Common Running Terms

Author: Taylah Danaë Baggs  Date Posted: 6 January 2020

Ever wondered what that fiddly term means that your running partner always uses? Embarrassed at your lack of encyclopaedic knowledge on common running terms? Ponder no more! Our helpful guide will have you on your feet in no time.

GENERAL

  • Bonk - when your muscle glycogen stores are depleted, you become overwhelmingly fatigued, and you can't run any more
  • Fuel - food or calories consumed during a run to keep your energy going
  • MUT - mountain/ultra/trail runner
  • Pace - how fast you're running (usually minutes per kilometer/mile)
  • The Wall - the point during a race or run where your energy levels fall and you have negative thoughts; usually happens about 2/3 through any race
  • XC - Cross Country

SHOES

  • Drop (heel-toe differential/offset/lift) - difference between the heel and forefoot height in a shoe
  • Insole - the thin piece of foam and fabric which sits inside your shoe, provides a small amount of cushioning and sometimes thermal protection. Insoles are often removable and can be replaced with custom orthotics if necessary.
  • Lateral - outer edge of a shoe
  • Last - determines the overall shape of the shoe. Last is sometimes used to just mean 'width', but it also affects the height of the toebox, width in the toes, midfoot and heel, etc.
  • Maximal - highly cushioned, thickly heeled models that absorb impact stress
  • Medial - inner / arch side of a shoe
  • Midsole - cushioning between the upper and outsole; usually made from foams like EVA or PU, gels, air, and/or embedded plastic
  • Minimal - lower, lighter models that promote a natural form while running
  • Motion control - shoe helping to limit overpronation
  • Neutral - a shoe which does not attempt to correct for over- or under-pronation. Suits people who aren't worried about their pronation, and people with custom orthotics.
  • Orthotics - inserts worn inside running shoes to help treat or prevent injuries. Orthotics for common conditions can be bought off the shelf, or podiatrists can make you a custom set.
  • Outsole - the very bottom of running shoes that contacts the ground; usually made from hard carbon rubber
  • Post / medial post - firmer density midsole material added to the medial side to reduce overpronation
  • Ride - how the shoe feels during the foot strike. A responsive ride means you can feel the ground and adjust your stride easily on difficult terrain. A smooth ride guides your foot from landing to toe off smoothly, and is often quite cushioned.
  • Stability - a shoe that resists excessive foot motion (overpronation)
  • Stack height - the height off the ground at the heel or forefoot
  • Toebox - the part of a shoe's upper that contains the front of your foot, including your toes
  • Upper - material that covers the top part of your foot
  • Zero drop - equal height between the heel and forefoot

TRAINING

  • Altitude training - training at high altitudes to increase your red blood cell count, improving oxygen delivery to muscles. Runners can often perform better for several weeks after altitude training for around a month
  • Carb loading - increasing the percentage of carbs in your diet leading up to an endurance event. This stores glycogen in the muscles and liver so it can be used during a race
  • Climb - hill or stretch of elevation gain
  • Cooldown - light physical activity such as walking after a longer, harder physical activity. This gradually lowers the heart rate and prevents blood from pooling in the legs
  • Elevation gain - amount of meters/feet that the course ascends
  • Fartlek / speed play - Swedish-originating speedwork format in which you can run faster for however long you want
  • Hill repeats - repetitively sprinting uphill then jogging downhill at an easier pace to recover; thought to efficiently increase fitness, strength and speed
  • Intervals / repeats - alternating short, fast bursts of running with slower bits
    • Cutdown intervals - increasing intervals, e.g. 200m-400m-600m-800m
    • Ladder intervals - decreasing intervals, e.g. 800m-600m-400m-200m
  • LSD - Long Slow Distance: any run that's longer than your usual weekly runs, used to build physical and mental endurance
  • Negative splits - running the second half faster than the first half, or if each mile/kilometer is faster than the previous
  • Pick-ups - short-lived accelerations during runs or races
  • Plyometrics - bounding exercises (landings followed by jumps)
  • Recovery - walking or light jogging between faster-paced segments, helping slow your heart rate and regain energy
  • Recovery run - easy, steady run, usually following harder workout days
  • Run/walk - swapping between walking and running to help fend off fatigue and activate different muscle groups
  • Speedwork - a faster-than-normal run
  • Splits - time taken to complete a defined distance
  • Strides - short, controlled 50-150m bursts of running to concentrate on form and efficiency
  • Taper - cutting back training distances before a big race to help muscles rest up
  • Technical - how challenging or difficult a trail is
  • Tempo - fairly fast, fairly short, sustained effort training runs
  • Threshold run - running just before your lactate threshold, when your muscles start rapidly fatiguing; believed to raise your lactate threshold
  • VO2 max - maximum amount of oxygen you can consume per minute while exercising; a high VOmax means more oxygen delivered to your muscles
  • Warmup - easy running, walking, or other light activity before a workout to prepare the body for more strenuous work; helps prevent injuries and increase efficiency
  • XT / Cross train - low-impact fitness activity, like swimming, walking, cycling, yoga, Pilates or weights

RACING

  • Aid station / pit stop / water stop - waypoints along a race course that hand out drinks and sometimes gels, energy bars, etc. Usually run by volunteers
  • Bandit - an illegal race participant - hasn't registered or paid for an entry
  • Bib - sheets printed with numbers used to identify race competitors; usually pinned to your clothing
  • BQ - Boston Qualifier: any marathon certified to award tickets to the Boston Marathon, given your time
  • Chip - small plastic piece attached to a shoelace that tracks a race entrant's progress and records race times; activated once you step over the electronic mat at the start and finish of a race, and at various point in between
  • Corral - sectioned area at a race's lineup that separates athletes into difference pace groups
  • CR - Course Record: fastest time run on the course
  • DNF - Did Not Finish (usually a race)
  • FKT - Fastest Known Time
  • Marathon - 26.2 mile race
  • NR - National Record: fastest run time in the country at a given distance
  • OCR - Obstacle course race, like Spartan and Tough Mudder
  • Out and Back - a running / race course that goes out and returns to the same spot
  • Parkrun - free weekly timed 5km runs on Saturday mornings, organised all over the world
  • PB - Personal Best: usually referring to best time
  • Point to Point - a running / race course that doesn't start and end in the same place
  • PR - Personal Record: your own fastest time
  • Rabbit - someone who starts a race hard and fast but drops out
  • Streaker - someone who's completed a race multiple years in a row
  • Ultramarathon - any race longer than a marathon; usually 50K, 50 miles or 100K; usually run on trails
  • WR - World Record: fastest run time in the world at a given distance

INJURIES

  • Achilles - a tendon attaching your calf muscles to your heel bone
    • Achilles tendonitis - inflammation of the Achilles tendon
  • Black toenails - nail bed bruising caused by incorrectly fitting shoes or excess pressure, e.g. pounding downhill
  • BMI - Body Mass Index: a simple estimate of body fat, helping you know whether your weight is healthy or not 
  • DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness; usually occurs about 48 hours after a really long or intense run
  • Foam rolling - auto-mysofascial release using a cylinder of foam
  • Ice bath - immersing your legs in ice water for 15-20 minutes after a long run or race to help reduce swelling and (once you get out) faster bloodflow to flush waste like lactic acid
  • ITB - iliotibial band: the fascia band that runs from the hip to the knee, flexing/rotating your hips and stabilising/extending your knees
    • ITBS - iliotibial band syndrome: strained ITB, often from increasing distances too quickly
  • Lactic acid - waste product formed in the muscles when glucose incompletely breaks down; associated with soreness and fatigue
  • Overuse injury - any injury resulting from running too much for your body
  • Overtraining - pushing your body beyond its ability to recover, causing fatigue, poor performance, irritability and further symptoms
  • Plantar fascia - thick tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes
    • Plantar fasciitis - inflamed plantar fascia, usually from poor calf muscle flexibility or overly rapid distance/intensity increases
  • Piriformis Syndrome (PS) - sciatic nerve irritation, caused by compression the nerve within the buttock by the piriformis muscle
  • Pronation - natural side-to-side movement of the foot when walking and running
    • Overpronation - excessive inward roll of the foot after landing - can cause foot, shin and knee pain
    • Supination - insufficient inward roll of the foot after landing - can cause ITBS, Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis
  • Quadriceps / quads - the four main front thigh leg muscles
  • RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation: the standard response to many running aches and pains, done to relive pain, reduce swelling and protect damaged areas
  • Runner's knee / patello-femoral syndrome (PFS) - inflamed underside of the kneecap; a common running injury caused by the kneecap rubbing on the front of the thigh bone
  • Stitch - sharp pain just below the rib cage (sometimes further up the torso), thought to be caused by a diaphragm cramp, intestinal gas, or food in the stomach
  • SFX (Stress fracture) - hairline crack in a bone