26 Running Terms You Should Know



There is a jargon – a technical language applicable to every subject and/or occupation under the sun. The world of academia, sports, medicine, theater and the arts along with various other practices and their many subsets each speak a language of its own. Most of us are quick to point this out when we find ourselves at a loss to understand the various technical terms that are often leveled at us when we come across a subject foreign to us. I, for one, am always quick to ask for layman’s’ terms or explanations in a language I understand. I suspect that’s why we have so many books written “for dummies.” We can all relate at some level.

Running is no different. Runners and people in the field relate just like any other and often find themselves speaking a language known only to them. If you’re a new runner, the following are a few terms you should get comfortable with, for those of us who have been in the game a while, this is a good time to pick our brains and see how we fare. Don’t be surprised if you’re a bit out of the loop, I had to look up a few.

  • Aerobic Running: running at an intensity that’s sufficiently easy for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and slow enough that lactic acid doesn’t appreciably build up in your muscles.
  • Anaerobic Running: running at an intensity that makes it impossible for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and fast enough that lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles, thus producing a tired, heavy feeling (unsustainable pace.)
  • Aerobic Capacity or VO2Max: The maximum rate of oxygen utilization by a person that is transported and used in the body’s tissues.
  • BQ: Boston Qualify/Qualifier
  • Cross training: Engaging in other physical exercise such as swimming, biking, weight training etc.
  • vVO2max: The velocity or pace at which a person reaches VO2max.
  • Lactate Acid: A substance which forms in the muscles as a result
    of the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Associated with
    muscle fatigue and sore muscles.
  • Lactate Threshold/ Anaerobic Threshold/ Threshold Pace: The transition phase between aerobic and anaerobic running and the point at which your muscles start fatiguing at a rapid rate (5-20 mins slightly slower than 10-K pace)
  • Resting Heart Rate: Your heart rate before you get up in the morning.
  • Ultra: Any race event longer than a marathon or 26.2 miles.
  • Tempo Run: Sustained effort training runs, usually 20 to 30 minutes in length, at 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace.
  • Taper: A period of reduced running or cutting back mileage (depending on the distance event) leading up to a race.
  • Intervals: Training in which short, fast “repeats” or “repetitions”
    often 200 to 800 meters, are alternated with slow “intervals” of jogging for recovery.
  • Fartlek: Variable Pace Running; a mixture of slow running, running at a moderate pace and short, fast bursts.
  • Splits:  Your times at mile markers (eg. 5-k, 10-k etc.) or other pre-planned checkpoints along the way to the finish line.
  • Pyramids:  A combination of a ladder and a cutdown (opposite of a ladder), such as 200-400-600-800-600-400-200 meters.
  • Ladder: An interval workout of increasing interval lengths, such as 200-400-600-800 meters.
  • PR/PB: Personal Record or Personal Best.
  • Pace: The rate or speed at which you run.
  • Recovery Run: An easy run meant to help with recovery to muscle soreness after a marathon or a distance race.
  • RICE: A method of treatment for common running related injuries such as sprains – Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate in that order.
  • USATF: USA Track and Field
  • WMM/ The Abbott World Marathon Majors:   Six of the largest and most renowned road races in the world – the Tokyo, Boston, Virgin Money London, BMW Berlin, Bank of America Chicago and TCS New York City Marathons – make up AbbottWMM.
  • Bonk/Wall: A feeling during
    a race when your muscle glycogen stores become depleted and a feeling of fatigue engulfs you.
  • Negative Split: The ability to run the latter half of a run or marathon at a faster pace than the first half.
  • Running Economy: How much oxygen you use when you run.

Sources: runnersworld.com, hillrunner.com, marathontrainingacademy.com

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