A Glossary Of Running Terms
From bandit to taper, here are some words every runner needs to know
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Us runners, with our sometimes funny-sounding vocabulary, can come off as quirky. That’s just the way it is.
Fartlek, chafing, sandbagger … these are a few of those terms that may not remind non-runners of running. So if you’re new to the sport or just need to brush up on your runnerspeak, here are a few words you should know.
Those runners who rob a race for the experience without permission (or payment). This is run-illegal, especially by us paying customers who forked over $100-plus to participate—if you Photoshop race bibs and post your photo on Instagram, you will get caught!
Bonk/Hitting the Wall
Scientifically speaking, you’ve depleted your muscle glycogen stores—aka, you’re out of gas. How that looks runner to runner varies, but may include tears, desperation, a zombie-like trance and an almost uncontrollable urge to take a bag of Cheerios from a random toddler because you NEED FOOD.
When a runner scarfs mounds of pasta, bread and other sources of energy leading up to a big race. This gives your prepping muscles the proper glycogen oomph they need for maximum awesomeness the next day.
When evil fabric rubs you the wrong way and causes a hyper-friction reaction in the form of painful scab-like skin markings in uncomfortable areas. Common culprits include inner thighs, armpits and, yes, nipples.
Letting another runner do all the work. A race strategy where you tuck behind another runner and allow them to suck and block the wind while you cruise through the miles, waiting for the perfect moment to break free.
Go ahead and laugh now, it’s a funny word. And, as far as speed drills go, these are fun to do. Once you are into your run, add short, variable speed burst to your workout and then return to your normal pace. Time, distance, speed and how many are up to you.
This is the person at the front of the race pack. Some of us only see them on out-and-back courses or if we spectate a race instead of run it.
You know when you are so excited to go for a run that you start out too fast and within the first minute, you’re short of breath and thinking, “What’s wrong? This hurts! Why can’t I breathe?”—chances are you’re hypoxic. Basically your lungs aren’t yet keeping up with your heart and you don’t have enough oxygen pumping through your system. Back off the pace until you warm up and catch your breath.
For this type of training, short, fast bursts—usually in the 200 to 800 meter range—are alternated with slower running intervals. They can leave you prone to despair and saying evil things about your coach, but they are very effective for building speed and fitness.
This category refers to shoes with supreme amounts of underfoot cushion. Hoka One One set the standard, but many other brands are now introducing shoe models with a cushy ride. Thanks to new foam technologies, streamlined uppers and lower heel-to-toe drops, cushion doesn’t mean clunky.
Minimalist shoes are generally very lightweight, have a low heel-to-toe drop (usually somewhere between 0 to 6mm), little support or structure, flexible uppers and less underfoot cushion than a standard running shoe. Proponents of minimalist shoes tout increased ground feel and more natural foot movement.
A word uttered on the regular at specialty running stores. Pronation describes the normal rotational motion of the outside heel making contact with the ground first, then the foot rolls inward, leaving your big piggie with most of the push-off grunt work at the end of a gait cycle. Overpronation is when this rolling is excessive, compromising your gait and putting joints all along the chain at risk. The line between pronation and overpronation is different for every runner and usually has more to do with hip strength than shoes.
A totally positive goal during a race. When you’ve chipped seconds off each mile during a race, resulting in slower-to-faster mile splits from start to finish, you’ve entered the subzero category.
A person who publicly downplays their training, bashes their (often new) gear, questions their physical ability and then proceeds to push the pace on a group run or smoke a race. Sandbagging is not to be confused with being humble.
For single-file trail running. This type of trail is not wide enough for any misstep, so two-way traffic is out of the question. Please step aside.
These are mid- or post-run accelerations to build speed. Once you’re warmed up, push your pace to a hard effort for 50 to 150 meters, then slow and take a walking rest before repeating. Think of it as a drill to replicate the people in races who speed up to pass and then slow down right in front of you.
The period in which a runner is cutting back on training and mileage to rest before race day. Mimicking a temper tantrum, a “taper tantrum” refers to the often-negative side effects of lessening mileage after months of heavy running.
PR: Personal record, your speediest time at any given distance
PB: Personal best, not peanut butter
CR: Course record, fastest time run on that course
NR: National record, fastest time in the country run at any given distance
WR: World record, fastest time in the world run at any given distance
DFL: Dead freaking last, an unofficial race place and point of pride among back-runners
ITB: Iliotibial band, that pesky fascia band from your hip to the knee
MUT: Mountain/ultra/trail, a type of crazy runner
DOMS: Delayed onset muscle soreness, an epidemic among long-distance runners
DNF: Did not finish, the label slapped on your results when you do not cross the finish line
LSD: Long, slow distance, not the drug (sorry)
BQ: Boston qualifier, any marathon that’s certified to award you a ticket to the coveted Boston Marathon based on your time