A blog by runners. For runners.

WalkJogRun running dictionary: common running terms defined

One of my best friends just started running, and after I sent her a 5k training plan, she emailed me back with “umm, I have no idea what any of this means!”

Of course she didn’t understand what “tempo”, “pace”, and “taper” meant. We runners have a gibberish all our own, so it’s no wonder others are confused. Heck, we have enough jargon to write our own dictionary.

Below is the lowdown on common running lingo. You can scroll through the terms or search by topic:

Training | Race Day | GearRecovery/ Injury | Science


  • Pace: If you run a 9-minute pace, that means it takes you 9 minutes to run one mile.
  • Warm-up: A period of light activity, such as jogging or walking, before a workout.
  • Cool down: A period of light activity, such as jogging or walking, after a workout.
  • Speedwork: Workouts that aim at improving your speed. Speedwork includes interval, tempo, fartleks, and other repeats.
  • Intervals: A type of speedwork that alternates spurts of high intensity for a certain distance or time with periods of low intensity throughout a run. For example, mile repeats are a form of interval training. You’d run a mile, recover with an easy jog, run another mile, recover with a jog, etc.
  • Tempo: Workouts that teach you how to hold a specific, speedy pace. Tempo miles are sandwiched between a thorough warm-up and cool down.
  • Fartleks: Literally means “speed play” in Sweedish. Fartleks are a more informal way to do speedwork. It’s interval training, but the runner decides how long to sprint for and recover instead of the clock or distance.
  • Yasso 800s: A weekly marathon training workout created by Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World. Your Yasso 800 time — the time it takes you to run 800m on a track — should correspond to your marathon goal time. If you want to run a 3 hours and 30 minute marathon, you should aim to do Yasso 800s at a 3 minute and 30 seconds pace. At the beginning of marathon training, start with four Yasso 800s in your workout, and add one every week until you’re up to ten.
  • Hill repeats: A workout that incorporates running up hills to prep for a race with hills
  • Long run: A run that is longer than any other run of the week, done at a slower, steady pace to improve endurance.
  • Junk miles: An easy run with no specific purpose, unlike speedwork or long runs.
  • Taper: Two to three weeks before a goal race, runners will “taper” – they’ll decrease their mileage and intensity – to get their legs fresh for the big day.
  • Cross-training: Physical activity other than running. Such as biking, swimming, or strength training.

Race day

  • Bib: A piece of paper you pin onto your shirt for a race that displays your number.
  • Chip: Many races use an electronic chip in your bib or that you tie to your shoe. In large races, it can take several minutes for every runner to cross the start line. Your chip time is your true race time — from the time you crossed the start to the finish.
  • Corral: Big races divide runners into groups based on anticipated finish time. These groups are called “corrals”. Fast runners are in corrals near the front, and slower runners start towards the back.
  • Pacer: Large races have pace team leaders or pacers. These runners run with a group of runners during a race and hold an even pace, so that the runners can meet their time goal.
  • Split: The time for a specific segment of a race. If you’re running 10k, you’ll have a 5k split stating the time you ran the first 5k in.
  • Negative split: Running the second half of the race at a faster pace than the first half.
  • Fuel: Food and drinks that runners need to literally fuel their runs. Popular fuel choices include energy gels and chews and sports beverages.
  • Bonking: Sudden, intense fatigue or loss of energy that happens when runners deplete their glycogen stores (this is why fueling is so important). Also known as hitting the wall.
  • PR: Personal Record, meaning you ran your fastest race of that distance to date.
  • DNS/ DNF: “Did Not Start” or “Did Not Finish” a race.
  • BQ: BQ means you qualified for the Boston Marathon, an event that has strict qualifying standards.


  • Singlet: A sleeveless shirt usually worn during a race.
  • Minimalist shoes: A happy medium between regular running shoes and barefoot running shoes, minimalist shoes are lighter and less supportive than sneakers.
  • Flats: Similar to minimalist shoes, flats are light and offer little cushioning. They’re usually only worn during races or track workouts.
  • Compression socks: Very tight, long socks that go up to your knees. They’re typically worn post-run to help speed muscle recovery. But some runners wear them during runs as well, believing they bring oxygen to the muscles more quickly.
  • Belt: A fuel belt can hold everything from water bottles, gels, a phone, keys, cash, to other “necessities”. Fuel belts come in all sizes, though, and some are only a thin band with a small pocket.
  • Garmin: A popular brand of GPS watches that many runners use to track their distance, pace, and heart rate.

Recovery/ Injury

  • Chafing: This discomfort occurs when sweat and clothing rub together over and over, with each step you take. It results in a raw, painful sore. Chafing can be prevented using BodyGlide.
  • Black toenails: A black toenail looks unsightly but it isn’t anything to worry about — it’s simply blood pooled under the nail. It’s the result of the pressure of your shoes.
  • DOMS: Delayed-onset muscle soreness is exactly what it sounds like. It occurs 24- 48 hours after a hard workout or race.
  • Foam roller: A foam tube that is used to massage sore muscles and work out knots.
  • Ice bath: Literally a bath tub filled with ice and ice water. Sitting in an ice bath post-race or long run can aid in the recovery.

Science stuff

  • Form: Your personal running technique. Good form can maximize your running efficiency and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Foot strike: How your foot hits the ground when you run. Most running experts say you should land somewhere between your heel and mid-foot.
  • Pronation: If your foot rolls inward as you strike the ground, you overpronate. If it rolls outward, you underpronate.
  • Lactate threshold: The exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts building up in the blood stream. Knowing your lactate threshold can help you determine what paces to train at to improve your performance.
  • Vo2 max: The maximum rate at which your body can consume oxygen when you’re performing a sport. The higher your VO2 max, the more oxygen you can use, and the faster or longer you can run. VO2 max, also known as aerobic capacity, is one of the most accurate indicators of aerobic fitness.

What’s your favorite running term? Did we miss any? I’ll admit, when I first heard someone say “DOMS” I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about for the longest time!

Written by Jen Matz