12 Common Running Terms for Beginners

New to running? Or just starting to read up on training plans?  There are probably a lot of running-specific terms that you have never heard before.  Or maybe you’ve heard it, but you’re not entirely sure what it means?  Runners do seem to have their own language, so…

Here are 12 running definitions to help you out!

Running Vocabulary

While this list is not at all comprehensive, it does contain most of the terms that I myself have had to look up.

1. Race Distances – This is mainly for you Americans that don’t use the metric system, because I didn’t automatically know what a 5k meant when a friend asked if I wanted to sign up for one.  🙂

400m – .25 miles, or one lap around a track

5k – 3.1 miles

10k – 6.2 miles

Half marathon – 13.1 miles

Marathon – 26.2 miles

Ultra – Any distance greater than a marathon.

2. PR/PB – Stands for Personal Record/Personal Best.  This is your best time for a given distance.  (While a course PR would be your best time for a particular race).

3. DNF/DNS – Did not finish/ Did not start (Neither one is much fun).

4. Strides – Short bursts of quick running.  Typically strides are 60-150m, and can be part of a warm up before a race, or done at the end of a run.

5. Fartleks – As funny as that term sounds, fartleks are actually really useful.  Fartlek is a swedish term for “speed play.”  Basically, it is alternating between a fast pace and a slower, easier pace.  Fartleks are unstructured, as opposed to…

6. Intervals – Short hard effort running with periods (or intervals) of rest in between.  For example, you could run 2 min at a hard effort, and then walk or jog for 2 or 3 minutes while you catch your breath.

7. Tempo Runs – Another type of speed work, but instead you are holding a steady, challenging pace.  If it’s hard to hold a conversation, you’re probably running at the right pace.

8. LSD – Long, Slow Distance.  This is my favorite type of run.  The long run is not about running fast, but instead it is used to increase your distances, or “time on your feet.”  The distance of a long, slow run depends on what race you’re training for…   (for example, I usually work up to 22 miles before a marathon, and about 12-13 miles before a half).

9. Splits – Splits are a run divided into smaller parts.   Usually when looking at your splits, you are looking at each mile.  Most runners aim for Negative Splits, that basically means the second half of your run is faster than the first half.

10.  Taper – A taper is gradually easing up on your training leading up to your big race.   In the weeks leading up to your race, you will want to decrease the distance, or intensity of your runs.  That way you won’t be going into your big race exhausted from hard training.

11. BQ – Boston Qualifier.  A BQ is a marathon finish time that is fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  (for example, as a 35 year old woman, I would need to finish under 3hours 40 min).  Many marathoners have BQ goals!  (Me?  I’m not so much chasing a BQ, I’ll just wait until I’m old enough that the BQ catches up to me).  😉

Which leads me to…

12.  Masters – Age group.  Generally a runner 4o yrs old, or older is considered a “master.”

Hope this is helpful to you!

What running terminology would you add to this list?  Does Fartlek still make you giggle?  😉  

Today I am excited to once again link up with Mar on the RunEat Pray Run DC, and You Signed Up for What?! for the Friday Five (with 7 extra thrown in for good measure)!  Make sure you check out some of the other great posts in the link up!



  1. Great list, Karen! I remember the first time I heard the word “fartlek” – I still chuckle when I heard the word and can only imagine what non-runners think when they hear runners discussing fartlek workouts.

  2. I ran my first 8k the other mth and for the longest time I couldn’t remember how long that race distance was while I was running it. I thought it was around four miles and it ended up being closer to five. That last half mile was brutal!

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