Runfies, fartleks, and bandits: Get up to speed on your running lingo

March 09, 2015                 5m read time
Kathy Murdock

Abbreviations, words that sound like bodily explosions, words that mean bodily explosions, and a whole lot of jargon can make it seem as though runners are speaking a foreign language. And, in some ways, they are. To help you navigate the vernacular associated with this popular sport, we’ve created this handy dictionary of common—if not strange and sometimes disgusting—running vocabulary you should know. 

1. 10K

A 6.2-mile race.

2. 13.1

Number of miles in a half marathon. Runners sometimes celebrate this accomplishment by putting a 13.1 sticker on their car window.

3. 15K

A 9.3-mile race, which is not as common.

4. 26.2

Miles run in a full marathon, also often spotted on car window stickers.

5. 5K 

A 3.1-mile race, aka the race that first gets you hooked.

6. Athena 

Division in racing sometimes set aside for women who weigh more than a specified weight (normally 145-160 pounds and above). Not all races have this division, but if the race does and a woman chooses this category, her race results will only be compared to other Athena runners for prize purposes. 

7. Bandit

Someone who doesn’t pay race entry fees but runs the race anyway. Yes, race fees can be expensive, but that’s how you get great perks, like beer and bananas at the finish line. So pay them. 

8. Biomechanics

This scientific term simply relates to how your body moves and how your foot strikes the ground when you run. Different schools of thought prevail about the best biomechanical practices when running (i.e.: foot strike position). Oftentimes the “best” way is whatever keeps a runner injury free and is determined by each runner’s particular physiology.

9. Brick

A run that is combined with either a swim or a bike ride, often done when a runner is preparing for a triathlon.  

People in wetsuits running into the water ZOZI

People in wetsuits running into the water



10. Chafing

A painful topic, chafing occurs when something—sports bra, shirt, or, yikes, underwear—rubs against your skin during a race, leaving behind a wicked raw and incredibly sore area. This irritation may be exacerbated by wetness, long distances, or clothing that is too tight. It’s painful. It hurts. Use BodyGlide or Vaseline to stave off the rawness.   

11. Clydesdale

Like an Athena division for males, this category is reserved in racing for men who are above a certain weight limit (usually over 200 to 220 pounds). Men who sign up as Clydesdales will be ranked for race result purposes against other Clydesdale runners.  

12. Compression clothing

Relatively new to the world of endurance running, compression clothing, such as socks or sleeves, is thought to aid in running recovery by increasing blood flow to the muscles used during a race while decreasing lactic acid buildup. This clothing can be worn during or after a run. 

13. Easy run

Generally the run during the week when you move your muscles for exercise without tacking on extra mileage or pushing hard for pace.   

14. Elite runner

The best of the best, elite runners may win marathons, break records, and make running look as easy as taking a nap. Qualifying times differ from race to race. In some races, such as the Boston Marathon, elite runners begin first. In others, they do not have an earlier start time, but they typically move to the front of the pack and start there.

15. Fartlek

Sounds like an explosive bodily function but is actually speed work that involves sprinting or running fast for a period and then recovering with a slower jog. Usually running a fartlek involves choosing a spot in the distance and running fast to that point (e.g.: a speed pole) and then picking a second spot to use as your recovery point. 

16. Galloway Plan

Designed by Olympic distance runner Jeff Galloway, this popular plan combines running with scheduled walk breaks at certain intervals. Most popular intervals are two-minute run, one-minute walk; three-minute run, one-minute walk; and four-minute run, one-minute walk. They are written like this: 2:1, 3:1, 4:1. 

17. GPS

Same idea as the one in your car, the Global Positioning System, or GPS, tells you where you are when you run. Several running watches feature a GPS system. This way if you get lost while running and daydreaming about that perfect race, you can find your way back home again.

18. Grand masters division

Division in racing reserved for those over a specific age; often over the age of 50. 

19. Graston technique

This hurts-so-good massage technique involves the use of instruments that help break up scar tissue and improve blood flow to the affected area. The clinician finds the trouble spot and works on that region to free the restrictions caused by a buildup of scar tissue. This technique can cause bruising, and it will likely bring tears to your eyes. But, in the end, these will turn to tears of joy when you can move freely again.

20. Interval

Interval training means running for specific amounts of time and then recovering for specific amounts of time. You might do 400 meters, half-miles, or a different interval. 

21. Lactate threshold

A variety of definitions abound, but basically lactate threshold is the point in exercise when a steady effort is being maintained and lactate levels are not increasing. New evidence shows lactate, which was formerly thought to slow you down and cause muscle soreness after vigorous exercise, may not be to blame at all. 

22. LDR

An abbreviation for Long Distance Run, this refers to your longest run of the week.

Woman running on dirt cliff near the ocean ZOZI

Woman running on dirt cliff near the ocean



23. LSD

Not the hallucinogenic drug, LSD stands for Long, Slow Distance. This training run requires you go long in mileage but slower in pace.

24. Masters division

Division in racing reserved for those over a certain age; often over the age of 40. 

25. Minimal running

Leave the highly padded shoes at home; minimal or minimalistic running requires shoes without the added cushion. Minimal running is a level between barefoot running and padded shoes.

26. Motion control shoes

Shoes designed for runners who overpronate excessively. 

27. Negative splits

When tracking pace, negative splits (joyfully) occur when each mile is faster than the last. Negative splits may look something like this: mile one: 9:54; mile two: 9:45; mile three: 9:36. 

28. Neutral shoe

Used for runners with a neutral gait, or those with supination (underpronation), neutral shoes show wear patterns on the ball of the feet or the outside edge of the shoe and a portion of the heel. 

29. Overpronation

Foot strike formed when a runner hits the pavement and the foot rolls along the inside edge of the shoe. Too much overpronation can lead to an injury if the proper shoe, one specifically for overpronation, is not worn. 

30. Pacer

A person at a race who leads a group of people to the finish line with a specific time goal in mind. Pacers for a half marathon may be available for runners wishing to finish in 1:45 hours, 2 hours, or even more. Pacers for a full marathon might help people finish in 3 hours, 4 hours, or even 5 hours. Pacers typically have to be able to complete the race fifteen minutes faster than the group they are pacing. Some pacers use the Galloway run-walk strategy. Pacers carry signs with the expected finish time listed. 

31. PR

If you know a runner, you’ve likely heard this term, which stands for personal record. This is the best pace you have run for a specific distance. Once you PR, everyone will know about it because you won’t shut up. 

32. Race pace

The pace you want to hit during your race. 

Crowd of marathon runners running on a bridge. Pacer holding 4:15 sign. ZOZI

Crowd of marathon runners running on a bridge. Pacer holding 4:15 sign.



33. RICE

Not the food you use to carbo load, this RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It is also the term you don’t want the doctor to mention, as it means you’ve been injured and need to spend some time off your feet. 

34. Runfie

Selfie + run = runfie, or a picture you take of yourself after you run. 

35. Runner’s high

The high you feel when you get out and run brought on by those lovely things called endorphins. 

36. Runner’s trots

We aren’t talking pace here, but rather the (disgusting) phenomenon that happens when your GI tract rebels against your running effort. This leads to diarrhea, aka runner’s trots. Runner’s trots might be caused by diet, stress, coffee before the morning run, or it might just be how your body deals with the blood movement from inside your GI track to your working muscles and back again.

37. Seeded

Runners get seeded for a race, or placed in a certain starting area or corral, according to a time submitted from a previous race. This seeded time gives you and race organizers an idea of how fast you will run. Not all races offer seeded start areas. 

38. Snot rocket

If your running friend declares the need to blow a snot rocket, don’t run downwind. This technique is used by many runners while on the run and consists of holding one nostril while blowing snot from the other. Yes, it’s gross, but it’s better than smearing mucus on your running shirt.

39. Speed work

A training day when you work at increasing your running pace. You might do this through a tempo run, fartlek, or intervals. To avoid injury, do no more than one speed workout per week.

40. Splits

When tracking your run, splits show what pace you kept at certain intervals. You might measure miles or you might break it into quarter- or half-mile intervals.  

41. Stability shoe

Stability shoes are designed for neutral runners or those who have a small to moderate amount of overpronation.

42. Taper

The name sounds like a wild animal and it may make you feel like one too. The dreaded taper is the time when runners cut back considerably in mileage in preparation for the next race. This time is meant to allow for muscle recovery, though the mental stress of not running is sometimes too much for runners to bear! 

43. Tempo run

A comfortable hard run during which you work at your lactate threshold. 

44. The (dreaded) wall

You’ll know it when you hit it. The wall is when your body and your mind refuse to go further. This often happens when runners go out too fast, don’t stay fueled, or don’t keep hydrated. It can also happen if you run harder or longer than normal.

45. Ultramarathon

Anything over 26.2 miles. 

Kathy Murdock

Kathy works as a freelance writer and marketer from her home in sunny Florida. An avid runner, she has completed nine half marathons and two full marathons, along with a variety of other racing distances. She loves her family, long runs, hot coffee, and peanut butter.

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