Thursday, May 16, 2013

Running Words: A Primer

Before I started running, I was pretty sure that I had a firm grasp on the English language.  It was, after all, my first language, and  I've been speaking it since birth.  (Ok, maybe not birth.  But fairly soon after. I'm a gabber!)   Not only am I fluent in English, but I'm familiar with many abbreviations and acronyms, and a fair share of "slang" and pop culture idioms, as well.  

So when someone mentions The Wall, I know immediately that they're talking about Pink Floyd.  A Clydesdale is a gorgeous horse, and a brick is something that's used in the creation of buildings and homes.  I'm no dummy, those are easy!

Except, apparently, runners have their own language.  PB does not stand for peanut butter.  When someone talks about "the pack," they are not worried about putting things in their suitcase for an upcoming trip, and the Magic Mile?  No longer a British movie made in 2005.  

At the tender age of 33, I had to learn a whole new language.  Fortunately for you, I've developed a little list of running words and their meanings.  So feel free to use it as a guide, a cheat sheet, if you will, and maybe you'll be spared the embarrassment of asking "What the hell are you people talking about?"   Because, really.  It's all English, don'tcha know?   (Well, except "fartlek."   But we'll get to that.)

So, here you are.  A running primer:

  • Magic Mile - NOT a British movie, but instead a method by which to determine pace, developed by Jeff Galloway
  • PB - "Personal Best" (also sometimes called a PR - personal record)  This is used when discussing race times.  
  • Brick - not a building material, but a training method.  A "brick" is a run and a bike ride, back-to-back.  Often undertaken in preparation for a triathlon, or a duathlon. 
  • Surge - big wave during a storm  Pulling ahead of your competition in a race
  • Pack - A group of runners in a race.  Often there is a lead pack, "the pack," and then the "back of the pack" (<--- Where I normally am)
  • Clydesdale - Horse? Of course not.  In running a Clydesdale is any male competitor weighing over 200 lbs.  (The female version of this is an Athena, and the weight classification is 150 lbs) 
  • The Wall - Pink Floyd album. (No, really!) And, also, apparently, what you might "hit" at mile 20 of a marathon. 
  • Fartlek - A Swedish word that runners have co-opted. A fun, unstructured way to do speed work.  
  • DNS -  "Did not start" - what happens when you sign up for a race, then don't participate.
  • DNF - "Did not finish" - what happens when you sign up for a race, start it, then either break something, vomit, pass out, get lost, etc, etc.  
  • DFL - "Dead f*cking last"  - what some people live in fear of being, and something I am waiting to experience.   
  • Negative Split - has nothing to do with mean bananas.  Crazy, right?  When you have "negative splits," it means that you ran the second half of a run or race faster than the first half.  
  • Ultra - something crazy people do.  Any race distance over marathon length. 

There are others, but why overwhelm you? I'm sure you're still trying to figure out how something with "fart" in it could be considered a good thing.  So. There you go.  You learned something today!  You're welcome.


  1. Ha! I love this muchly. We really do seem to speak in codes, don't we?

    1. Yes, we do! Fortunately there's no secret handshake. So bad at those! ;-)

  2. I had not heard of "DFL" (although that is a fear of mine) or "the brick". Fun list!

    1. When you're as slow as I am, the term DFL comes up a lot. LOL Of course, I also have friends with foul mouths. Apologies to my mother! =)


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