Running Glossary


Aerobic – Literally “oxygen.” Usually referring to exercise at an intensity where your cardiovascular and respiratory systems can still deliver all the oxygen your body needs, preventing lactic acid from building up in the muscles. Aerobic exercise can be done for long periods of time.

Anaerobic – “Without oxygen.” Usually referring to exercise at an intensity high enough that your body can’t provide all the oxygen your muscles need and lactic acid quickly builds up, making your legs feel heavy and tired (and sometimes like they’re burning). It is an intensity of exercise that can’t be sustained for very long.

Athletics – Another name for track and field, and the term most commonly used for the sport abroad. It comes from the Greek word “athos,” meaning contest.


Bandit – A runner who participates in a race without registering or paying the entry fee.

Bonk – In a long run or race, such as a marathon, to bonk is to feel the effort suddenly become much more difficult toward the end of the run. Bonking is associated with the depletion of stored muscle glycogen.

Bursitis – Inflammation of the bursa, a sack that protects the joints in the body impacted by frequent motion/friction (like the knee, shoulder, hip, ankle, etc). Some of the more clever names for bursitis are weaver’s bottom, clergyman’s knee, and miner’s elbow.


Carbo-loading – The practice of altering your diet before a big race. It usually involves a period of starving your body of carbohydrates (one to five days), before upping the carb intake to at least 70-percent of total calories. It is believed by some to maximize your glycogen stores before longer distance races. Highly practiced in the 70s and 80s, carbo-loading is now seldom followed to the extent first laid out; most runners choose to just eating a good carbohydrate filled meal the night before a race.

Chafing – When clothing and a body part or two of body parts rub together, causing redness and irritation. Often happens to men’s nipples (from race singlet), armpits (from arms rubbing side), or under a woman’s sports bra. Vaseline or new clothing usually help.

Chip time – Your finish time as measured by a computer chip provided by the race and usually worn on the shoe.

Cool-down – Slow, easy running done after a hard workout or a hard race to help the body recover. Usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes.

CR – Course Record. The fastest time run on a given cross country or road-race course.

Cross-training – Activities like swimming, aqua-jogging, cycling, using the elliptical, etc. that are used to either supplement running with low/no impact aerobic training or to take the place of running when injured.

Cruise intervals – A workout used to improve lactate threshold, but shorter and slightly faster than tempo workouts. Cruise intervals usually last three to eight minutes at an intensity of + or – 5 to 10 seconds per mile slower than 10k pace, depending on what you are training for. Rest is usually between one and three minutes (example: 3×5 minutes with the first one at 10k+ pace, the second one at 10k pace, and finishing at faster than 10k with two minute rest between).


Daniels training – A training method first practiced by coach Jack Daniels and based upon his belief that running performance is determined by six specific components and that each component needs a specific kind of training to improve.

Die – To have a painful experience in a race or hard workout in which your body shuts down and your pace slows.

DNF – Did Not Finish. Referring to a runner who starts a race but drops out before the finish.

DNS – Did Not Start. Referring to a runner who was entered in a race but does not start.

DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. Pain, stiffness, or fatigue in the muscles 24 to 48 hours after a hard workout/race. It is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers created by doing more or different training than the body is used to.

Draft – To tuck in behind another runner, letting that runner control the pace and block the wind.


Effort – Referring to the pace of a workout, where how hard you are working is more important than the actual split time. Effort-based workouts are often done off the track where factors like hills, surface, and environment often come into play, making it harder to hit a specific time but still working the same system.

Electrolytes – Vital salts and minerals in the body that can be depleted through sweat and dehydration. Electrolytes are needed in almost every function of the body, including muscle contraction and energy generation. A lack of the minerals (sodium, zinc, potassium, vitamin Bs, etc.) can be devastating to an athlete. Energy drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, etc., were created to help an athlete replenish these minerals and are probably the best way to maintain a balance during hard exercise.


Fartlek – Literally means “speed play.” A workout with bursts of varying lengths, intensity, and allotted recovery time injected into a run.

Fast-twitch muscles – A type of muscle fiber that moves explosively, but is also very quick to fatigue. Successful sprinters have a large proportion of fast-twitch muscles; distance runners utilize this type of muscle the most during the latter stages of a race or a high-speed workout. There is some debate about whether the proportion of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscles is an unchangeable part of our inborn body composition or if it can be changed through specific training.

Foot strike – In the running stride, the moment of contact between the runner’s foot and the ground.


Galloway training – A training program devised by 1972 Olympic marathoner Jeff Galloway. He created it in hopes of finding a way to bring marathon training to the everyday person without injury or over-fatigue. His theory is that if a beginning runner injects walk breaks into long runs and marathon training, then their overall time will improve since they will slow down less at the end of the race or long run. His run-walk-run method was made hugely popular by his articles in Runners’ World Magazine. Although he has brought many new people to the sport, there is criticism that Galloway’s method is not “real running,” but those who follow his low-mileage, three-day-a-week running plan swear by its success.

Glycogen – The form in which carbohydrates are stored in the body, mainly in the liver and muscles. When glycogen becomes depleted in the body (after long aerobic efforts), the athlete quickly fatigues and “hits the wall” or “bonks.”


Hammer – To run much harder and faster than expected, especially during a planned easy run.

Heart rate – The number of times your heart beats per minute. Many people wear heart-rate monitors, but it is easy to measure manually as well: Find a pulse and count the beats for 10 seconds, then multiply by six.

Heel counter – In shoe construction, the rigid cup inserted into the heel of the shoe, used to provide support for the heel. A high heel counter also signifies a large difference in height between the heel and forefoot of a running shoe.

Hill repeats – An interval workout done on hills instead of flat ground. The added resistance of the incline helps protect the body from the pounding usually associated with speed work, while still employing the same strengths and systems. The benefits of hill workouts include increased cardiovascular strength, greater efficiency dealing with lactic acid, muscular strength, and leg turnover.


Interval – The designated period of rest between repeats. People often get confused and refer to the running pieces as “intervals” when the term actually denotes the rest between the periods of intensity.

Interval training – A type of workout where a set distance (repeat) is run a certain amount of times with a set recovery (interval) between each piece. For example: 4x400m with 60 seconds jog in-between.


Junior – An athlete that is under 20 years of age on December 31st of a given year.

Junk miles – Runs completed or mileage added by a runner just to hit a certain amount of daily or weekly mileage with no other specific purpose.


K – Shorthand for kilometer (.621 miles). Example: A 5k is a 5-kilometer race (about 3.1 miles).

Kick – The finishing sprint at the end of the race.

Kilometer – The standard international unit of measurement for running. One kilometer is equal to .621 miles.


Lactate threshold – The specific level of running intensity where lactic acid begins to rapidly accumulate in the blood during the body’s transition between anaerobic and aerobic running. Lactate threshold speed is your 10K-race pace plus 5 to 20 seconds or a heart rate zone between 85 and 89 percent of maximum. A treadmill lab test is used to determine one’s lactate threshold, but the goal of good training is to increase the lactate threshold so that less lactic acid is produced while the body learns to use oxygen more efficiently. Also known as anaerobic threshold.

Lactic acid – The byproduct of the body’s use of carbohydrates. Lactic acid is usually felt as a burning fatigue in the muscles towards the end or after workouts/races.

Last – In shoe construction, a last is used to represent the shape of the foot while the shoe is being made. It is responsible for the shape of the sole, primarily its straightness or curvature. Last can also refer to the shape of the sole itself.

Log – A training journal or database where athletes keep track of their mileage, workouts, results and overall health.

Lollipop loop – A running route that includes both an out-and-back and a loop, so the final course takes the shape of a lollipop.

LSD – Long Slow Distance. Refers to mileage done at an easy pace to increase base endurance.

Lydiard training – A style of training developed by New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard in the 1960s that changed the way people thought about training from the 800 to the marathon. Lydiard believed in heavy periodization in the training of an athlete and the premise that all runners should train as though preparing for a marathon. Though quite complicated and involving about four distinct periods of training, the term “Lydiard style” has become shorthand for any training that involves a lot of miles, longer, aerobic workouts, and hills.


Master – A runner 35 years of age or older.

Max heart rate – The highest heart rate achieved during a specific period of exertion. Everyone has a different max heart rate, but it usually lies somewhere around 200 beats per minute (±10 bpm).

Metric mile – A 1500m long track race, and the distance most frequently used in outdoor track competition that comes closest in distance to the full mile (1609m).

Mondo – A type of track surface that has been used in every Olympic Games since Montreal in 1976. It is considered one of–or the–fastest surface available because it is laid/rolled out in a single direction instead of being poured on like other surfaces. This creates a highly efficient, cross-angle friction that complements the forward motion of the runner. (Example: “I love that track. The mondo is so great to run on, I feel so fast.”)


Negative split – Running the second half of the race or run faster than the first half.

NR – National Record.


OD – Over Distance. Training over longer distances than the race distance itself.

Over-pronation – The excessive inward roll of the foot after the heel hits the ground and before toe-off. It can be the cause of many running injuries, as it unevenly distributes the pressure from impact but can be corrected with the right kind of shoe (usually with much more mid-foot and arch support, indicated with the darker material in the inside middle cushion of the shoes). See pronation.


Pace – The measure of the speed of running. In the U.S., it is usually measured in the minutes it takes to cover a mile (example: 7:30 min/mile). Internationally, it is usually measured in minutes per kilometer (example: 4 min/kilometer).

Peak – The time you want to be able to perform your best – usually in regards to timing your fitness to coincide with the most important race of your season.

PED – Performance-Enhancing Drug. An illegal drug that unnaturally helps an athlete perform at a higher level (example: Steroids, EPO, human growth hormone).

Plyos/Plyometrics – Exercises used to help improve speed, form, and the function of the nervous system, and modified to help with a specific sport. In most exercises, the muscle is loaded then contracted quickly to build strength. Most sports use plyos to build explosive strength, but often, distance runners modify them to help prevent injury or fatigue. Also called drills. (Examples: High knees, medicine ball motions, butt kicks, skipping, burpees, etc.)

Post-collegiate – A term used to describe a runner who is still involved very seriously in competitive running and performs at a high level after college. Some post-collegiate runners have shoe sponsors, some may be part of a club team, some may train on their own, but all maintain high training levels and high standards of competition.

PR/PB – Personal Record/Personal Best. Said in reference to setting your personal-best time for a given distance. Example: I just ran a five-second PB in the mile, dropping from 5:00 to 4:55!

Prep – Term used to refer to a high school athlete or high school athletics. For example, the prep sport section of a newspaper covers only high school sports.

Pronation – The instinctive action that occurs when your foot hits the ground. The heel hits and the foot rolls inward as the arch collapses. It is important to find out how much you pronate (over-pronation, supination, or neutral) to find the right kind of shoe.


Quarters – Lingo for 400 meters (1/4 mile). Often used when describing a workout (example: I have to do 10 quarters today on the track. [10x400m]).


Rabbit – Referring to the designated pacemaker in a track or road race. The athlete, or rabbit, is set up to run a specific time through a certain point in the race in an effort to set up a fast pace. Rabbits usually drop out 1/2 or 3/4 of the way through the race. For example, in a mile race, the rabbit would start with all the other athletes, but take the lead right away. If they were supposed to run a 4:00-minute pace, they might take the field through the 800 in 2:00 minutes and drop out soon after. Rabbits are often paid for pacing and not allowed in championship situations (the Olympics/NCAA/National Championships/etc).

Repeat – The set distance covered during an interval session, usually with a specific pace/time in mind and with a set interval of recovery.

Resting heart rate – The number of times your heart beats per minute when you are still and relaxed. The lower your resting heart rate, the better your level of fitness. However, keep in mind that everyone has a different standard heart rate, so there is no “norm.”

RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate. The “prescription” for treating most injuries.

Rigg – Usually in reference to the last quarter or kick of a race, where the athlete ties up and appears to be in a kind of state of rigor mortis (aka, barely alive to finish the race). Example: “Did you see that guy? He totally rigged the last 100 of that race!”

Runner’s high – The feeling of euphoria or exaltation during or after a long, hard effort, related to the secretion of chemical endorphins. It is hard to describe, but you will know it when you feel it.

Running economy – The amount of oxygen used at any given running speed. The less oxygen you use at a certain speed, the more economical you are.


Season best – The best time/performance you have had in a given season. It is not your PR or best time ever, but the best one you have run during a certain training cycle.

Singlet – A thin, sleeveless jersey worn by runners during races. They usually have a logo or team affiliation on the front.

Sit-and-kick – A type of racing strategy in which a runner relies on their superior finishing speed and makes no attempt to gain the lead of the race until the very end.

Slow-twitch muscles – A type of muscle fiber that contracts slowly but can be used for a long time. Distance runners usually have more slow-twitch than fast-twitch muscles. There is some debate about whether the proportion of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscles is an unchangeable part of our inborn body composition or if it can be changed through specific training.

Split – The term for the amount of time it takes to run a portion of the total run or race. (Example: My total 5k time was 18:30, but my last mile split was 5:45.)

Steady state runs – A run done at a pace somewhere between “fast” and “slow;” not an interval workout, but not easy either. Steady state runs are usually between half-marathon and marathon pace and can be anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes long, depending on what you are training for.

Strides – Short, fast sprinting pieces lasting between 15 and 20 seconds with full recovery between. They are usually done after an easy run or before a race or workout. The purpose of strides is to help your legs turnover more quickly and get them ready for a hard effort.

Supination – The opposite of pronation. The outward rolling of the foot after heel impact, which puts most pressure on the outside of the foot. Supination is rare and occurs in less than one percent of the running population.

Surge – A tactic in which the runner speeds up drastically, but typically slows again soon after. Surges can be used to break away from the pack or to check who is running easily and who is laboring.


Taper – A period of semi-rest before a big competition, usually practiced the week or two before a big race. During a taper, mileage and workouts will be cut down a certain amount in order to rest your body for that one day.

Tempo intervals – A tempo run broken up into different repeats with rest between each piece. Each repeat is usually between 10k and 10k+10 to 20 seconds/mile pace and lasts between 10 and 15 minutes (per repeat). Example: 3×2 miles @ 10k effort with three minute rest between.

Tempo runs – A type of workout used to improve lactate threshold that is longer and slower than cruise intervals but faster than steady state runs. Tempo runs should be comfortably hard and last between 10 and 45 minutes at roughly 15 to 20 seconds per mile slower than your 10k-race pace.

Tendonitis – Inflammation of the tendon, causing irritation and friction along the sheath that encases the tendon, which leads to more inflammation and pain.

Tendonosis – Non-inflammatory, repetitive stress injury of the tendon fibers. Whereas tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendon, tendonosis is the damage of the tissue itself.

The wall/hitting the wall – A state of pure exhaustion where your body runs out of glycogen stores. Also called “bonking.” Hitting the wall often occurs after the 20-mile mark of a marathon.

Turnover – The amount of times your feet hit the ground, usually measured in steps per minute. The better a runner’s turnover, the more efficient his/her form should be. Most believe that your turnover should be at least 180 steps/minute (an easy way to tell is to count the amount of times one foot hits the ground per minute and double it).


Ultra-marathon – A race that exceeds the traditional 26.2 miles marathon distance.


VDOT – An overall, more holistic number (vs. VO2max) that measures an athlete’s ability to run fast. VDOT was created by Jack Daniels and is based on a runner’s most recent competition results. It includes factors like mental toughness, running economy and form that give a better overall view of an athlete’s potential.

VO2max – Maximum aerobic capacity or maximum amount of oxygen that can be utilized by a body; a high VO2max usually indicates greater performance potential, and although the number can be increased with training, it does have a limited genetic component. VO2max is usually found in a treadmill lab test.


Warm-up – Easy running done before a workout or race. Warm-ups are used to get your heart rate up and get the muscles ready for a hard effort. They usually last between 10 to 30 minutes.

Share the knowledge