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Running Terms Defined

Have you ever read an article on running only to be left scratching your head?  The runner’s dictionary is full of a dizzying array of strange words and acronyms.  Here, some of these terms are described. 

Aerobic vs. anaerobic training refers to the presence or absence of oxygen during a run, respectively.  Aerobic activity should comprise the majority a runner’s training, while anaerobic workouts are short sprints and intervals that leave an athlete gasping for breath. 

The Beer Mile is a race that has surged in popularity recently.  This 4 lap, 4 beer race, typically held on a track, requires participants to chug a 12 oz, 5% ABV beer at the start of each 400 m interval.  Participants who vomit are forced to run an extra “penalty” lap. 

The acronym BQ denotes “Boston Qualifier.”  Some runners spend years chasing the dream of running the streets of Boston on Patriots Day in late April.    

One of the funniest sounding words in the runner’s lexicon is fartlek, pronounced fart-lick.  This word is of Swedish origin and means “speed play.”  Here, a runner alternates periods of fast and easy running. 

An energy gel is a 100-calorie packet of quick-energy (and sometimes caffeine) that runners carry during long runs and races.  These gels are available in a variety of flavors and are primarily composed of sugars such as maltodextrin.   

An interval workout is one that requires a runner to cover a short distance in a specified amount of time - multiple times - with limited recovery.  For instance, a common interval workout is 12 x 200 m repeats at mile race pace with 45 seconds of recovery in between. 

 “K” isn’t just an annoying text message response but also denotes the kilometer, which is 1000 meters, or .621 miles.  Kilometers are part of the metric system, and most race distances are denoted in “ks,” such as 5k and 10k.    

PB or PR refers to personal best or personal record, respectively.  Runners spend their entire careers trying to set a new PR, which is the fastest time the athlete has ever completed a specified distance.  Technically, PRs can only be set during races. 

A split is not just a term used in gymnastics.  Splits also refer to the amount of time required to run a specified distance.  For instance, during a marathon a runner would be interested in his or her mile splits, meaning the time it took to run each mile of the race.  On the other hand, an 800 m runner might be curious about his or her 200 m splits.      

A tempo run is a workout that involves running a specified distance with specific splits.  For instance, when training for a marathon a runner might run 6 – 10 miles with each mile at his or her goal race pace.     

A common term among marathoners is the wall, which refers to the point in the race where mental and physical energy is depleted.  In most cases, the wall is caused by improper fueling and mental game strategies. 

An ultramarathon is the term used to describe any race distance greater than 26.2 miles.