoner: a person who derives great personal satisfaction from an experience very similar to breathing into a plastic bag for about forty minutes.
Masters: special division in races for those with advance degrees. MPH miles per hour.
MPD: miles per day.
Negative split: 1. Running the second half of one's race faster than the first half; common among elite runners. 2. A banana split without the whipped cream, bananas, nuts, or Ice cream.
NRF: non-running friend, "nurf".
Pace: preferred salsa of runners worldwide, hence the term. "Pick up the Pace.' The heat is on.
Pacer: 1. a running friend who sets the pace In the latter part of a long race. 2. A runner who brings chips and salsa to the workout.
Path Pounders: trail runners.
Plantar Fascitis: a Latin derivative for doing a face plant on a trail run.
Poison Oak: something one acquires, like endurance and dirty shoes, from doing trail runs.
Polypropelene: an awesome professional female runner who is very lean, and wicks away sweat, "Wow. She is so polypropelene!"
Power Bar: bar frequented by the elite in the running world.
PR a personal record, a best time at any given distance.
Pronate: 1. Podiatrists say 90% of the running population overpronates; the other 10% stagnate. 2. What the shoe guy says you have and then you have to pay an extra 5 bucks for your running shoes. PW a personal worst.
Racing Singlet: a little song or tune performed before each race.
Reverse Fartlek: The opposite of Fartlek (2). When a runner suddenly, and without warning, stops and heads into the nearby foliage, yelling out, "Reverse Fartlek!". This advises the rest of the group that the runner has determined an immediate need for a pottie break. It also alerts the group that if the runner has not caught back up with the group within an acceptable time, the group must backtrack to ensure the runner is safe. (TMMRC)
RC: 1. running club. 2, eating club where running is the only means to the end. 3. A Pepsi or Coke substitute.
Runner: something bad that happens to your pantyhose rendering them useless for the remainder of the race.
Runner's Courtesy: What a group of runners yell out when they overcome another member who has previously "fartlek'd" with insufficient speed and distance. In other words, "we've caught up with you and we promise, we're not looking!"(TMMRC)
Runner’s log: do not try to run with one of these. It will be painful and could be embarrassing, always deposit them (or bury them if you're on the trail) In the toilet before you start.
Sandbagger: when a very fast runner claims to be tired or Injured and starts out In the back of the pack by choice only to push and shove their way to the front. Punishment for this behavior: filling bags of sand until the last runner has finished, hence, the phrase. "You are nothing but a '@'^#7.'@] Sandbagger...and you ain't no running friend of mine'.
Sciatic nerve: an extremely Irritating runner. "He's got a lot of sciatic nerve!"
SDF: super duper fast. "Look at her go. She's SDF!"
Splits: when one runner divorces another runner, he or she splits.
Sprinting: what you thought you were doing during the last .2 of the marathon and the clock read 2:59:59.
Stretching: to be done only when you are first to cross the finish line tape - you are allowed to stretch your body as you break the tape, otherwise prohibited.
Supinate: what you did after a race; you had soup and ate.
Taper: to cut back one's weekly mileage, before a big race, from, say, 90 miles to 80 miles.
Tempo Run: running to the beat of your favorite song should be done at least once a week.
Triathlete: an injured or disgruntled runner who has money. A bike, and a pool ...and likes to prance around all day In a Speedo.
Ultramarathoner: a person who derives great personal satisfaction from experiences that include, but are not limited to, oxygen deprivation, motion sickness, dehydration, chafing, blistering, vomiting, cramping, heat stroke, and hypothermia...and preferably all at once.
Ultrathon: a footrace that exceeds 26.2 miles, usually on trails, that involves three methods of forward motion, usually a run, jog and walk.
Wall: as in "the wall". Something you lean against to stretch your calf muscles. Especially at the twenty-mile mark In a marathon, runners like to "hit the wall". 

1 comment:

  1. These are funny... i totally thought of you today - I read an advertisement for a marathon that had a cartoon by it, which showed a man stretching next to a mom with her kids - it said "for the love of fartlik, be aware of your surroundings when you stretch in split shorts" or something like that, I was rolling - too much leg!!!