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My Favorite Running Terms

A Fun List for Non-Runners (and Runners Too!)

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself.”

Haruki Murakami

If you aren’t a runner, it may seem like people who run have a language all their own. And some running terms we use are odd.

While there are probably hundreds of unique running terms used in the running world, there are several which are a little funner (and funnier) than the typical running jargon.

So I created this list hoping to educate the non-runners out there about some of these different running terms and what they mean.

Here we go — and in no particular order:

  • PB/PR — Personal Best or Personal Record — These are usually interchangeable and means a person’s best time in whatever race or distance they ran.
  • DNS — Did Not Start — Self-explanatory. This happens when there is an injury which cannot be overcome and you’ve already signed up for the event. Or something else comes up where you cannot attend.
  • DNF — Did Not Finish — You’ve started the event, but couldn’t finish it for whatever reason. Could be an injury, runner’s trots (we’ll talk about this later), or some other cause which stopped a person from completing.
  • Hit The Wall (AKA Bonking) — This is a feeling of fatigue and decreased energy a runner gets during a run. In a marathon (26.2 miles), it is usually known to hit around mile 20. Not all runners experience it, however. Technically, it is a depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.
running terms
“A brick wall” by Shoot N’ Design on Unsplash
  • Balls To The Wall — No, it doesn’t mean that. It means a runner who goes all out or runs as fast as they can. You will typically see this done at the end of the race although some do it at the beginning and “hit the wall” shortly after.
  • LSD — Long Slow Distance — I know you probably thought of the drug, but in running, this means to run a long distance, slowly. Hence, the name long, slow distance.
  • Snot Rocket — I’m sure many of you have done this even if you aren’t a runner. But if not, this is the practice of blowing boogies and snot out of your nose to clear your sinuses. Just make sure no one is coming up to the side where you are blowing them.
  • Beer Mile — If you hate to run but love to drink, this may be the best way to get started running. A beer mile is a race combining running and speed drinking. Typically done on a 1/4 mile track, participants drink a can of beer at the start line, then run one lap around the track. They then consume another beer and run another lap. After completing a mile (4 laps) and 4 beers, the race is complete. Rules can vary by region and race.
  • Bandit — A bandit is someone who runs a race without registering for it. They are non-official runners and tend to infiltrate races which are full or ones which require qualifying times like The Boston Marathon. No one likes a bandit. Especially runners.
  • Swag — All the items a runner gets with their race registration. It can include T-shirts, a finisher’s medal, and various other items according to the event. There can also be tons of freebies and goodies available particularly if it is a large event and holds an expo with vendors.
running terms
“A close-up of a fishing pole at a lake in East Sooke Park.” by Alan Bishop on Unsplash
  • Going Fishing — This is when, during a race, you reel in each person in front of you who started out too fast. One by one, you catch and pass them because they went “balls to the wall” and then “hit the wall”.
  • Runners Trots — Not a unique way of running like a horse, but rather when your stomach becomes unsettled. The up and down motion of running can create an irritable bowel. Which leads to diarrhea. The urgency to poop. Or crap. Shit. Or any other term which involves sitting on the toilet. And usually when there is no bathroom around.
  • Negative Split — Nothing to do with pants or bowling. A negative split is when you run the second half of a race faster than the first half. Therefore your “split” times are faster at the end than at the beginning. Mostly used in longer distances including anything above the half-marathon, but can also be used as a strategy in shorter distances.

And finally, one of my all-time favorite running terms:

  • Fartlek — Has nothing to do with licking farts. Although I’m not sure how you would do that, anyway. Fartlek is a Swedish term meaning “speed play”. It is defined as “periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.” It is unstructured meaning the runner chooses when to speed up and slow down and for however long they want.

I hope you enjoyed and learned something from this list of running terms, and the next time you hear a runner talk about fartleks, you’ll know it has nothing to do with their flatulence!

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