Running terminology for those new to the sport


I’m totally a new runner, but since my sis is not, I’ve been around some of the language and therefore it’s somewhat familiar to me.

If you’re just getting started in running, all the terminology can be really confusing.  Boy do they love acronyms.  So I figured I’d throw together some terminology that I wondered about, hoping it would help others.  Thanks to Runner’s World for some of the definitions!

I stuck to the basics this round, but let me know if i’m missing anything!

Bib: The sheets printed with numbers (called “bib numbers”) used to identify each runner in a race.

Fartlek: Speed play, or fartlek in Swedish (the concept originated in Sweden), is a speedwork format in which you run faster for however long (or short) you want.

Hill repeats: A workout that includes sprinting uphill fast, jogging downhill at an easy pace to recover, and then repeating the sequence. It’s thought to be an efficient way to build leg strength, speed, and aerobic capacity. Hill repeats reduce your injury risk because it limits fast-running time and because the incline of a hill shortens the distance your feet have to fall, reducing the impact of each step.

Iliotibial band (IT band): A thick, fibrous band that connects your hips and knees. It helps to flex and rotate your hips and stabilize and extend your knees. It can become easily strained, leading to iliotibial band syndrome, if you increase your mileage too quickly. The iliotibial band is also often irritated on the leg farther away from traffic if you regularly run on canted roads.

Negative splits: Running the second half of a race faster than the first half.

Repeats: The fast segments of running that are repeated during a workout, with recovery in between.

Side stitch: Also called a “side sticker,” this is a sharp pain usually felt just below the rib cage (though sometimes farther up the torso). It’s thought to be caused by a cramp in the diaphragm, gas in the intestines, or food in the stomach. Stitches normally come on during hard workouts or races. To get rid of a side stitch, notice which foot is striking the ground when you inhale and exhale, then switch the pattern. So if you were leading with your right foot, inhale when your left foot steps. If that doesn’t help, stop running and reach both arms above your head. Bend at your waist, leaning to the side opposite the stitch until the pain subsides.  (I never knew this and suffer from side-stitches, so I figured it was worth a share)

Speedwork: Also called intervals or repeats, speedwork refers to any workout run at a faster-than-normal pace. Often done at a track. Performed to increase cardiovascular fitness.

Splits: The time it takes to complete any defined distance. If you’re running 800 meters, or two laps, you might check your split after the first lap to shoot for an even pace.

Strides: Also called striders or “pickups,” these are typically 80- to 100-meter surges that are incorporated into a warmup or a regular workout. Strides increase heart rate and leg turnover; they get your legs ready to run. Strides are run near 80 percent of maximum effort, with easy jogging in between.

Tempo: When runners talk about doing a “tempo run” they usually mean a sustained, faster-than-usual run of 3 to 6 miles at the pace they could sustain for an hour in a race. Tempo runs are said to feel “comfortably hard”—you have to concentrate to keep the effort going, but aren’t running with as much effort as a sprint or 5-K race. Tempo runs are a good way to boost your fitness without doing hard track workouts. (tempo runs are by no means easy!)

Speaking of those acronyms, here are a few that have stumped me in the past…

BQ- Shorthand for Boston Qualifying time. Often used to describe a marathon or half-marathon finish time that qualifies a person for entry into the Boston Marathon.
MP – Marathon Pace
GMP – Goal Marathon Pace
HM – Half Marathon (commonly used by bloggers who get tired of typing out all 12 letters)
HMP – Half-Marathon Pace (I might have made this up)
GHMP – Goal Half-Marathon Pace (this too)
USATF – USA Track and Field (comes up with course certifications)
DNF – Did not finish
DNS – Did not start
PR and PB – Personal Record or Personal best (your best time in a race/distance)

Happy running!


3 thoughts on “Running terminology for those new to the sport

  1. Another tip for the dreaded stitch…..the opposite foot breathing thing really works, but you can also try breathing out for one more count than you breathe in. So when I get stitch I switch to breathing in for 2 steps and out for 3. No idea how it works but it seems to; my theory is that it allows you to get rid of excess air sitting on your diaphragm.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion!
      The only thing I’ve ever done is an exaggerated exhale, which I find funny to do when I’m running with others.
      I’ve never paid attention to my breathing and my steps, so I will definitely give it a try next time it happens (although I hope it never happens again). 🙂

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