Running Terminology Deciphered

You’ve decided you want to lose weight, get in shape, and perhaps compete in a race. You buy all of the latest clothes, accessories, and gadgets. After weeks of just “getting used” to running on your feet for a mile or two at a time, you decide to sign yourself up for a 5k, half-marathon, or marathon. Wanting to learn a few training tips, you hit up the online forums. You may even try your luck with friends on Facebook or Twitter. To your surprise, you find that many running professionals hang out online and share their techniques absolutely free. But there’s one problem – they’re speaking in a foreign language!

If the above scenario seems oddly familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many runners pick up their first training plan without having a clear understanding of some basic running terminology. Allow me explain some of the most popular running terms that you’re sure to encounter in the running community. You’ll be speaking “runner” before you know it!

Pace: the speed you are currently running which is typically referenced in minutes per mile. An 8:05 average pace means that a runner’s average pace is about 8 minutes and 5 seconds per mile. Most GPS watches will display your pace while you are running.

Stride Rate: stride rate is determined by the number of steps that you take for every minute of running. This measurement is often used to determine the efficiency of a runner’s gait. Many runners have improved their speed by increasing their stride rate, taking shorter, quicker steps. 
 
The Wall: stick with running long enough and you’ll be sure to “hit the wall”. The wall is a point you reach during a run where you feel that you cannot go any farther. This commonly occurs during marathons sometime after mile 20, but it can occur in any race length if you haven’t properly supplied your body with fuel – namely carbohydrates.   
Splits: smaller chunks of a larger run. Suppose you run for five miles. You could break that up into (5) five-mile splits. Why? So you can compare how you performed at different points throughout your run. Most long-distance races are broken up into several splits. 
 
Negative Splits: There’s nothing “negative” about negative splits. This occurs when you run the second half of a race faster than the first. Let’s say you run a marathon in 3 hours15 minutes. First off, congratulations on an awesome time. Second, let’s look at your splits. If you ran the first 13.1 miles in 1 hour 45 minutes, and the last 13.1 miles in 1 hour 30 minutes, then you ran a negative split. Again, congratulations!

Plyometrics: Also know as “jump training” or simply, “plyos”, this term is used to denote bounding exercises. Runners use plyometrics to exert maximum force on their muscles in as short a time as possible, aiming to increase both speed and power.

Taper: Around the last month of training, you should see this term pop up. A few weeks before your race, you will need to gradually reduce, or taper, the mileage and intensity of your workouts. This allows the body time to heal and repair itself before race day.

Carbo Loading: A technique that has been used for over 50 years to load the body with carbohydrates during the weeks leading up to a race. Scientists (and runners) have found that there is a correlation between gycogen (carbs stored in the muscles and liver) and performance in endurance athletes.

R.I.C.E. Get a running injury and this will likely be your prescribed treatment. This mnemonic running acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These 4 steps work to repair soft tissue damage, getting you back out on the road/trail quickly.

Chafing: If you’re wearing a shirt during your runs you may encounter this pesky runner’s problem. Chafing is bloodied, blistered skin caused by friction from clothing-on-skin or skin-on-skin rubbing. Lucky for us we have products like Body Glide to help prevent these skin problems.

Fartlek: this training technique derived from Sweden and translates directly to English as speed play. The idea is to change your speed throughout your run. For example – run fast for 500 meters, reduce to a jog for 100 meters, then speed up again. Varying your pace will eliminate boredom and enhance the psychological aspects of your training. Not to mention, it prepares you for speed adjustments you’ll need to make during a race.

Out-and-Back: are you sick of running around in a loop all day to achieve your desired mileage? Out-and-backs are courses that have you run to a turn around location, then run back to where you started. Most runners find it more enjoyable to run out-and-backs as they only see the same scenery twice!

Hill Repeats: usually included in all training plans are hill repeats. These hill exercises are a great way to build strength, improve speed, and improve your mental drive. Find a 100 – 200 meter section of a hill. Run up it (keeping your natural running form) at your 5k pace, then slowly jog back down. 

Intervals: in an effort to build muscle, improve anaerobic threshold, and increase speed, runners turn to interval training. These exercises include short periods of hard running followed by rest. The main aim is to improve speed and cardiovascular fitness.

Recovery Run: after a full week of hill repeats, intervals, speedwork, and tempo runs, you should give your body a rest. Recovery runs are meant for you to take it slow and allow your body to recover while maintaining aerobic conditioning. Recovery runs usually occur the day after a long run, and are much shorter in distance.

Long Run: either you love it or hate it. Often at the end of the week of training plans comes the long run. This is the longest run of the week, which usually exceeds the previous weeks long run. Each week you’ll add mileage to your long runs until you reach the taper portion of your training. Be sure to plan your schedule accordingly. If your long runs fall on a Sunday but you’re busy Sundays, adjust your training schedule so that your long runs occur on a day that you’re free.

5k: 3.1 miles or 5,000 meters

10k: 6.2 miles or 10,000 meters

Half-Marathon: 13.1 miles

Marathon: 26.2 miles

PR: you may hear runners talking a lot about their PRs. i.e. “I Pr’d during my 5k last week!” PR simply stands for Personal Record and is something most runners aim to improve upon. It’s also something we love to brag about.

WR: this is what we would all love to achieve. A World Record for a race is something most of us will never see, but that’s no reason to not try for it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of “running jargon”. Now that you’ve grasped an understanding of some common running terminology, you should feel comfortable jumping into the next running conversation that presents itself. And if you’re planning on using a training schedule, these terms will surely come up.

Did I miss the running term you were looking for? Leave it in a comment below and I’ll respond with an answer. And if I missed one of your favorites, leave it in a comment to add it to the list!

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