The Secret Language of Runners: 56 RUNNING TERMS You Need to Know


Use your new running words to impress, confuse or amuse!

You’re a runner. Or you’re just friends with a lot of runners (sorry, if that’s the case). Or maybe your spouse is a runner (extra sorry if that’s the case). Along the way, you’ve picked a lot of lingo only runners use. It’s like a foreign language. That’s why when you’re hanging with your running friends at the pub down the street you get all those funny looks. Of course, it could also be that you’re still wearing your stinky running clothes after your group run.

Anyway, you’ve probably heard a few running terms that you had no idea even existed. Well, no more! With the Road Runner Sports Runner’s Glossary, you’ll have running lingo down in no time. Scan the list below and start throwing around your favorites to impress, confuse or amuse!

Your Official Glossary Of Runner’s Terms

BANDIT: these cheaters make their way into a race without registering or paying an entrance fee

BEER MILE: a race that consists of one beer (12 oz, minimum of 5% alcohol by volume) consumed every ¼ mile. Penalty laps are given for vomiting.

BLACK TOENAILS: A runner’s badge of honor, or just plain gross? You decide. Discolored toenails on runners are a result of impact and pressure on the toe. Sometimes if you’re lucky, they fall completely off, too!

BONK: when you officially deplete of energy to run any farther

BUCKET LIST: a race or event that you really want to do in the future; “that’s a bucket list race for me”

CHUB RUB: thigh chaffing from skin rubbing together

CODE BROWN: desperately in need of a place to have a bowel movement; this may or may not end in an unfortunate accident

CROP DUSTING: the act of passing someone on the course while simultaneously eeking out the results of last night’s 15 bean and pasta dinner extravaganza

DRAFTING: Letting another runner do all the work. A race strategy where you tuck behind another runner and allow them to suck and block the wind while you cruise through the miles, waiting for the perfect moment to break free.

DREADMILL: treadmills get this pet name since they’re an often-loathed piece of gym equipment for runners forced indoors due to weather or time constraints

FARTLEK: Swedish for “speed play,” and that is exactly what it’s all about. Unlike tempo and interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout

FITNESS LEAK: urine leakage caused by high impact activities; most common in women affecting at least 25%

FOMO: fear of missing out

FUEL: When going long, runners have to fill up their tank! Running nutrition comes in all kinds of forms, including energy gels, chews, bars, and even jelly beans. Others prefer to chomp on pretzels or sugary candies like Swedish Fish! Just remember, it’s important to eat around 100 calories after an hour of running.

GARMINBRAG: a photograph of a GPS watch face uploaded to Facebook, because actually typing how far or how fast you ran would be narcissistic

GHOST RUNNER: someone real or imagined who is on your heels during a race or run

GOING BARKLEY: bushwhacking it through an unmarked section of land

HAMMER/DROP THE HAMMER: running hard at a challenging section or at the end of a run or race

HYPOXIC: You know when you are so excited to go for a run that you start out too fast and within the first minute, you’re short of breath and thinking, “What’s wrong? This hurts! Why can’t I breathe?”—chances are you’re hypoxic. Basically your lungs aren’t yet keeping up with your heart and you don’t have enough oxygen pumping through your system. Back off the pace until you warm up and catch your breath.

INTERVALS/REPEATS: For this type of training, short, fast bursts—usually in the 200 to 800 meter range—are alternated with slower running intervals. They can leave you prone to despair and saying evil things about your coach, but they are very effective for building speed and fitness.

JUNK MILES: running at an easy pace inserted into a program in order to reach a weekly or monthly mileage total rather than for any specific benefit

KICK: the final push runners give at the end of a race or training run

LEAP FROGGING: continually passing and being passed by the same person(s) during a race

LONGGONER: a run you knew right from the first mile was going to suck in every way imaginable

LOTTOSTALK: the process of checking your e-mail every five minutes to see if you won a lottery spot for the Chicago, NYC, or Marine Corps Marathon

LSD: NOT the hallucinogen. LSD is an abbreviation for “Long, Slow Distance,” which refers to the practice of running longer distances at an “easy” pace

MARATERNITY LEAVE: a sick day utilized the Monday after a marathon, solely to avoid walking up the stairs of your office building

MOUNTAIN GOATING: walking or running uphill in a crouched position using hands and feet to climb

NEGATIVE SPLITS: running your second half of a run faster than the first half.  You also are considered to have run negative splits if each mile is faster than the previous

NEONTINO: a runner dressed in head-to-toe neon clothing. Reserves the right to yell “Are you blind?!” at inattentive drivers and/or mountain bikers

NEWBIE: a newbie, or beginner, often learns the basics of the sport by training for a short race, like a 5K. Remember, everyone started here!

OUT AND BACK: when a course is out a ways and back to the same spot

POINT TO POINT: when a course starts and finishes at different locations

QUAD BUSTER: long downhill stretches of running

QUESOTHERAPY: A proven cure for post-run grumpiness, involving salty tortilla chips and melted cheese in a carefully measured dose of “all-you-can-eat.” For maximum effectiveness, combine with beer supplements.

RABBIT: someone who goes out with the intention of setting a fast pace but then often drops out; a rabbit may be sanctioned by the race to pace elite runners

ROADKILL: a person sitting or laying alongside a road or trail during a race

RUNCATION: planning a vacation around a race

RUNCHIES/RUNGRY: the hungry sensation produced by running, this is followed by a short temper if food is not quickly obtained

RUNCRASTINATION: putting off unwanted tasks to go for a run or think about running

RUNFIE: runner’s selfie. Taken before, during, or after a run. Term coined by Run, Selfie, Repeat

RUNHOLE: a term assigned to a runner who talks incessantly about running and neglects friends and family for training and races. Term coined by Run, Selfie, Repeat

RUNNER’S HIGH: Most runners experience a state of euphoria and pure bliss known as “the runner’s high” either during or after a run. It might just be the reason runners run—and maybe why they’re so crazy, too.

SANDBAGGER: A person who publicly downplays their training, bashes their (often new) gear, questions their physical ability and then proceeds to push the pace on a group run or smoke a race. Sandbagging is not to be confused with being humble.

SHINNING: the act of kicking, tripping over, and/or walking into furniture while sleepily dressing in the dark for your early-morning workout

SNOT ROCKET/FARMER’S BLOW: ejecting snot from your nose by closing one nostril with a finger and blowing forcefully out of the other

STICKY: covering your car with running related stickers

STREAKER: keeping their clothes on (usually!), a streaker is a runner who runs consecutively every day for an extended period of time, or annually participates in the same race

SWAG: the cool gear that you get for showing up at a race or expo

TAPER: the period in which a runner is cutting back on training and mileage to rest before race day

TEMPO: for a tempo run think about snappy leg turnover at a sustainable speed, like half marathon or marathon pace

THE WALL: the figurative obstacle that runner’s need to break through in order to find a 3rd or 4th wind. Often shows up after bonking.

THRESHOLD RUN: When you want to test your lactate threshold and dry heave when done. They are generally shorter and faster than tempo running and can be broken down into painful repeats with only enough rest to not die (30 to 60 seconds).

TRAIL MONEY: toilet paper

WIZARD STICKS: trekking poles

Common Acronyms

PR: personal record, your speediest time at any given distance

PB: personal best, not peanut butter

CR: course record, fastest time run on that course

NR: national record, fastest time in the country run at any given distance

WR: world record, fastest time in the world run at any given distance

DFL: dead freaking last, an unofficial race place and point of pride among back-runners

ITB: iliotibial band, that pesky fascia band from your hip to the knee

FKT: fastest known time

MUT: mountain/ultra/trail, a type of crazy runner

DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness, an epidemic among long-distance runners

DNF: did not finish, the label slapped on your results when you do not cross the finish line

LSD: long, slow distance, not the drug (sorry)

BQ: Boston qualifier, any marathon that’s certified to award you a ticket to the coveted Boston Marathon based on your time


100 meters: shortest common sprint race held outdoors

200 meters: 1/2 lap around a standard track

400 meters: 1/4 mile, one lap around a standard track

800 meters : 1/2 mile, two laps around a standard track

1200 meter : 3/4 mile, three laps around a standard track

1500 meter : .93 mile, metric mile, 3 3/4 laps around track

5k: 3.1 miles; 5,000 meters

10k: 6.2 miles; 10,000 meters

15k: 9.3 miles; 15,000 meters

Half Marathon: 13.1 miles; 21.1k

Marathon: 26.2 miles; 42.2k

Ultra marathon: any distance greater than 26.2 miles but typically referring to a 50k race or beyond

50k: 31.1 miles

Tri/triathlon: a race which involves swimming, cycling and running

Sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5k run)

Olympic or standard (1.5k/40km/10k)

½ Ironman (1.2 miles/56 miles/13.1 miles)

Ironman (2.4 miles/112 miles/26.2miles)


Author bio:

Martin Sandman practices a fun mix of surfing, yoga and running for fitness and release. Martin is a Copywriter at Road Runner Sports and has been with the company seven years.





6 thoughts on “The Secret Language of Runners: 56 RUNNING TERMS You Need to Know

  1. L. DeVillers says:

    Not sure of your intent but the glossary terms you included for “heavier runners” are offensive. Better to celebrate anyone making an attempt to be active and fit without assigning labels.

    • msandman says:

      Good catch, we’ve removed those terms from the glossary. Definitely not our intention to offend, our intention, as you put it so well is “to celebrate anyone making an attempt to be active and fit.” Thanks for reading!

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