Whether you’re new to running or a seasoned marathoner, there’s always some new lingo to learn. Runners are well-known for their seemingly endless stream of jargon, which can leave even the most experienced of racers scratching their heads in bewilderment.
To ensure that you’re always in-the-know, here’s our ultimate list of the most important running terms to get you started.
A method of splitting runners up within a large race using their age. Typical age groups include <20, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, and so forth.
A stand or booth along a race that provides water, gels, and sports drinks to runners. Often staffed by race workers or volunteers.
The female version of Clydesdale. A race category for heavier female runners above 150lb (68kg). Named for the Greek goddess of courage, wisdom, inspiration, and strength.
Someone that runs a race without signing up for it and paying the fees. Generally forbidden and can get runners banned from other races.
A runner’s average per-week mileage. Used to calculate the starting point for a particular running training program or program cycle.
A fun (kind of) challenge where runners have to drink one beer after every quarter-mile of a one-mile race. Vomiting is not allowed. Good luck.
The number sheet given to runners to pin on their shirt or jersey before a race. Used for identification purposes.
Also known as “starting blocks,” the device used in track events to help sprinters push off at the start of the race. Usually made from metal and rubber with various dials and knobs to adjust both angle and position.
What happens after nipples chafe against a shirt for extended periods of time while running. Most commonly occurs in male runners during particularly cold weather.
The result of depleted glycogen energy stores in the muscles during a long run. Not a fun experience. Also known as “hitting the wall.”
A type of training program that alternates biking and running in the same workout. Makes your legs feel like they’re made of bricks.
A slang word used to describe an anti-chafing product, such as Body Glide.
A runner that is particularly attractive, which motivates others to keep up their pace. Similar to a horse following a carrot on a string.
More: Running Behind a Carrot
A race track or course that’s certified by USA Track and Field as being the appropriate length for a marathon or half-marathon. New US national records must be set on a certified course.
The small electronic device given to runners at the start of a race to record the precise time that they cross the start and finish lines. Often attached to the shoelaces.
The area at the end of a large street race where runners can group up and reunite with family and friends.
The ubiquitous experience of chafing from one’s thighs rubbing together during running.
A running class typically used for heavier male runners above 200lbs (90.7kg). The male version of Athena.
The not-so-friendly act of farting as you pass by another runner.
A non-competitive run that starts at your door and takes you right onto a trail.
Hanging behind another runner to use them as an unofficial pace-setter. Often done without their permission.
A bag that runners fill with important items for midway through an ultramarathon. Race officials often transport them to a specific location along the racecourse.
The proper way to behave while running or racing. A set of unspoken rules about what you can and can’t do while trying to pass others.
Walking with one’s hands on their knees to help reduce quad burn on long uphill sections of a race or run.
When you run both halves of a race at a similar pace.
Sweedish term meaning “speed play.” A popular type of training that involves speed variations while running, from a sprint to a slow jog.
A type of trail running that’s most commonly practiced in the UK. Generally refers to running through mountains, bogs, scree, and heather typical of the terrain found in England’s Lake District.
Accidentally urinating while running. More common than you might think.
Alternating running and walking during a training run to improve overall speed and performance.
When an older runner passes a younger runner during a race.
That weird sensation when it feels like someone is running behind you even though there’s no one there.
The most annoying phrase to hear as others pass by you. Usually a sign that you’re not actually doing a “good job.”
Also known as “dropping the hammer.” When you run very fast in a race.
A type of training program that uses hill runs to build up muscular endurance and strength.
Alternating running and jogging over a set distance or time to increase one’s speed during training.
According to the IAAF, any runner that is younger than 20 years old by December 31st of a given calendar year.
Miles run as part of a training program that are completed only to hit a certain per-week mileage.
The last person in a relay race. Generally the fastest person on the team. Also known as an “anchor.”
When you pass another runner only for them to pass you again later in the course. A process that generally repeats itself multiple times during a race.
For sprint races, whenever wind conditions are less than 2.0 m/s in the runners’ favorable direction. Faster wind speeds in this direction disqualify finishing times from world, Olympic, and local records.
A way to gain entry into a race that’s solely based on luck, not performance.
Category for runners over 40 years old.
Often used to refer to 1,500m races in track running, swimming, and speed skating. Equal to 0.93 imperial (US) miles.
An imperial unit of measure. Equivalent to 0.868 nautical miles, 1609.34 meters, 5,280 feet, and 1,760 yards.
Very nice people, usually crew members, that help transport your gear during a long race.
Any run time where the second half of the race was completed faster than the first.
Runners that dress in all neon clothing.
Out and Back
Races that start and end in the same place, covering the same ground twice. Opposite of point to point.
When a runner receives support outside of a sanctioned aid station. This can sometimes lead to disqualification, depending on race rules.
A runner that takes part in a race solely to help another maintain their desired pace.
Point to Point
Runs that start in one location and end in another. Opposite of out and back.
When the second half of a race is run at a slower pace than the first half.
Power Walking/Power Hiking
When you walk quickly up a hill during a race instead of running. Actually more efficient than running when done on slopes steeper than a 10% grade.
“Personal Record.” An athlete’s personal fastest time for a particular race or event.
Any run with significant difficult downhill sections.
A pace maker in a race. Someone who sets a pace for their teammates during the beginning of the race but drops out before the finish line. Not a legal tactic in the Olympics or World Championships.
The kind-hearted folks that organize races. Generally a volunteer position, so be nice to these people.
A piece of vest-like gear that holds hydration bladders and snacks for a long race.
Anyone that’s lying on the side of the road during a race.
When you plan a vacation just to go and run a race.
That person that annoys everyone around them by incessantly talking about running.
The number of miles completed in a single week.
Purposefully placing oneself in a weak position to make others think that they are less skilled than they truly are.
The worst feeling ever. An overuse injury that causes leg pain. Can eventually develop into stress fractures without proper rest.
Mountain running done at elevations above 2,000m (6,600ft). Generally involves Class 2 or easier climbing with an average incline that’s greater than 30%.
Any runner that decides to cover their car in running-related stickers.
Anyone that runs one mile a day every day for a long time.
The awesome free stuff you get after you run a race.
Decreasing your daily mileage and intensity in the days before a race to help you stay fit and fresh for the competition.
Commonly used in trail running to talk about the overall vertical elevation gained during a run.
People who mostly run on tracks.
Any running that’s done on a trail, not a paved road.
More: Best Trail Running Shoes
An ultramarathon. Any race longer than a marathon (26.2mi/42.195km), but generally only used to refer to races longer than 50km (31.1mi)
A running course less than 5km (3.1 mi) long that climbs more than 1,000m (3280ft).
Something you’re not allowed to do while running.
World Marathon Majors
The Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York marathons. The most prestigious marathons that you can run.
How we felt when we realized that there are no running terms that start with the letter X. Can you think of any? Let us know in the comments!
Giving way to another runner during a race to let them pass.
Shoes that have no drop (aka height difference) between the forefoot and the heel.