Running Lingo and Acronyms You Should Know

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With all the running jargon that gets used, it may sometimes seem like running is an insider's club. Maybe your seasoned running friends toss around "PB" and "BQ" like everyone knows what they mean, for example. Running terms and acronyms can be difficult for anyone who is new to the sport—and even those who have been at it for a while.

If you feel out-of-touch, you can get up to speed quickly and talk the walk (or run, as it were). Here are some translations for some common running terms and acronyms.

May you achieve a great PR and avoid DNFs, whether or not you XT.

Basic Running Terms

Some of these terms may be familiar already, but it's good to know exactly what defines them.

Form

Form refers to how you hold your body while you run, including how you position your head, arms, and legs with every stride. Good form helps you run more efficiently, but it can also help prevent fatigue and injury.

The basics of the proper form include keeping your upper body upright, relaxed, and looking forward. Land mid-foot with each step and swing your arms forward from the shoulders.

Pace

Your pace refers to the number of minutes it takes to complete a mile or kilometer. When runners talk about running a nine-minute mile, they are referring to their pace.

Pacing plays an important role in different types of runs, particularly distance events. Varying your pace as you train can be important for building speed and endurance.

If you are just starting out, a conversational pace is a good beginning pace. Some runners can handle more in the early going than others, so just focus more on your effort level than your time.

Foot Strike

Your foot strike refers to how your feet hit the ground as you take every step while you run. Hitting the ground mid-foot with a light step, rather than on your toe or heel, minimizes impact and reduces the risk of injury.

Warm-Up

Before you head out for any type of run, it is important to warm up your muscles to minimize the risk of strain or injury. A good warm-up increases your heart rate and blood flow to your muscles, and often involves between five and 15 minutes of walking or jogging.

Cool-Down

Just as warming up is an essential pre-run ritual, a cool-down is an important post-run practice. A cool-down usually involves walking or slow jogging until your heart rate and breathing return to a more normal rate.

Strides

This term is sometimes used to refer to every step forward as you run, but technically strides—or gradual accelerations—are short, 25- to 30-second runs at approximately 90 percent of your maximum speed.

The common term "sprinting" is often perceived as an all out run, which can get you injured if you're not sufficiently warmed up.

Splits

A split refers to the time it takes to run a specific distance. If you were running a 5k, for example, you might check your time at each kilometer split. Check your splits can help you see if you are maintaining a good pace so that you are able to finish at your goal time.

Common Running Acronyms

Decode runners' code words by reviewing shorthand for common running terminology.

BQ (Boston Qualify)

When runners say they "BQd," it means that they ran a Boston Marathon-qualifying time. The Boston Marathon is the oldest consecutively-run marathon and it has very tough qualifying time standards. A runner has to achieve the time standard for their age and gender in a qualifying marathon in order to apply for entry to the Boston Marathon.

Running a BQ means that a runner met that qualifying time standard. It's a great goal in itself, even if you don't get one of the limited number of slots for the race itself.

DNF (Did Not Finish)

The acronym DNF is listed in race results when a racer started the race but did not finish. If you've been running long enough, you've probably had at least one DNF in a race. You can take some consolation in the fact that DNF happens often enough that it deserves an acronym.

DNS (Did Not Start)

The acronym DNS is sometimes listed in race results when a racer was registered for a race but did not start. This helps make the distinction between those who didn't attempt the race and those who attempted the race but were unable to finish.

LSD (Long Slow Distance)

No, not the hallucinogen—a long slow distance run. Often seen on training schedules, LSD runs are an important part of training for a race, especially half-marathons or marathons. Many runners like to do their LSDs on the weekends because they have more time to dedicate to a long run.

PB (Personal Best) or PR (Personal Record)

When someone refers to their PB or PR, they're talking about their best time at a specific race distance. For example, "My PB in the 5K is 19:26."

While either acronym is acceptable, PR is used more commonly in the United States, while Canadian runners seem to prefer PB.

PR, unlike PB, can be used as a verb as well as a noun. For example, "I PRd in my half marathon last weekend." If you've only run one race, you already have your PR. It's not mandatory to quote a time along with your PR.

PW (Personal Worst)

Although some runners don't like to keep track of them, PWs refer to a runner's worst time at a specific distance. For example, "That half-marathon was my PW." For consolation, PW beats DNF, which beats DNS.

XT (Cross-Training or X-Training)

Cross-training is any activity other than running that's part of your training, such as biking, swimming, yoga, strength-training, etc. Cross-training has many benefits in giving you better all-around fitness, and it can enhance your running performance.

Types of Runs

Running is as straightforward an activity as it gets. That said, there are some terms that are often used to give a run some nuance.

Trail Run

This one is fairly obvious and involves running on a trail in a natural setting. It can be a fun way to make your runs more interesting, but the uneven terrain can also challenge muscles that you might not use during a treadmill, track, or road run. You might want to consider wearing trail shoes designed for greater traction and stability during this type of run.

Distance Run

Also known as endurance running, this will be your longest run of the week during training. Such runs can increase your aerobic capacity and improve your overall endurance.

Easy Run

This type of run is exactly as it sounds—easy! You should be able to carry on a conversation with a running partner at this slow pace. Such runs are great for recovery days.

Speedwork

In order to improve your speed, you need to practice running fast. Speedwork involves bursts of speed interspersed with a period of recovery. Speedwork can involve a range of workouts including tempo runs, repeats, and intervals.

Recovery Run

A recovery run is a short and easy run designed for days when you are recovering from a more intense run. Such runs may be easier, but they serve an important goal: They help teach your body to keep going, even when your muscles are fatigued.

Interval Training

Boosting your speed and aerobic ability often involves alternating between high-intensity bursts and lower-intensity recovery periods. Interval training can help you max out your speed, develop greater strength, and improve your overall fitness.

Hill Repeats

Hills present a great opportunity for speedwork and engaging muscles that you might not use as much during a run on flat terrain. A hill repeat involves running up a hill at a high intensity, then doing a slower recovery on your way down. They can be tough—really tough—but they can be an unbeatable way to build your speed and strength.

Fartleks

It might draw a laugh, but this term is actually a form of “starter” speedwork. The term itself is Swedish in origin and means "speed play."

This type of training involves an easy run that is followed by short but more intense sprints. The key is that you can choose to go at your own pace, depending upon your current fitness level.

Fartleks can be a useful way to gradually improve your strength and fitness.

Tempo Runs

Also known as an anaerobic threshold run, a tempo run is set at a pace that is just a bit slower than your normal race speed. It’s a strategy for building speed that focuses on holding a pace at a difficult threshold that you can maintain for about 20 minutes.

Where running at an all-out pace would cause fatigue to set in, a tempo run allows you to keep up a steady (but still challenging) pace for a longer period of time.

Dreadmill

The treadmill can be a useful running tool, particularly during inclement weather. But for runners who live to feel the sun on their face and the road under their feet, it can be a source of boredom and even outright dread—hence this nickname for treadmill workouts.

Running Gear

Considering there are entire stores dedicated to running gear, it probably comes as no surprise that these items can be highly specialized.

Minimalist Shoes

These ultra-lightweight shoes are designed to mimic running barefoot while still offering some support and protection. They allow runners a greater feel of the ground while still protecting the feet from hazardous dirt and small rocks.

These shoes often range from the barely-there (designed to mimic the feel of actually running barefoot) to a more minimalist running shoes that offers some cushioning but little or no arch support.

Running Tights

These tight-fitting leggings, capris, or shorts are designed to help keep you warm when you are running outside during cold weather. Look for something that feels comfortable, has a good amount of stretch, and is flexible enough to move in without feeling restricted.

Moisture-Wicking Clothes

Your running shirts, shorts, skirts, pants, and even bras will often be made out of a special fabric designed to wick moisture away from your body. This can help keep you cool and prevent chafing.

Sports Watch

Having a GPS-enabled watch can help you plan your route, track your speed, and keep a record of your miles. Sports watches can be very useful for monitoring your running and fitness, providing feedback on everything from your miles to your heart rate.

Fuel Belt

Also known as a hydration belt, a fuel belt is a lightweight belt or pouch where you can safely stash your running essentials. What you need on your run will vary depending on where you’re going and how far you’re running, but it usually includes water, some basic snacks to refuel, your keys, and your phone. Your pack allows you to keep what you need within reach while leaving your arms and hands free.

Road Race Lingo

Road racing also has a lot of jargon that may not be understood by some runners, especially if you're new to the sport.

Masters Runners Division in Road Racing

In road racing, the Masters Division is for runners who are over a certain age. Usually, the age is 40, but it can vary from place to place.

The Masters Track and Field Committee of USA Track and Field (USTAF) requires that masters athletes be "at least 40 years old on the first day of the meet." Many road races offer special awards for masters runners.

In addition to recognizing the top three male and female overall finishers, many races give awards to the top three male and female masters finishers.

Clydesdale Division

In road racing, the Clydesdale Division is for heavyweight male runners. The weight minimum for Clydesdales is 200 pounds, although it can vary from race to race. The idea behind this grouping, like the Athena Division (see below), is to divide race participants into categories so they're competing against other athletes with similar physical qualities to them (similar to the age/gender groups that most races use).

Not all races have Clydesdale Divisions but, if they do, they'll usually mention it on the race application. Some races may have given awards for the top three finishers in the Clydesdale Division.

Athena Division

The Athena Division is for heavyweight female runners—the counterpart to the Clydesdale Division. The weight minimum for Athenas is usually 150 pounds, although it can vary from race to race. Likewise here, if a race has an Athena Division, you should see that noted on the race application. Some races may give awards for the top three finishers in the Athena Division.

Corral

A corral is a sectioned area at a race's starting line where race participants are grouped according to their expected finishing time. The fastest runners are usually in the first corrals, and the slowest runners are in the corrals at the back. The runners' race bibs usually indicate which corral they're assigned to.

There are usually race officials checking race participants as they enter the corrals to make sure they're in the correct ones.

Races that have corrals will also give runners timing devices, usually on their race bib or to attach to their shoe, so the time that it takes for them to cross the starting line is not included in their final race time.

In some big races, such as marathons, runners need to be in their corrals very early and end up waiting a long time for the race to start. In that case, there will sometimes be portable bathrooms within the corral. If it's cold and they're going to be waiting a long time, runners will wear "throwaway clothes" to stay warm as they're waiting.

Sidelined

Unfortunately, being unable to run for a period of time is a common problem for most serious runners at some point. It can be due to an illness, injury, or a number of life events that are unplanned but important.

Taking a break from running, no matter the cause, can impact you emotionally. It can also slow you down physically. You will need coping strategies when you are sidelined. Once you are ready to return to running after a break you will need to ease back into your usual running schedule.

Common Injuries or Issues

Running has many health benefits, but it can also bring about issues and injury. You may hear these terms as people swap running stories.

Chafing

This is a common complaint for almost any runner, particularly when tackling long distances. Areas that are prone to chafing include body crevices (armpits, under the breasts), areas rubbed by clothing straps (waist, shoulders), or anywhere you might have sagging skin or folds.

Staying hydrated, wearing the right gear, and using anti-chafing lubricants can help with prevention. Running tights can also help minimize the dreaded inner-thigh chafe.

Black Toenails

This unpleasant condition is marked by bruised, blistered, or bloody toenails caused by your toes constantly banging against the front, top, and sides of your shoe. Black toenails are common and can be quite unpleasant, particularly if you end up losing a toenail as a result.

The best prevention is to buy well-fitting running shoes and lace them properly to avoid heel slippage during your run.

Pronation

This term refers to the natural side-to-side motion of your foot as it strikes the ground whenever you run or walk. As you roll your weight over your foot, your foot will normally roll inward. If you overpronate while running, it means that your foot rolls too far inward. Supination or underpronation, on the other hand, means that you roll your foot too far to the outside.

Both over and underpronation can increase your risk of injury. You can often see signs of your pronation by checking the wear on the sole of your running shoes.

Shin Splints

These sharp pains in the lower leg are a common type of running ailment. Minor shin splints often ease up with rest or by treating the pain by icing the affected area. If you are getting shin splints often, it is probably a sign that you need a new pair of shoes.

Runner’s Knee

This term refers to any type of pain around the kneecap, which may be a sign of a variety of conditions. It is characterized by pain in this area that you might feel when walking, running, bending, or even sitting at rest. It can be a result of overuse, poor form, or a symptom of damage to the knee.

Runner's knee is often treated through rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), although continued or severe pain may require additional treatment or surgery.

Other Injuries

As a runner, you may at some point deal with a handful of other conditions affecting the legs and feet, such as plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, ITB syndrome, or stress fractures. If you think you may have an injury, talk to your doctor about your systems and take it easy until you know that it's safe to continue running without risk of further injury.

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