Running Terms: 20 Words You Need to Know!

Coach Casey · October 1, 2020

Runners, run coaches, and general run enthusiasts seem to speak their own language. A turn of phrase, key words, cues, running terms, and a variety of unknown nouns fill the conversation airwaves. 

Whether you’re new to running or a veteran, fluent-speaker of running lingo, it’s important to get a bit of a refresher. As you continue your running journey here are 20 running terms that you NEED to know!

Use these running terms when you’re chatting at a race, preparing for a training block, communicating with coaches, or even just shopping for running shoes! Share this knowledge with your fellow runners and educate the masses!

Training/Workout Terms:

  • VO2 Max

Your maximal oxygen uptake. This is the amount of oxygen that your body can utilize during an intense bout of activity. Can be increased with proper training but everyone has a genetic “ceiling.”

  • Fartlek

A Swedish term meaning “speed play.” This is a style of running workout that mixes continuous timed bouts of more and less intense running.

  • Tempo

An effort of running that is defined as “comfortably-hard” and works at the upper edge of your aerobic threshold. Tempo efforts are generally integrated into workouts that include longer, steadier segments of running. 

  • Split Time

The amount of time it took you to cover a set or pre-determined distance. Split times are normally used in interval workouts and races. For example, “my 5k split in that 10k race was 18:00.”

  • Interval

A running distance or time that is repeated with breaks/rest in between to form a standard workout. Intervals are also noted as “Repeats” and can be divided up into larger “Sets” of exercise. 

  • Base Run

A standard, comfortable run to build mileage and aerobic strength. These runs can make up 40-50% of your total weekly miles (or more if you include your Long Run). Generally completed at 90sec/mile slower than 5k race pace, or 20-30sec/mile faster than your Long Run pace.

  • Aerobic/Anaerobic

Aerobic refers to a point when your body is producing energy with the oxygen you’re consuming. Anaerobic is the point where your body must produce energy without the use of oxygen. These points are based on running effort person to person. 

Progress your training with all the proper running terms!

Mechanics/Form Running Terms:

  • Neutral Foot Strike

A foot strike that does not over- or underpronate (supinate). Foot strikes the ground at the forefoot and does not overly turn inward or outward upon impact or toe-off. 

  • Pronation/Overpronation/Supination

Pronation generally refers to the natural, slight inward roll of your foot at one point while running. Overpronation is a more exaggerated inward roll of the foot which may require support shoes. Supination (or Underpronation) refers to the foot not rolling inward much at all naturally and instead outward putting pressure the ankle.

  • Stride Pattern/Cadence

Your stride pattern refers to the length of your stride combined with your stride cadence (strides per minute). A runner’s stride pattern and cadence is determined by their height/length of legs, natural running mechanics as well as their running speed. 

  • Running Economy

How efficiently a runner can move at given speeds/efforts. A combination of physiological elements and mechanical efficiencies. Through training and mechanical/form proficiency you can maximize your running economy and run faster for longer!

Racing/Competition Terms:

  • PB/PR

Your “Personal Best” or “Personal Record” for a given race distance. This is the fastest you’ve run at the distance in your lifetime. Not to be mistaken with “SB” which refers to an athlete’s “Season Best” time during a set competitive year.


“Did Not Finish,” “Did Not Start,” and “Dead Freakin’ Last.” Different terms referring to the race status of a runner. Was the runner signed up for the race but never started? Did they begin racing but not finish? Were they the absolute last person to finish the race?

  • Kick

A final acceleration or sprint to the finish line during a race. The kick distance depends on the race, race distance, and individual athlete. However, normally it’s no more than 400 meters and no less than 100 meters.

  • Taper

A period of active rest and recovery leading into a goal race. The taper period includes a steady decrease in training volume with maintaining a high level of training intensity. The length of the taper depends on the race distance but is normally 1-4 weeks. Longer races require a longer taper. 

  • Ghost/Bandit

A person who competes in a race without signing up or registering. Normally these bandits or ghosts step off the course just before the finish line to maintain their anonymity while still having an accurate idea of their race time. 

Flex your running IQ with these running terms!

Recovery Running Terms:

  • Lactate

The enzyme result within the bloodstream of high-intensity anaerobic training. A buildup of lactate in the blood comes from the breaking apart of hydrogen ions that creates a pH imbalance. This leads to the heavy/sore leg feeling after a hard anaerobic workout. The term “Lactic Acid” is commonly word-dropped, but that is cleared out of the body within seconds, “Lactate” persists to produce the fatigue.

  • Homeostasis

Your body’s baseline. This is the point where your body’s systems are working at maximum efficiency to simply maintain a basic level of energy production and function. Training loads/workouts push your body below homeostasis. Recovery returns the body after training to a point of homeostasis. Most importantly, the proper balance of training load intensity and recovery time moves your body ABOVE the point of homeostasis and helps create positive physiological adaptations (see Overcompensation). 

  • Overcompensation

The optimal point in your body’s recovery and adaptation cycle to add the next training load. The overcompensation stage is when your body begins to make adjustments to prepare for the next state of fatigue. This point is “above” your body’s homeostasis. On a graph it is noted as the highest point in curve. 

  • Bonk

A point when your body is completely devoid of energy and totally fatigued. Rarely comes before at least 90min of intense activity but you certainly feel it coming when it does! Making sure to allow your body proper recovery, maintaining proper running nutrition, and following an expertly designed training plan can help avoid bonking.


  • Sandbag

When a runner spends an entire workout at the back of the pack or slower than goal pace only to put all of their energy into the final repetition or segment, finishing first to become a “workout hero!”

Learn even more terms and let professional, certified coaches test your knowledge with live runs, virtual races and workouts coached in real time! Sign up for Charge Running today!

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