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Running Terminology

Here are some common terms you'll encounter in the world of running.

10-K pace
10-K pace, when used in a workout to describe how fast to run, is simply the pace of a runner's last 10-K race.

5-K/8-K/10-K
K is for kilometers, 1,000 meters. A 5-K is equal to 3.1 miles; 8-K is 4.96 miles; 10-K is equal to 6.2 miles.

400 meters
Equivalent to a quarter mile or 1 lap around a standard track.

800 meters
Equivalent to a half-mile or 2 laps around a standard track.

aerobic
Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that's sufficiently easy for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and slow enough that lactic acid doesn't appreciably build up in your muscles. Generally, you can sustain a slow aerobic pace for long periods of time, provided you have the endurance to go long distances.

anaerobic
Used to refer to running or other exercise at an intensity that makes it impossible for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver all or most of the oxygen required by your muscles, and fast enough that lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles, thus producing a tired, heavy feeling. The pace associated with anaerobic running cannot be sustained very long.

anaerobic threshold (AT)
The transition phase between aerobic and anaerobic running. Good training will increase AT by teaching the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently, so that less lactic acid is produced. Also known as "lactate threshold."

bonk
The dreaded point (and awful feeling similar to what your body would feel like if you ran into a wall) during a race when your muscle glycogen stores become depleted and a feeling of fatigue engulfs you. Also known as "hitting the wall."

chip time
Finish time, as measured by a computer chip that's usually worn on the shoe.

cool-down
Slow running or jogging done after a workout or competition to loosen muscles and rid the body of lactic acid.

CR
Course record.

cushioning (or shock absorption)
The ability of a shoe to absorb the impact of footstrike.

DNF
Did not finish.

DNS
Did not start.

DOMS
Delayed onset muscle soreness. This type of muscle soreness normally peaks about 48 hours after a particularly intense or long run.

elite runner
An athlete who has reached the highest level in his/her sport.

fartlek
Swedish for "speed play;" variable pace running; a mixture of slow running, running at a moderate pace and short, fast bursts. Fartlek training is a "creative way" to increase speed and endurance.

"hitting the wall"
The dreaded point (and awful feeling similar to what your body would feel like if you ran into a wall) during a race when your muscle glycogen stores become depleted and a feeling of fatigue engulfs you.

intervals
Training in which short, fast "repeats" or "repetitions" often 200 to 800 meters, are alternated with slow "intervals" of jogging for recovery; usually based on a rigid format such as "six times 400 meters fast [these are the repeats] with 400-meter recovery jogs [the intervals]," interval training builds speed and endurance.

junior
According to the IAAF, a junior is any athlete who is under 20 on December 31 of that year. For example, an athlete whose birthday is November 12, 1979 will be a junior in 1998 but not in 1999.

junk miles
Runs at an easy pace inserted into a program in order to reach a weekly or monthly mileage total rather than for any specific benefit. Despite the name, "junk miles" often serve as recovery from harder workouts. The value of "junk miles" is still hotly debated among training theorists.

lactic acid
A substance which forms in the muscles as a result of the incomplete breakdown of glucose. Lactic acid is associated with muscle fatigue and sore muscles.

lactate threshold
The transition phase between aerobic and anaerobic running. Good training will increase AT by teaching the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently, so that less lactic acid is produced. Also known as "anaerobic threshold."

last
A shaped piece of wood or metal on which the shoe is built. The shape of the last determines the shape of the shoe. Shoes are made in three basic shapes: straight, curved and semi-curved, but all three shapes vary from company to company as each company has its own lasts.

lateral
Refers to the outer edge of a shoe.

LSD
LSD is an abbreviation for "Long, Slow Distance," which refers to the practice of running longer distances at an "easy" pace rather than shorter ones to exhaustion. The slower pace allows the runner to go longer and, therefore (supposedly), gain more fitness.

marathon
26.2 miles; According to legend, in 490 B.C., a Greek soldier name Philippides ran the distance from the site of the battle of Marathon to Athens, where he died after the Greek victory over the Persians.

master
An athlete 40 years of age or older is designated a "master" in the U.S. Many other countries use the term "veteran."

maximum heart rate
The highest heart-rate reached during a specified period of time.

medial
Referring to the inner side (or arch side) of a shoe.

"metric mile"
1500m, the international racing distance closest to the imperial mile.

midsole
The area of the shoe between the upper and outsole that's primarily responsible for the shoe's cushioning. Most midsoles are made of foams: either EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or polyurethane. EVA is lighter and more flexible than polyurethane, but it also breaks down more quickly. Many midsoles also have additional cushioning elements such as air, gel and various embedded plastic units.

mile
1609 meters, 5280 feet, or 1760 yards. Note: 1600m is not a mile.

motion control
The ability of a shoe to limit overpronation.

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

NR
National record.

outsole
The material, usually made of hard carbon rubber, on the bottom of most running shoes; the layer of the shoe that contacts the ground.

overpronation
The excessive inward roll of the foot before toe-off. Overpronation is believed to be the cause of many running injuries.

pick-ups
Accelerations done during a run, normally done in shorter durations than fartleks. Pick-ups are simply another way to spice up what would otherwise be an easy-run day.

plyometrics
Bounding exercises; any jumping exercise in which landing followed by a jump occurs.

post (or medial post)
Firmer density of midsole material added to the inner side of the shoe. A post is designed to reduce overpronation.

prep
In the U.S., a high school athlete. From the term "preparatory school," a school for preparing for college. Slightly different from the IAAF definition of "Junior."

pronation
Pronation begins immediately after the heel contacts the ground. It is a normal and necessary motion for walking or running. Pronation is the distinctive, inward roll of the foot as the arch collapses.

PR/PB
Personal record/personal best.

repeats
Training in which short, fast "repeats" or "repetitions" often 200 to 800 meters, are alternated with slow "intervals" of jogging for recovery; usually based on a rigid format such as "six times 400 meters fast [these are the repeats] with 400-meter recovery jogs [the intervals]," interval training builds speed and endurance. Also known as "intervals."

ride
The ability of a shoe to provide a smooth transfer of a runner's weight from heel-strike to toe-off. Ride is a largely subjective quality, but shoe wearers know it when a shoe has or lacks a good ride.

runner's high
A feeling, usually unexpected, of exhilaration and well-being directly associated with vigorous running; apparently related to the secretion of endorphins.

running economy
Refers to how much oxygen you use when you run. When you improve your economy, you are able to run at a smaller percentage of max VO2 (your maximum rate of oxygen utilization).

splits
Refers to your times at mile markers or other pre-planned checkpoints along the way to the finish line.

stability
The ability of a shoe to resist excessive foot motion

strides
Short, fast, but controlled runs of 50 to 150 meters. Strides, which are used both in training and to warm up before a race, build speed and efficiency.

supination
The opposite of pronation. It's an outward rolling of the forefoot that naturally occurs during the stride cycle at toe-off. Oversupination occurs when the foot remains on its outside edge after heel strike instead of pronating. A true oversupinating foot underpronates or does not pronate at all, so it doesn't absorb shock well. It is a rare condition occurring in less than 1 percent of the running population.

taper
Runners usually cut back mileage (or taper) one day to three weeks (depending on race distance) before a big race. Tapering helps muscles rest so that they are ready for peak performance on race day.

target heart rate
A range of heart rate reached during aerobic training, which enables an athlete to gain maximum benefit.

tempo runs
Sustained effort training runs, usually 20 to 30 minutes in length, at 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace. Another way to gauge the pace of tempo runs: a pace about midway between short-interval training speed and your easy running pace.

threshold runs
Runs of 5 to 20 minutes at a pace just a little slower than your 10-K racing pace; Threshold pace is roughly equivalent to what exercise physiologists call "lactate threshold," or the point at which your muscles start fatiguing at a rapid rate. Running at or near lactate threshold is believed to raise your lactate threshold, which should allow you to run faster in the future.

toebox
The front portion of a shoe's upper. A wide toebox allows plenty of room for the toes to spread.

underpronator
Underpronation is less common than overpronation. The shoes of underpronators show outsole wear on the lateral (outer) side not just at the heel but all the way up to the forefoot. Typically, underpronators tend to break down the heel counters of their shoes on the lateral side.

upper
The leather or mesh material that encloses the foot.

veteran
International term similar to "master" in the U.S. According to the IAAF, men become "veterans" on their 40th birthday; women, on their 35th birthday.

VO2Max (maximal oxygen consumption)
The maximal amount of oxygen that a person can extract from the atmosphere and then transport and use in the body's tissues.

wall
See "hitting the wall."

warm-up
Five to twenty minutes of easy jogging/walking before a race or a workout. The point of a warm-up is to raise one's heart rate so the body (and its muscles) are looser before a tough workout begins.

"world best"
A recorded best time for an event in which formal world records are not kept. For instance, the fastest time at 150m, a non-standard distance, is a "world best" rather than a "world record." Similar distinctions are made for road races which do not meet certain standards, such as races with excessive amounts of downhill.

WR
World record.