I like running. You may have figured that out by now. I also like reading about running, talking to other runners, and writing about running… and in the course of my “WOW, RUNNING IS SO AWESOME!” journey, I’ve had some “aha” moments. I’m actually at a point where I can walk into a running conversation and I ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT. Most of the time.
This was not always the case, but the more I think back, the more I realized how much I’ve learned. To help out others at the beginning of their running journey, here are some brief, down-to-earth definitions of various running terms to the best of my recently obtained knowledge, along with some links to the experts.
I’ll update this list as I learn!
Running Terms Glossary – Alphabetical
5k: 3.1 miles and one of the most popular race distances! I love 5ks because they’re easy to find locally, and they’re great community events that often raise money for charity and get lots of local runners on the road together for a fun event. They’re fantastic for spectators, because they can see you at the start and finish without waiting around for hours, and they’re hands down the best race for beginners. With the Couch to 5k program, most people can be running a 5k in a few months! How awesome is that?
10k: 6.2 miles – a great goal for anyone who wants to run more than a 5k but isn’t ready for long distances!
Barefoot running: A trend towards running barefoot or with minimalist running shoes. (After all, there are things on the road we don’t want to step on, and cold feet are no fun!) Barefoot running received a lot of attention in the running world after the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall was published, which includes a lot of compelling evidence for running with less cushioned shoes if you’re hoping to avoid injury and become a stronger runner.
Bodyglide: The best anti-chafing strategy! It’s a little gel stick that you apply to areas that chafe when you run. I never needed it until I ran 7 miles in a running tank for the first time, and my arms literally rubbed raw against the sides of my shirt because they were used to being covered by my t-shirt! I now apply Bodyglide to those trouble spots in the under-arm area before I go on my long runs, and it completely fixed the problem. Most running stores carry it, and it’s also available online.
BQ: Boston Qualify – the Boston Marathon is over 100 years old and one of the most popular marathons in the country. In order to get a slot, runners have to “Boston Qualify” by running another marathon under a certain time based on their age and gender. Meeting that time just allows them to try to register – based on the number of applicants each year, you might have to run three minutes faster than your qualifying time to meet the cut-off. People train hard, run hard, and then cross their fingers to get into this race! Alternately, you can raise money for a charity and gain a charity slot… but we’re not talking a few hundred dollars! Most charity slots ask participants to raise thousands to run for their team. Pretty crazy race, huh!
Compression socks: Knee high, really tight socks designed to promote blood flow to muscles and reduce swelling, leading to quicker recoveries. You can also find compression shorts or capris. Expensive! Most people seem to reserve them for long runs.
Gu: A frosting-like substance that runners take for long-distance runs to replace carbohydrates (calories!) and electrolytes while they’re running. Recommended to be taken 15 minutes before a long run, and every 45 minutes during long runs. I usually don’t take them unless I’m running for over an hour, or I’m REALLY HUNGRY before a 45 minute run. Make sure you have water if you’re going to take a GU, to chase it down! There are a lot of different brands, like Rocket Fuel, etc. Some have caffeine, some don’t, so check the label to control your caffeine intake!
Hangry: When you’re so hungry it makes you cranky and angry. Not exactly a running term, except that this happens to me after most big races if I’m not careful. Ten minute wait turning into a thirty minute wait at a restaurant post half-marathon? I’ve got to reel in the hangry!
Interval run: A run where you warm up, then do periods of hard running followed by recovery periods of either stopping, walking, or slow jogging. There are a lot of different charts and recommendations out there to figure out what your difficult pace should be, how long each interval should be, etc. based on your experience and training goals. For a great article on the difference betweek Fartleks, intervals, and tempo runs, see this Runner’s World article.
Fartlek: A type of speed workout where you incorporate short bursts of speed into your running. I love this, because it’s not stop-watch dependent or pace specific, making it easier for me to do however I’m feeling it on a given run. For a great article on the difference betweek Fartleks, intervals, and tempo runs, see this Runner’s World article.
Foam Roller: A cylinder of hard foam that runners use to massage their legs after running to prevent injury and work out muscular kinks. Relatively cheap, and people swear by them. Runner’s world has a whole bunch of articles about foam rollers, including video tutorials on how to use them.
Fuel belt: A brand of belt with water bottles designed to be worn while running. I always carry water for runs over 60 minutes, 45 if it’s hot out. There are lots of different brands out there, I think mine is actually made by “Nathan”.
Half Marathon: 13.1 miles and a very popular racing distance. I’d love to call it “over twice a 10k” but I guess half marathon is easier to say. The half marathon is my current favorite racing distance, because it’s a real accomplishment to work towards, and less intense than running as fast as you can for 3.1 miles. You have to pace yourself, and settle into a speed that you can comfortably run for that far.
Hill Repeats: Avoiding running uphill? Yeah. It’s tempting. However, running uphill is a great way to strengthen your legs and improve your running. Many runners will do hill repeats where they run up a hill, walk down it to recover, and repeat. A strong runner I know usually does 8 sprints uphill for her hill repeat workouts, with a mile warm-up and a mile cool down. Choosing a hilly course once a week and not slowing down for the hills is another great workout.
Ice-baths: Many serious runners actually soak their legs in an ice-bath for 10-15 minutes after their long runs or races
because they’re crazy to speed up recovery.
Interval runs: A speed workout where you alternate between fast intervals and recovery intervals where you rest, walk, or jog at a slower pace. The length and number of intervals and how fast you run them varies considerably by training plan, but they’re designed to get you comfortable running at a faster pace. For a great article on the difference betweek Fartleks, intervals, and tempo runs, see this Runner’s World article.
Junk Miles: A snooty term for “recovery” miles, or miles that aren’t incredibly difficult because you’re not doing speed workouts, hills, or running for hours at a time. I’m ok with the concept of recovery miles, but I don’t really believe in calling any miles “junk” miles. Every time you break a sweat, you’re doing something fantastic for your cardiovascular health, and flooding your body with positive endorphins from exercise that’ll boost your mood and make it easier for you to be a better person. Running makes the world a better place, because it makes you a better you. How is that junk?! I wrote a whole blog post about it, because junk miles are some of my favorite kind of miles. They’re the reason I started running in the first place.
Long run: Usually done once a week, a run that is more mileage than other runs for the week. When I started training for my first 10k, my first long run was 5 miles, and my other runs that week were 3. This past week, my long run was 10 miles and my other runs were 3-5 miles each. I wrote a blog post with all the mistakes I’ve made on my long runs so you can avoid them, here!
LRS: Your “Local Running Store”! These are great places to go, because the employees are usually running enthusiasts who can recommend gear and running shoes based on your needs. You can shop online, but it’s a lot harder to get advice or have a conversation. I also like to support my Local Running Stores because they often have running clubs that meet once a week and are free to attend, so they’re a great community resource. Plus, I like that they provide fun jobs for people who really love running!
Marathon: 26.2 miles. A LONG WAY TO RUN.
Nuun: A brand of hydration tablet that dissolves in water to create an electrolyte enhanced drink.
Offset: The mm difference between the height of cushioning between the heel and the toe of the shoe. Generally, the higher the offset, the more “supportive” or cushiony, the shoe is. My new Nike 3.0 shoes have a 3 mm offset, and are considered a minimalist shoe that’s part of Nike’s response to the new trend towards barefoot running. Most running shoes seem to have about a 5 mm offset.
Quality workouts: A controversial term for me, because I feel like every time I get out there and run, it’s quality… and some of the runs where I take it the easiest and soak in the scenery are the highest “quality” in terms of enjoyment! However, when a runner talks about quality runs, they usually mean a workout that is challenging either because of intensity (interval run, tempo run) or duration (long run). A lot of training plans I saw for half marathons recommended three quality workouts a week, a long run, and then some combination of a hill repeat, tempo run, or interval run. If they were five day running programs, the other two runs were “easy” runs at a relaxed pace to help the body recover enough to have time to complete the quality workouts to the best of the runner’s ability and get the maximum benefit.
Recovery runs: Runs done at an easy pace the day after or the day before a quality workout, in order to add volume to your weekly running but without getting your muscles so tired that you’re not able to complete your quality workout.
Rungry: Slang for being hungry post-running.
Taper: The period before a race when a runner significantly decreases their mileage in order to rest their legs and avoid injury prior to a race. Most advice I’ve read says that your last long run prior to a race should be two weeks before race day, and then you should decrease mileage and intensity of your workouts from there. I followed Jeff Galloway’s advice in this Runner’s World article to determine my taper plan for my first half marathon in September.
Tapertantrums: A hilarious hashtag on twitter where people discuss their challenges with tapering. Chances are good that if you’re running a race that’s serious enough to require a taper, you’re probably kind of into running. You probably don’t like running less right before a race! Enter #tapertantrums. I admit, I have a tough time tapering myself. I miss the positive endorphins from my runs, and I get a little cranky because I’m trying to avoid caffeine and alcohol AND excessive running so that I can be as hydrated and rested as possible. No glass of wine AND no five mile run? It’s hard.
Tempo run: A run at moderate intensity for a short distance. Usually you warm up, run 20-30 minutes at a moderately intense pace, and then cool down. Here’s a link to a Runner’s World article on running a perfect tempo run. For a great article on the difference betweek Fartleks, intervals, and tempo runs, see this Runner’s World article.
Training: Lots of runners train for specific races, and tailor their workouts towards the distance they’re planning to run. They’ll have peak seasons, then take time off from training to rest their legs and just maintain their fitness. While they’re training, most runners will have key workouts where they do scheduled workouts like intervals, tempo runs, and long runs, as opposed to just running for pleasure or hitting a certain mileage goal.
Ultra: Any racing distance beyond the marathon. There are 50Ks, 100 milers… a variety of insane distance races for the major distance running enthusiast. I can say with great confidence that this will never be me! I love that there are people out there for whom running is such a passion that they enjoy doing it for hours, and hours, and hours at a time… but I don’t have that kind of energy or focus.