Running Jargon for the Beginner

The running community is full of energetic individuals who love to share every detail of their hobby to anyone who will listen! However, our niche sport has its own special language. So for all of you who are new to the running world, we’re here to fill you in on our special jargon! 

Whether we’re talking PRs or PBs (while avoiding our DNFs and DNSs) or gabbing on about splits and fartleks, please know our intentions are good! So rather than be bored or confused, or be envisioning a runner in the split position passing gas, we’re going to clear it all up in this article. We have compiled a massive list of runner jargon so that from now on, you can join right in with every talk of bonks, bibs, and BQs with confidence! 


A piece of paper, identifying the athlete. Typically pinned to an article of clothing, visible from the front side of the runner. The bib may or may not contain a chip (see chip time below). If you’re wearing a bib, it’s race day.


Bonk is the sound you would make if you hit the wall. Runners refer to ‘bonking’ and ‘hitting the wall’ when their glycogen stores are depleted and fatigue sets in. When a runner bonks, it becomes increasingly more difficult to finish their run or race.


BQ is the acronym for Boston Qualifying time. The acronym can be found on various websites identifying which races are Boston Qualifiers. To ‘BQ’ means to run a qualifying time to register for the race, it does not guarantee a spot in the race.


A runner’s cadence is usually measured in strides per minute (spm) and is the speed at which an individual takes steps while running. 

Cadence Lock

A cadence lock is when a smart watch tracks heart rate as opposed to strides per minute. 

Chip Time

Chip time refers to the time it takes the runner to cross the start line of a race and the finish line. This is the time recorded by the chip on the individual runner. This is opposed to “gun time” which is the time it takes from when the race officially started and the runner crosses the finish line, so if you’re in a big race with hundreds or thousands of runners, you’ll want to know your chip time, as that’s when you actually crossed the starting line and started your race.


Cushioning is a term that refers to shoes. It is the ability to absorb the forces of impact. 


Both of these are acronyms that can be found on race results. DNF implies that the runner did not finish the race. DNS indicates that the runner did not start the race.


DOMS is an acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is muscle soreness that occurs after 24-48 hours after new or intense physical activity. 


A double is when a runner runs twice in one day. Usually once in the morning and once in the evening.


Drills are exercises designed to activate muscles and tendons before a workout, especially common amongst track athletes. Drills include skipping, high knees, butt kicks, karaoke steps, strides, etc.


To run fasted, means to run after a long period without any food intake. Fasted runners run when their glycogen levels are at a depleted state. The idea is to train the body to use fat reserves for fuel instead of the more easily available, but limited, glycogen.


The term fartleks can often be found in training programs and notes from a coach. Fartleks means to play with speed or speed play. Fartleks are runs that consist of higher speeds as well as recovery/lower speeds. Unlike repeats, fartleks have limited structure.


FKT Is the acronym for fastest known time. This is a growing genre of performance, where athletes will take on an established route and compete for the fastest known time. It does not take place at a specific time, and is different from racing because it’s essentially an honor system (plus GPS tracks and other verifications) when it comes to reporting results.


Hardware is another name for medals and trophies.


The acronym LSD can be found on any training schedule. It stands for Long Slow Distance. This run is designed to build endurance.


A niggle is the term used to describe discomfort, annoyance or pain that can prevent an athlete from performing their best. A niggle sometimes develops into an injury.


A pacer is an individual who is hired/volunteers to help runners finish their race at their goal times. Especially common in longer races like marathons and ultramarathons.

Pain Cave

The pain cave takes after its name. When a runner is in the pain cave they have reached the point where completing the race or workout seems next to impossible. Awareness of the world around you is limited to the road or trail in front of you because you’re suffering. The best performances will usually result in spending some time in the pain cave.


Pronation refers to the inward movement of the foot. During pronation the ankle and foot roll inward. Running store employees love to talk about pronation (and overpronation or under-pronation) when recommending shoes.


Recovery Runs are done the day  following a  high intensity run or a long run. These runs are done at a slower pace and shorter distance They allow the body time to recover and a chance to ‘work’ in a fatigued state.


A runcation is a vacation planned around running or a running event.


Having the munchies or food craving as a result of running long distances


A shakeout run is a very easy  short run completed the day before race day. If the race is scheduled in the evening, a shakeout run may be completed earlier that same day.


Do not worry, splits have nothing to do with flexibility. Splits are the time it takes to complete a set distance, either in races or workouts. 


A social media app used to track and share runs with friends and followers.


An individual who runs daily without rest days. Or a runner who completes races for consecutive years.


Strides are used to check in on one’s running form. Strides are done by quickly accelerating and then decelerating while putting emphasis on proper running form. Strides are done in approximately 100m.

The wall

Infamous amongst marathoners, the wall refers to the point in the race where running becomes incredibly difficult due to the time you’ve spent on your feet. It can be a physical and mental barrier that makes you want to slow down, possibly walk or even DNF. Usually occurring somewhere after the mythical 20 mile mark in the 26.2 mile event.


Any race longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). Common distances are 50km, 50 miles, 100k and 100 miles.

If you have made it through the majority of the article, chances are you’re here to stay! Welcome to the running community! The next time we see you on the trails, lined up for a race or in the local running store, we look forward to having a chat with you, runner to runner!

Coaches Eric Ahern and Sanne Lansink co-wrote this article and are both coaches with Team RunRun. To learn more about them, check out Eric’s profile and Sanne’s profile.