Learning the running lingo
May 25th, 2012
07:35 AM ET

Learning the running lingo

Did that fartlek workout lead to a major bonk instead of runner’s high? Need a glossary just to understand what we’re talking about? We demystify some of the most common running terms.


Verb: To become utterly exhausted and depleted and unable to keep moving forward at a desired pace. This occurs when your glycogen stores are depleted.

Example: “I didn’t think I’d bonk so hard during the race, but it felt like I hit a brick wall and my legs were made of concrete.”

Triathlete: Running vs. triathlon running


Noun: A Swedish word that means “speedplay.” A run where you speed up and slow down several different times during the workout. You must keep running during the entire workout for it to be considered a fartlek.

Example: “Our fartlek was 10×90 seconds with one minute of jogging in between.”


Noun: Set distances or times that are meant to be run fast and followed by periods of rest.

Example: “Yesterday I did three one-mile intervals in the park with six minutes rest between each.”

Triathlete: Injured? Give deep water running a try

Junk miles

Noun: Miles you get in just to keep your weekly mileage high. Some coaches believe that junk miles make you stronger, while others believe that they do little else than contribute to injury.

Example: “I was putting a lot of miles into the bank while training for Ironman, while my teammate wasn’t concerned about getting in junk miles.”


Acronym: “Long slow distance.” This is a run you do to build your aerobic capacity.

Example: “My LSD run was 20 miles this week.”

Triathlete: Five drills for better running

Negative split

Verb: To finish the second half of your interval or race faster than the first.

Example: “I negative split the two-mile interval with a 5:20 and then a 5:15 mile.”

Recovery run

Noun: To run at an extremely easy pace, which pushes blood through your muscles and allows them to recover more quickly than they would if you did nothing.

Example: “I’m really sore from bonking in that race - I need to get outside and do a recovery run.”

Runner’s high

Noun: A feeling that runners sometimes get after a brutal workout or race, or after a long run. During a runner’s high, you feel invincible, unstoppable. When this occurs during a workout you feel like you’re running effortlessly and could go for miles on end.

Example: “Work’s been kicking my butt lately - I need to go for an interval workout and get a runner’s high.”


Noun: Short, quick runs that are 50 to 100 meters in length. They should be run at a pace that is fast, but not so fast that you’re losing your form. They’re meant to help you warm up for a race or workout and to help you get the feeling of running fast.

Example: “If I don’t run strides before a race, I can’t seem to hit my rhythm.”

soundoff (685 Responses)
  1. Den

    It's always good to have a Taper or better yet a double Taper before a race. Let us never forget the famous Double Taper of George Brett fame...

    May 25, 2012 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. harry bedurcci

    Who writes this stuff? "Set distances or times that are meant to be RAN fast and followed by periods of rest." That should have been WROTE better, don't you think?

    May 25, 2012 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jacque Wilson

      Thank you for catching that mistake - it's been fixed and our partners at Triathlete magazine have been notified.

      May 25, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  3. ruben0527

    If Taper is a verb, why is it used as a noun in the example?

    May 25, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jacque Wilson

      You're right! Tapering is a verb and should have been used as such in the example. We've deleted that entry from this list. Can you think of a better way to use it in a sentence for those readers out there still wondering?

      May 25, 2012 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • Eddie

      Taper is both a noun and a verb. If you were to examine a pair of tapered-leg jeans, you could describe the taper in terms of its aspect width and length, etc. As in, "I think the taper of these jeans is too extreme." The taper in a workout season is both the sense that the intensity of workouts is being tapered from a high to a relative low as well as vernacular to describe the chunk of time in itself. Since many coaches tailor the series of workouts individually to their athletes, some athletes may refer to it as "my taper" which is more a reflection of the workout plan as a whole.

      May 25, 2012 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
  4. Ree

    Most of these words are not just 'running lingo', but are used in a variety of sports and other fitness activities.

    May 25, 2012 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Techno Viking

      Thanks for mentioning this. We use most of these terms in biking too

      May 25, 2012 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    Smart and insightful – having read this article, my life is now complete.

    May 25, 2012 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. SilentBoy741

    Bonk: To hit one's head unexpectedly. Also, a slang term for sexual activity, which makes the first "example" especially funny.

    Taper: It's a beer glass.

    May 25, 2012 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. 2stents

    The definitions are not bad, but the examples are sentences that I am certain have never been uttered by any runner.

    May 25, 2012 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JJ

    Runners Trots - This is a diarrhea brought on by long distance running. Very common ailment.

    Leg Warmer - This is when you have to urinate, but don't want to ruin the PR you have going in the marathon (or 5k)

    Red Nip Streaks - A shirt doesn't have to be all that abrasive to cause this when you are doing 26.2 miles

    May 25, 2012 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SilentBoy741

      Something tells me that you've got a better article in you than Jacque did.

      May 27, 2012 at 21:29 | Report abuse |
  9. Fri G


    May 26, 2012 at 05:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. SeeBee

    Taper mouth shut. She's just babbling.

    May 26, 2012 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rob

    Couldn't taper, or a variation of the word, be a noun, verb, and adjective? See below

    noun: My taper didn't work this year.
    verb: I tapered for this race.
    adj: The tapered runner beat all of the untapered runners.

    just sayin'...

    May 26, 2012 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dhonatas

      It seems weird to me that they keep changing stuff in the orgianil trilogy. There were a few changes in that special VHS release in the late 90 s, now they are changing even more things (to match the prequels, I guess). People LOVE the orgianils; they ought to offer that, too and maybe they will, in five or ten years (not now, 'cause this way they can get people to buy BOTH sets).

      November 16, 2012 at 01:33 | Report abuse |
  12. Iceman

    These are terms used in the 70's.

    May 26, 2012 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. The_Mick

    Of course, there are so many other runner's terms (rabbit, tempo run, stride frequency, etc.) that not one article can include them all without getting a little boring, but this sample is a nice place to start.

    May 26, 2012 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Glenn

    In all of my years of running, I have never heard of a bonk. Funny

    May 26, 2012 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • danny

      The possibility of a good bonk would inspire me to run run.

      May 27, 2012 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
  15. Bo Jacksonian

    Very silly article. Fluff piece written by a lifestyle writer.

    May 27, 2012 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. 30lbsbefore30yrsold

    Forgot to mention that all important phrase that non-runners don't know. PR!!!!! (Personal Record)

    May 27, 2012 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Johnny

    Where's the slang for crapping your pants mid-stride?

    May 27, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SilentBoy741

      I believe you'll find that in the "Politics" section.

      May 27, 2012 at 21:31 | Report abuse |
  18. Ted William's Body

    What about puke? I ran so hard I puked.

    May 27, 2012 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Scottro

    OR,interval could have been defined correctly as the recovery period between the repeated distances.

    May 27, 2012 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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