Encyclopedia of Runningness

The Born to Plod Vaguely Alphabetical Encyclpedia of Runningness



A bandit is someone who takes part in a race without bothering with the hassle of signing up for it or paying. The worst bandits wear fake race numbers and even pick up goodie bags and medals at the end. The nature of large races means that it’s practically impossible to stop a determined bandit from slipping past the barriers and onto the route at some point. I’ve written to the IAAF suggesting the implementation of sniper towers and razor wire, and for marshals to be allowed to shoot people with a Taser if they look a bit shifty. I haven’t heard back from them yet.

Barefoot running

Normal running, but for people who aren’t afraid of dog poo. Not to be confused with…

Trail running

Normal running, but for people who aren’t afraid of deer poo. Not to be confused with…

Fell running

Trail running with more cagoules and Kendal mint-cake.


I once captured Scott Jurek by laying a trail of little shiny medals that led into a cardboard box propped up by a stick, Wiley Coyote style.

Not really. But I think most runners would agree that a race medal is a lure that takes on almost supernatural properties. The medals will often be cheap and generic, with no distinction between 10th place and 10000th, but that’s not the point. It’s what the medal represents: I did it. I endured the training, I conquered the miles, and regardless of my finishing time, I won.


CaniX (also known as CaniCross) is basically a combination of running and dog walking. I’ve never tried it, but like to imagine myself running carefree along a beach, my faithful furry companion bounding joyfully along beside me; the two of us sharing an unspoken primal bond of brotherhood, undaunted by however many miles may lay ahead. Of course, the reality would look a lot less like a soft-focus Bodyform advert and a lot more like a red-faced bloke being swearily dragged round a park by an Irish Wolfhound. Also, I don’t own a dog.


The art of increasing carbohydrate intake in the days prior to a big race, thereby ensuring that the body’s glycogen levels are fully stocked up. Some athletes are so focussed on perfecting this process that they have never even had the opportunity to run so much as a single step, and instead dedicate every spare moment to shuffling off in the direction of Greggs to see how many sausage rolls they can carb-load before Homes Under the Hammer starts.


To be “chicked” is to be beaten by a female in an event that’s traditionally male-dominated, such as running, weight-lifting or the finals of the 2007 East Yorkshire men-only peeing-standing-up championship. Since taking up running, I’ve become accustomed to being not only chicked, but also tortoised, nanned and, on one rainy September afternoon, Christopher Biggins-ed.


“Did Not Finish”. When someone starts a race but doesn’t finish, this is how they’ll be listed in the results. Runners will always beat themselves up over a DNF, but there’s no shame in it. “Did Not Finish is greater than Did Not Start” is a popular phrase among runners, and is really easy to say until you DNF. There are many reasons for a DNF, including injury, exhaustion and being Katie Price.


“Eaten By Bears”. Similar to DNF, but a bit more specific.


These are the people who harbour such deep, burning hatred for people dressed in chicken costumes that they run at a 5 minute/mile pace just to avoid having to be anywhere near them during a race.


This is a Swedish word that translates as “Cunning Swedish joke in which we come up with the rudest sounding word we can, and tell the rest of the world that it means Speed Play (a flexible, less structured form of interval training). We can then feel superior to them as they fall around giggling like 9 year olds”


Not a running term, but the sort of noise one might make whenever one hears the word “Fartlek”.


To some runners (i.e. me), gadgets are as essential as trainers or knees. GPS watches, head torches, hydration systems, wrist-mounted elk detectors, the list is endless. I sometimes think that my 5k time would be considerably faster if I weren’t pushing a wheelbarrow of shiny technology in front of me like I’d just ram-raided Currys.


These packets of fruity goo provide a quick hit of carbohydrates, which comes in handy on a longer run when your glycogen levels start to get depleted and The Wall looms. Some also have caffeine in them for an added boost, and most taste like cough medicine. I’ve found that if I carry twenty or so gels on my belt and nibble a cheese sandwich while running, most people mistake me for an ultra runner and don’t bat an eyelid at my slow pace or haunted expression.


Some of you might already know what these are – the knobbly fellows that sometimes pop up during a run to make your legs fall off. In my limited but swear-filled forays into hill running I’ve developed the uncanny ability to gauge my altitude just by measuring the saltiness of my tears.


It’s very important to get your hydration right. For example, during a race, water should be carried in a bottle or a Camelbak. Never a freshly boiled kettle.


Long Slow Run. An essential component of most training programmes. In some magical way that I haven’t quite worked out yet, running slowly actually makes the pace of your shorter runs much quicker. Not to be confused with LSD, which is something else entirely. The easiest way to distinguish between the two is by this simple formula:

Evil little goblins are chewing your eyeballs = LSD.

Evil little goblins are chewing your knees = LSR.

Jogger’s nipple

A painful affliction caused by friction between nipple and clothing. Every runner learns very early on that a simple cotton T-shirt transforms into a thing of pure evil after a couple of sweaty miles. It can be prevented in a number of ways: lubricant, tape/plasters or (if you’re a man, or an especially-liberated lady) simply running bare-chested. You probably shouldn’t combine all three, unless you want to end up on some sort of list.

“Jogger’s Nipple” is also a great name for a race horse.

Negative split

When you pace yourself so that the second half of a race is quicker than the first. It’s generally accepted that the negative split is the better strategy, albeit easier said than done. It also fits neatly onto my list of “things that are a bit too serious to think about during a run and which distract me from more important stuff like looking at clouds and grinning like an idiot. Not to be confused with…

Banana split

If you finish a marathon with a banana split it doesn’t mean you’ve done well, it means you’ve taken a wrong turn and have probably just ruined a child’s birthday party.

Obstacle event

Like any other race, but with added bonus of obstacles such as walls, zipwires, electrified crocodile pits and oh-so-very-much mud. Of course, the hardest obstacle to get past is the mass of competitors; a sea of corporate team building types, all high-fiving each other and calling each other “dog”. These races usually have badass names like “Muddy Blitzkrieg Mudmageddon 2014”, “Hell-Panther Kamikaze Soul-Smasher 5k” and “The Upper Laxton Sodomiser”.


A Paarlauf (translation:  “pair run”) is a training drill which you do in pairs, usually on a running track. One of you runs flat out for a set distance (e.g. 200m) while the other does a jogging recovery until it’s time to swap over. A few things to bear in mind:

  1. It’s considered unsporting to hide up a tree when it’s your turn to take over the fast bit.
  2. This is an excellent training drill to do with your imaginary friend.
  3. Always make sure the other person knows they’re taking part in a paarlauf. Don’t just sprint up behind a random jogger and shout “GO GO GO! MOVE!!!” at them.
  4. I think Paarlauf is also the name of an Ikea footstool.

Running clubs

I keep promising to join my local running club, but I haven’t got round to it yet so I’ll have to base this all on speculation. I know they like wearing vests. And running. I’m guessing there might be some element of secret handshaking and singing the club anthem at the start of every run.


A large pig-shaped mammal indigenous to South America.

Also the period before a long race when you cut out or greatly reduce exercise, thereby giving your body a chance to rest and prepare itself by renewing its stores of glycogen and other running soup. A typical taper will last for around a week or two, but my training regime often resembles one big taper, which surely means I’m some sort of super-athlete.

Tempo run

This one has always confused me, and whenever I think I’ve got the definitive answer to “what is a tempo run” something else pops up and confuses me all over again. It seems that pretty much everyone who’s even vaguely regarded as an authority on running will have their own idea of what a tempo run is, but the one thing they all (infuriatingly) agree on is that if you get it wrong you’re wasting your time. Jack Daniels (not that one) is pretty much the Dungeon Master of running science, and he describes tempo runs thusly… “A tempo run is nothing more than 20 minutes of steady running at threshold pace”. What’s threshold pace? Well, Running Times has this to say… “Without getting too technical, 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”. Yeah, thanks for that chaps, really helpful. You clearly used the words “without getting too technical” to make yourselves sound clever so that girls would fancy you. So I’ve taken the simple route of declaring a tempo run as anything reasonably nippy that doesn’t fit into my definition of intervals, LSR or an actual race.


When you finish a race, you get a finishing time. Ha! If only life were that simple. No, in fact you’ll have several to choose from:

Gun time: The time that has elapsed from the moment the starting pistol (or klaxon, or whistle, or in some rare cases the starting bassoon) goes off to the moment you cross the finish line. Your starting position will obviously be a factor in this, and if you’re at the back of the pack in a big race it’s not uncommon to spend 10 minutes or more getting to the start line once the race begins. Interestingly, this means that if I’d entered one of these races very early on in my running career, I would have collapsed in a sweaty heap approximately 100 yards before the start line.

Chip time: This is generally regarded as the official result. An electronic chip (usually worn on your shoe – I’m guessing barefoot runners have to clench it between their buttocks and hope for the best) records the moment you cross a special pad on the start and finish line. This gives a more accurate race result for Johnny Backofthepack.

Watch time: Those of us who wear a small slab of GPS wizardry on our wrist will have another time to ponder over. The watch time (also known as Garmin time) measures the time and distance elapsed from the moment you press the start button on your device to the moment you press stop. These button-presses should ideally coincide with the start/finish lines for obvious reasons. It’s worth noting that even if the buttons are pressed the very moment you step on the chip mats, the results may differ slightly from the chip time. This is due to slight inaccuracies in the satellite data as well as any deviation from a strict racing line on the course (for instance, if you stick to the outside of the track on a circular 10k route your watch could easily tell you that you’ve covered 10.5k by the time you cross the finish line). Before proudly showing off your GPS results, it’s worth remembering that your watch will have no qualms about telling everyone how all those times you veered away from the designated route in order to visit adult bookshops and pee in other people’s front gardens.

Hammer time: Now you’re just being silly.


In the world of running, toenails are as permanent a fixture as ice cubes in a sauna. It’s best to resign yourself to the fact that, at some point in your running career, at least one of them will grow tired of being attached to you and will make a break for it. As icky as this may sound to anyone outside our community, among runners this is seen as a rite of passage and something to be lauded. Some runners actually collect discarded toenails and make necklaces out of them. Nobody talks to these runners.


An event that incorporates running, swimming and cycling. I’ve never tried it, for the simple reason that it’s hard enough sucking at one sport and I don’t feel quite ready to suck at three yet. The feeling you get when your running buddies start getting into triathlons is identical to the feeling you get when your childhood friends go off to college and start hanging round with a bunch of people who are much cooler than you and like bands you’ve never heard of.

I’m tempted to start my own version of the triathlon, with the events consisting of “jogging”, “meandering” and “cake”.

Ultra Marathon

Technically, any run over 26.2 miles is an ultra-marathon, but some of the biggies are 100 miles or more. As well as the insane mileage, Ultra running is also renowned for its tight-knit inclusive atmosphere, with friendships forged in sweat.

Well, that and the chafing.

Water station (elite marathon runners on the telly)

  1. Glide up to water station
  2. Without breaking pace, snatch up a paper cup of water
  3. Drink water
  4. Toss empty cup to the side of the road

Water stations (every other runner)

  1. Blunder diagonally across road towards water station
  2. Stop to pick up a paper cup of water
  3. Have three other runners slam into the back of you
  4. Jog away from the water station, sloshing half of the water over your shoes
  5. Try to drink water. Get most of it up your nose and the rest down your front
  6. None must enter your mouth under any circumstances
  7. Accidentally hit large angry-looking gentleman in the face with empty cup
  8. Run a bit faster

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