When starting a new interest, we often find that there’s much more to know than just the basics.
Language is a funny thing. Each new hobby or activity we take up comes with specific terms, phrases, and slang. The sport of running is no different.
In the running world, there are many phrases and slang terms that help us communicate with other runners. It’ll likely take quite a bit of time to amass all the running words that runners use frequently.
But just like running, once you get started, you’ll be well on your way to success.
What Are the Most Important Terms for Running?
If you’re a brand new runner, you might feel lost around other runners when they start using buzzwords and phrases you’ve never heard.
Rather than feeling uncertain if this new running hobby is for you, get comfortable with learning all about this fun sport. To get you started, here are some of the most important terms you’ll need to know for running.
Include a few of these running words in your vocabulary on your next run, and you’ll sound like a seasoned runner!
101 Words Runners Use
A distance race that is 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles in length.
Many runners start off running or even walking 5ks before they build up to half marathons and marathons.
A distance race that is 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles in length.
This is a really great middle-distance race. If you’re not sure if half marathons are for you, try out a 10k race first.
Aerobic is a word that literally means “requiring oxygen.” Running is an aerobic activity because oxygen is necessary to complete the action.
ATP is an acronym for Adenosine Triphosphate. This molecule, created within the body’s cells, stores and releases energy in the body.
It’s essential for living, but also necessary for running.
This is a passive stretch. This kind of stretching uses a bouncing motion or quick movements.
Some runners use ballistic stretching though it may lead to more frequent injuries.
The clothing that’s worn directly on the runner’s skin. As a good rule of thumb, this layer should be moisture-wicking and temperature specific.
Training that increases a person’s physical fitness on aerobic and endurance levels. This training is done at low to medium intensity levels and at a steady pace.
Sometimes called a “race bib,” a bib is the number on the rectangular paper displayed on each runner’s chest. The race bib lets race officials know you should be on the course, while those without a bib should not.
Body Mass Index.
BMI is a formula to determine a person’s body mass based on their height and weight. This measurement is not helpful for athletes because it doesn’t differentiate body fat and muscle, meaning results can be seriously flawed.
An acronym meaning “beats per minute.” The measurement of a person’s heart rate by detecting how many times the heart beats within a minute.
Runners often use heart rate as a training tool. Understanding BPM throughout training is essential.
Also known as “hitting the wall,” if a runner “bonks,” they lose steam and may slow down, walk, or stop altogether.
This occurs when the glycogen stores in the body deplete, leaving the body without the necessary energy.
Boston Qualify. This can be used to denote that a race is a Boston qualifier. It can also mean a runner has run or is attempting to run a Boston qualifying time at a race.
Boston is the holy grail of long-distance racing, and a fast time in a separate race is required to qualify for entry.
This is a feeling when a person finds an activity disinteresting. Burnout is usually caused by fatigue from the activity.
The number of steps per minute a runner runs.
A runner’s best friend! Fuel that’s made up of sugars and starches. An essential nutrient for creating energy in the body.
Carbohydrate Loading (Carbo-Loading)
Carbo-loading generally happens in the weeks and days leading up to a race. This is the action of a runner who begins to eat more carbohydrates to increase glycogen stores in the body’s muscles.
It’s important to note that a runner cannot carbo-load only the night before a race. This is a common misconception.
Skin irritation that’s caused by constant friction.
👉🏼 Body Glide is a great anti-chafe balm for runners.
The device that’s used to track a single runner’s race time.
Chips for races may be attached to the race bib. Sometimes chips must be affixed to a runner often by being attached to the shoe.
This is the race result time based on when the runner actually crossed the start line. See “Gun Time” for a comparison.
Runners know the importance of strengthening the “core” but many think of this simply as the abdominals.
The core muscles include several muscle groups including the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, hip flexors, and glutes. Strengthening all of these muscles is ideal for maintaining excellent running form.
The area at the start line of a race where runners gather.
Large races will have several corrals packed with sometimes thousands of runners. Each corral begins the race separately, allowing runners to spread out on the course.
Smaller races may have one large corral that begins the race at the same time.
Course Record. This can mean that you have run the fastest race at that distance and can also be your Personal Record.
A course record can be slower than your overall best race time but is the fastest for that particular course.
Any training exercise that isn’t running.
Cross-training workouts help a runner stay physically fit. It also helps to improve their running ability by building strength in muscles used less commonly while running.
A loss of fluids in the body. Dehydration occurs when a runner isn’t taking in as many fluids as the body is expending.
Although water is essential, getting the right minerals is also important to avoid dehydration.
Did not finish. This is denoted on a race result if a runner began a race but did not complete the race.
Did not start. This is denoted on a race result if a runner did not begin the race.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. When a person completes a workout they may feel some soreness soon after the workout. However, DOMS refers to muscle soreness 24 to 48 hours after the workout that is at peak soreness.
Studies show that this soreness results from eccentric contractions of the muscles, or the action of a muscle help slow down the movement. The feeling of DOMS is the rebuilding of muscle fibers.
Although you might feel pain from your soreness, it’s actually the body doing the right thing to recover.
A runner who qualified as a Half Fanatic and a Marathon Maniac.
A nickname runners give to the treadmill. Because many runners prefer to run outdoors, the treadmill brings most runners “dread,” usually when covering a long distance.
A type of stretch where movement is used to encourage the stretching of muscles.
Minerals that help to regulate bodily fluids with proper blood pH balance. Essential for proper body function and is often found in sports drinks.
✅ I recommend the sport drink Nuun. Nuun is low in sugar but packed with electrolytes for optimum running performance.
“Speed play” in Swedish. These are workouts that runners may use that aren’t necessarily organized but use quick changes in tempo.
The weblike connective tissue in the body covers all bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.
Runners may experience plantar fasciitis, the painful inflammation of the fascia in the bottom of the foot.
The end of a race. Runners cross over the finish line to conclude their race.
When a runner lays out clothes the night before a race in the shape of a person. A flat runner helps a runner double and triple-check that they have every item they’ll need for a successful race.
A type of repeat workout for runners where the rest in between is completed at a higher intensity than most repeats.
A cylindrical-shaped, semi-hard foam that a runner can roll over tight muscles by laying on the foam roller on the ground.
This refers to how your foot lands during each step when you run.
A running method that uses intervals of running and walking.
Many runners find the run/walk strategy incredibly useful, especially when first starting or returning to running following an injury.
Blood sugar. An energy source for the body’s cells.
Glycogen is the main carbohydrate within the body that can convert to energy.
The specific race that a runner is training to race.
A runner may use various lower race distances during their training cycle to try running at a race pace, but there is only one goal race during a training cycle.
This race result is based on when the entire race began.
A runner may not have crossed the start line until 30 seconds after the gun denoted the race began. A discrepancy can occur in a runner’s actual race time if a chip is not also used to track the runner.
Someone who has run and qualified for the Half Fanatics group.
Minimum requirements must be met. The runner must have run three half marathons in 90 days or less or two half marathons in 16 days or less.
A distance race of 13.1 miles.
High-Intensity Interval Training. A type of workout characterized by intense intervals between rounds of rest and recovery.
Hit the Wall
Also referred to ask “bonk,” hitting the wall means a runner has expended most of their energy and is incapable of performing their best. This can cause a runner to slow down, walk, or stop altogether.
IT (Iliotibial) Band Syndrome
A condition that causes pain on the outer side of the knee. Pain is often caused by inflammation of the IT Band rubbing against the femur repeatedly.
It tends to be a common injury for runners.
A type of run training that has runners complete an intense exercise quickly, followed by a recovery period.
The “KT” stands for “kinesiology therapy.” Kinesiology is the study of human movement.
✅ KT Tape is a specific brand that many runners trust and use.
KT Tape is an adhesive sports tape some runners use to support or stabilize a particular area.
This is the point during exercise when lactate increases in the bloodstream quicker than it is cleared. This makes it difficult to continue the activity at the same intensity.
It’s a good measurement of physical capability by runners and their coaches.
There isn’t usually money to be won when entering a running lottery.
Instead, a lottery is often used for sought-after races. Runners enter their names into a lottery for a chance to run that specific race.
Long Steady Distance. A specific workout for runners who cover a long distance at a generally moderate and consistent pace.
A long-distance race that is 26.2 miles.
Someone who has run and qualified for the Marathon Maniacs group.
Minimum requirements the person has run three marathons in 90 days or less or two marathons in 16 days or less.
Reward runners often receive after completing a race event. Many races give all finishers a medal.
Minimalist Running Shoe
A type of running shoe that is designed with minimal padding. This means the arch and sole have light padding and support. This design makes the shoe more lightweight.
A material that helps to pull sweat away from the skin. This helps avoid issues such as chafing and skin rashes.
All types of clothing are made from moisture-wicking material, including socks, shorts, and shirts.
The condition at which a runner runs a set amount of distance and then repeats it at a quicker pace.
For instance, a runner may run each mile slightly faster than the previous one during a race. This is considering running negative splits in a race.
The covering of a distance and then turning around and backtracking. Some runners prefer to run their training runs as out-and-back routes.
Many races may have areas of out-and-backs that take runners to a point, around a traffic cone, and back down the location they just ran.
Training beyond the distance of a goal race.
If a runner plans to run a half marathon, they may train with a long run extending to 15 miles or more. A runner training for a marathon may complete over-distance training equating to 28 miles or more.
When an athlete trains too frequently without adequate rest. Overtraining can lead to burnout, lower athletic performance, and even injury.
When a runner lands a foot strike with the ankle on an angle where the arch collapses, over-pronation is occurring.
The speed at which a runner runs a distance. Pacing can change throughout a run to hit a time goal.
Personal Best. Performing your best race to date. PB and PR are often used interchangeably.
The point at which a runner reaches their maximum athletic capability. The intention during training is to get the runner to reach the peak just as they will run their goal race.
Personal Record. This is your best time (shortest amount of time) running a specific distance. PR and PB are often used interchangeably.
A running relay race where teams of 6 or 12 runners run a distance race.
Ragnar relay events take place over about 200 miles. This means that teams will start in one city and run to another. One runner is always on the course while the others ride in the team van to meet at the next transition spot. Ragnar races take place on roads and on trails.
Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Athletes are advised to follow R.I.C.E. to help soft tissue injuries by reducing inflammation and pain.
Recovery Heart Rate
The amount of time required for an athlete’s heart rate to return to a recovery rate after intense exercise.
Running repeats are workouts for runners that cover a specific time or distance measurement. Runners run a set time or distance, actively recover, and repeat the time or length for the length of their workout.
A day off from running and other types of workouts. It’s important to have rest days in any quality training program. Rest days help a runner to recover and build stronger muscles.
A vacation that is planned around a running event.
Runners may plan to run a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, or ultramarathon in a destination they must travel to. Runcations are generally planned with the intention of exploring the location after the race.
A phrase runners will say if running in a group when another runner is running up behind the group. This phrase alerts the rest of the runners in the group so they can single file and give space to the other runner passing the group.
A phrase runners will say if running in a group when another runner is running toward the group. This phrase alerts the rest of the runners in the group so they can single-file and give space to the other runner.
“Runner Back” and “Runner Up” could also be “Cyclist Up” or “Car Back.” These are quick phrases to bring attention to a particular situation.
A feeling some runners say they experience after running for a long time. Often misattributed to the release of endorphins, but science shows it’s more likely endocannabinoids released in the bloodstream during running.
This is not a belt to help hold up your running shorts. Instead, this is a pouch designed to wear around your waist to carry small items such as your keys, phone, I.D., running fuel, etc.
✅ I recommend SPIbelt to runners who need to hold small items on the run.
Spandex-style pants that are very similar to leggings. Running tights may be used to help a runner stay warm in cold temperatures or for their often compressive properties.
When a runner runs every day without missing a day, they are on a running streak. Some runners complete a few miles a day and carry on a running streak for many months, sometimes even years.
A type of safety vest designed for runners to be seen on their run. Some running vests only have reflective embellishments while other running vests are equipped with lights to help motorists pay attention.
💡 I recommend the Noxgear Tracer2 running vest for runners who run in lowlight conditions.
A run that is completed the day or two before a race.
The idea of this run is for a runner to be able to have rested legs but to become familiar with the motion after tapering and before racing. A shakeout run also helps knock out some pre-race jitters.
A common injury complaint amongst runners. This injury describes pain felt in the shin area, also called the tibia.
A sleeveless shirt. Runners who “run hot” or who run in hot temperatures will benefit from a singlet made from moisture-wicking material.
In running, sleeves are often compression sleeves unattached from a shirt. Runners use compression sleeves to minimize muscle bounce and improve blood flow to promote faster recovery.
👉🏼 I recommend these 10 compression arm sleeves.
The place a race begins. Runners will cross over the start line at the very beginning of their race.
A stretch that is held without movement.
A type of running repeat workout.
Strides are a workout designed to help runners’ bodies understand the race pace feel. Strides are generally done before or after a run rather than done independently like other repeat workouts.
Also referred to as underpronation, supination means that the ankle does not pronate and instead flexes outward upon foot strike.
The phase in a training cycle where a runner decreases the running mileage in the last few weeks leading up to race day.
The taper phase of training helps a runner to build their glycogen stores and rest before race day.
A feeling some runners experience during the taper phase of training. Some runners will become depressed, have low energy, or experience overall feelings of despair or restlessness.
A running workout that is completed near race pace.
Many people mean this when they actually say “tendonitis.”
Tendonosis occurs when a tendon has structural damage which can be caused by many things when running (i.e. shoelaces too tight, falling while running, overtraining).
The area of your shoe where you toes rest. This is an area that some runner’s suffer most from blisters and hot spots because many shoes are too narrow in the toe box.
💡 Look for a wider toe box to allow your toes to lay in a more natural way while you run.
A place where a runner can record the details of their daily experience while in training. Runners may include their workout, how they felt, heart rate measurements, how much sleep they got, the food they ate, etc.
Two-a-Days. When an athlete completes two workouts within a single day.
United States of America Track & Field. This organization is the governing body of the US for track and field, cross-country, running, and race-walking.
The maximum amount of oxygen that an athlete’s body can consume in during a workout.
World Marathon Majors
If you hear a runner talk about “the Majors” they’re referring to these six marathons.
Officially called the Abbott World Marathon Majors, they are the six top marathons in the world. The Majors include TCS New York City Marathon, TCS London Marathon, Tokyo Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon, BMW Berlin Marathon, and the prestigious Boston Marathon.
If you live in the US, 3 of the six best marathons happen here.
This running term means that a running shoe is designed to have the heel and the forefoot the exact same distance from the ground. This differs from more traditional running shoes that are raised at the heel and lower at the forefoot.
Final Thoughts: Running Words and Phrases
Knowing the vocabulary that goes along with the sport of running can help you feel more confident when meeting with other runners. The more time you spend around other runners the more running words you’ll begin to understand naturally. Have you ever heard a word you didn’t know about running?