Running Terms Lingo

The Insider’s Guide to Running Terms & Lingo

For veteran runners, there are a number of running terms that have become a part of their normal conversations. But for the newbie, the running lingo and jargon might seem a little overwhelming and intimidating. Never fear! These running terms are not meant to scare any one away. Likewise, you’ll pick them up in no time. The following are 15 of the more common running terms you’re likely to hear. These will help you get a head start in learning the novel (and funny) ways runners talk to one another. 

  1. Easy Run – When runners use this running term, they generally are indicating they are running slower than their regular pace. Easy runs account for a couple of your runs each week because they keep you from getting burned out. This not only means physically but also mentally. 
  1. Tempo Run – Yes, this running term is a little odd. But tempo runs refer to runs where you run about 85 percent of your max. These are more challenging than easy runs, and you normally keep this pace for a longer period of time. 
  1. Race Pace – As you might expect, race pace is running lingo for your best pace possible. In other words, you are giving it your all. Naturally, you’ll run your race pace during a race. But also, some of your training runs will also be performed at race pace as well. Remember, your race pace is different depending on the race distance you are training for. For example, your 5K race pace is likely much faster than your marathon race pace.
  1. Intervals and Repeats – Rather than running a consistent pace for a longer distance, intervals are short sprints with periods of rest in between. These are often done at running tracks and can vary in length from 200 meters to longer distances. Also called repeats, these are great for increasing your running speed. 
  1. Fartlek – This running lingo is used less commonly, but it will certainly distinguish you as a runner! Like intervals, fartlek runs consist of intervals of a faster pace run. But in between, you don’t rest but instead slow down your pace. Fartleks are also generally gauged by landmarks (like light poles) rather than specific distances or times. 
  1. Negative Splits – You may have heard splits as part of running lingo. These simply refer to the individual times that you ran each mile of your run. Negative splits therefore mean with each mile you ran, your mile times became faster. Negative splits generally mean you pushed yourself pretty well!
  1. Cross-training – Like in other types of sports, cross-training as a running term means doing something else besides running. Cycling, weight-lifting, yoga, and many other activities can be considered cross-training and improve your running performance. 
  1. Rest Day – Generally speaking, most runners benefit from at least one rest day each week. This means they avoid any strenuous exercise and allow their body to recover. Rest days are particularly important for runners as they age
  1. Foot Strike – Runners love to talk about their gait and running form. Part of this usually includes the running term foot strike. This simply describes the part of your foot that first hits the ground. As you will learn, different runners have different opinions about which foot strike is best for them.
  1. A Rabbit – For this running term, think about dogs running at a dog track chasing the mechanical rabbit. In the same way, a rabbit in running is a faster runner who you are trying to catch during a race. Rabbits can help you push yourself and become faster. 
  1. The Wall – Though it’s not something you want to experience, nearly every runner has at some point. The wall is a running term that describes a situation where you have nothing left in the tank. You might be able to push through, but it’s not going to be easy. 
  1. P.R. – If you’ve been around runners at all, you’ve likely heard the running term “P.R.” This stands for one’s “personal record” or best time for a particular distance run. It’s the yardstick by which many runners measure their ongoing performance. 
  1. Boston Qualifier – Marathons that are Boston Qualifiers mean races have been approved for runners wanting to get into the Boston Marathon. Qualifying times for entry vary by both age and gender. 
  1. Point to Point – As running lingo goes, point to point describes any running course that starts on one spot and ends at another. The biggest challenge for these runs is determining your transportation to either end. 
  1. Out and Back – Unlike point to point, out and back runs start and end at the same place. In fact, these running courses are usually the same on the way out as they are on the way back. Though perhaps not as engaging, you’ll at least be finishing in the same location. 

Dawna is a mom of two, author of ten books and founder of Women's Running magazine and the Virtual Women's Half Marathon series. She is also a certified health coach and motivational speaker. Dawna has appeared on the Today show, MSNBC and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna has launched and sold two wellness companies and loves combining her passion for health and wellness with her love of running. Learn more about Dawna Stone.

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