Running Terms Made Simple


The main reason I don’t plan my posts too far in advance is because I always end up having a random thought or experience which we need to discuss immediately.

Tuesdays are typically topic/advice type posts over here and while I thought that I wanted to talk in one direction today, we are going in another.

topic tuesday running

I took my new running shoes out for a spin yesterday morning.

I originally thought yesterday’s workout would consist of cross training inside on the elliptical machine since I had run a few days in a row but that was quickly canceled when I purchased the new sneakers on Sunday because running in them for the first time really couldn’t wait.

adidas adistar boost

My father was surprised I didn’t run a mile immediately after bringing the new shoes home on Sunday.

Would you have run quick to try them out? It didn’t even cross my mind probably because it was late afternoon when I arrived home and I don’t run in the afternoon.

Anyway, yesterday’s run. The plan was to take it easy for a few miles since I logged a lot of miles over the last few days so I just wanted to enjoy the new shoes and feel them out.

I certainly didn’t plan on running 5.75 miles in negative splits.

As my current average pace chimed in my ear after each mile, it was clear that I was getting faster and faster naturally and easily.

I decided at mile four that I must continue that negative pattern so that my entire run was in negative split fashion because the thought of it made me happy since I wasn’t really trying and felt great.

In my head for that last mile, I related myself to a pitcher in baseball realizing he was close to securing a no-hitter.

It’s like you obviously always want it but didn’t go out there looking for it but suddenly you find yourself in the ninth inning oh so close without giving up a hit.

You might be wondering what a negative split is, which is the point of my post.

There are so many running terms that sound all technical, complicated and foreign.

As intelligent as I am (really, I am quite smart and that’s okay to admit because it is good for your self-esteem to call yourself smart) I hate technical terms, definitions and descriptions.

Please explain things to me using simple non-SAT words and phrases with words in the definition which don’t require me to use a dictionary just to further define what we are looking to understand in the first place.

Did you know that we better understand and retain information when we are able to comprehend and apply the meaning to our real life experiences?

In the event you like things explained to you in child-like terms like me, I thought we would look at a couple of common running terms today and hopefully explain them in a language you understand.

Negative Splits:

When each interval (or mile) is run at a faster pace than the last.

For example, my run yesterday looked something like this:

Mile One: 9:30 min/mile

Mile Two: 9:11 min/mile

Mile Three: 9:06 min/mile

Mile Four: 8:45 min/mile

Mile Five: 8:04 min/mile

Do you follow?

Running in negative splits shows me that I didn’t start out too fast, gave myself some time to warm-up and adjust which kept me from burning out too quickly.

Lately I have been running in negative splits a lot more often than I used to I think because I have gotten better at forcing myself to start slower to get the blood flowing, conserve some energy and then spend it later in the runs.

I have certainly noticed in my longer runs that rather than feel fatigued let’s say at mile nine, I am still feeling energized and raring to go.

I really like this link which goes a little more in-depth about negative splits. Read it. The information is simple to comprehend.


The definition of Fartlek in Swedish is “Speed Play” but I am not Swedish and only speak Swedish when selecting my fish.

I like the smaller red ones opposed to the larger ones because the larger ones get stuck in my teeth more often.

In simple terms, a fartlek type of run combines continuous training with interval training. Typically run for 40-60 minutes (obviously you can do more/less), you break up the run by sprinting, jogging and then sprinting again.

I often run fartleks without even realizing. I find these types of runs terrific for getting a good workout in and offering some balance in that you aren’t running super fast for the entire run since you have some slower paced lengths built-in between.

I think fartleks have helped me to build my endurance as well as my ability to handle the faster speeds for longer lengths of time.

This link is nice for explaining fartleks more in-depth without overwhelming your reading comprehension skills.

Tempo Runs:

The language associated with explaining tempo runs definitely gets technical since it is often referred to as an anaerobic-threshold run or lactate-threshold run.

They lose me at terms like anaerobic-thresholds and lactate-thresholds.

I really am smart, I swear it.

So let’s try to understand these thresholds.

Threshold pace is the effort level just below which the body’s ability to clear lactate, a by-product of carbohydrate metabolism, can no longer keep up with lactate production.

Uh huh.

So that burning feeling in your legs? That’s the lactate threshold. By incorporating tempo runs into your routine (structured, faster-paced miles), you are teaching your body to adapt and clear out the lactate build up quicker which will prevent that burning feeling.

Tempo runs also increase your VO2 max which simply means increasing your ability to take in oxygen to make energy in your muscles.

A tempo run is run at a “comfortable-hard” pace, typically 25-30 seconds per mile slower than current 5k race pace.

This link goes totally in-depth on tempo runs. Good luck.

An easier read, in simple terms is here.

Did you know that the adolescent brain can only focus and retain information for a super short period of time? This is the main reason that lessons and classroom discussions are held to short periods per subject matter.

I tend to think that the same applies to adults. We can only focus and retain a certain amount of information at once so for this reason, we are stopping at these three definitions for today.

I feel like I should be sitting in a classroom. If I had a bell, I guess this is where it would ring but I find that sound obnoxious and sometimes scary if you are not totally expecting it to go off.

I also find fruit flies obnoxious. That’s what I keep telling the flies as they look at my bananas on the kitchen counter.

No questions today. I feel like questions would seem like homework after this school-like lecture. Just tell me something random instead.





Follow on Bloglovin


  1. says

    Love this, especially the distinction between types of Swedish fish. I think the smaller ones taste better, too. And they’re just adorable, and adorable things are always more fun. Tempo runs have always made me scratch my head, but I’ve been running them for years, so I guess I kind of know what they are…? And hooray for negative splits in fancy new shoes!!
    Alexis @ Run Crush recently posted…Lessons from College XCMy Profile

  2. says

    I think its great you don’t plan out ahead. I think that works best too, as the best posts are those who just come to you….just like when writing a book or song, people have to wait for inspiration to hit! You are an artist daaaarrling haha!

    This post will be so handy to new runners, I know I use the jargon all the time, and people probably do the old smile and nod….even though I never know if they are doing it cause they can’t understand my accent….haha that happens a lot too!
    tina Muir recently posted…Adapting to Weather Changes: HumidityMy Profile

  3. says

    I actually really enjoyed this post, Meredith- because I actually follow quite a few running blogs (and despise running…sorry :)) but now I can relate to much of the terminology thrown around! Something random…..I always save up wearing new shoes then as soon as there is a scrap of dirt…Boom. torture.
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…Paleo Sweet and Sour MeatballsMy Profile

    • says

      Nothing worse than protecting the shoes to only get dirt on them. I had that this winter with my neon yellow Adidas. Ruined pretty quickly. It was sad. I am glad I cleared up some of those running terms. Even for a runner like me, they are confusing.

  4. says

    I can’t plan my posts too far in advance either. One, because I just don’t have time and two, because (like you) something might come up the day before or morning of that I want to write about. Love your new kicks!

    • says

      I hope it goes well for you too! I am hopefully the new shoes continue to work for me. I never like to say much after one run because it just isn’t enough to show me that they are worthy.

  5. says

    Good job with the negative splits! I used to always just try for them but now I’m a bit lazier and I’m just maintaining a consistent pace (this is supposed to change Sunday! 18k with negative splits planned by the coach haha). I’m a little embarrassed to say I never bothered to look up what a fratlek was haha I saw the jokes and I saw how people “benefited” from it but I was like “I think I’ll stick to doing tempos” since I don’t like to over complicate my training plan. So thanks for explaining that and saving me googling time! 😉
    Carmy recently posted…Time for some Real Talk…My Profile

    • says

      I am with you – never like to overcomplicate the plan or even think twice about how to structure my runs. Of course we need to incorporate different trypes of runs and paces but I never get all that serious about it. But that’s just me and maybe I should rethink the strategy at some point.

  6. says

    I just smile and nod when people start busting out the technical running terms. You’d think that after years and years of blog reading, I’d actually pick up on them, but I think my brain automatically glosses over those parts. Oops. And is it horribly immature of me that the word “fartlek” just makes me want to laugh?
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. vanilla almond butter protein granola .My Profile