How to Translate Running Chat

Before I start this post, I need to point out the obvious.
  • I am a running coach.
  • I like running.

However, despite these obvious facts, I get frustrated with ‘running chat’ at times.  I remember going to Boston in 2014 to run the marathon and being surrounded by runners for a week, non-stop.  The number of conversations I remember overhearing, where I did not have a clue what the runners involved were speaking about, was astounding…. and these are my people!

As runners, we seem to have developed our own language, which nobody outside of running knows about.  We use odd words and acronyms to describe relatively normal things.  For example, we are no longer simply “running fast”, instead we are “putting in an effort” or “running an interval.”  These phrases are scattered throughout our chats as we dissect our latest Garmin stats with fellow runners over coffee.  If you are in this situation, do me a favour and take a quick look at the guys sat on the next table in the cafe.  If they are listening to you, they should look confused.  If so, you are probably engaged in ‘running chat,’ which means that it needs translating for normal folk.

I like things to be simple where possible.  Firstly, I can’t be bothered with overly complex and secondly, I often find that simple works best, no matter what level you are at in the sport.   So as a challenge to myself, I thought it would be interesting to write down some of the phrases that I find myself using as a coach and to explain them as simply as possible, preferably in less than one line.  If these don’t make sense then I haven’t done my job properly and I need you to tell me!  Feel free to email me: [email protected]

So here are my 9 phrases…


Running short distances, fast! (e.g. 400 metres) alternated with slow easy running so you can recover.  The aim is to get fast!

Tempo runs

A faster, sustained period of running.  Should be faster than your easy running, but slower than your intervals.


This is the Swedish word for “speed play” and is a mix of slow, medium and fast running thrown in randomly throughout your run.

Negative splits

Running the second part of your run, faster than the first part.


Short, fast sections (e.g. 100 metres) of an otherwise easy run.


Easy running or walking before your main run. The main aim is to loosen your muscles so they are ready to run.


Slow, easy run after your main run.  Main aim is to loosen your muscles after the tougher running.

Long Run

Longest run of the week and usually at an easy or steady speed.


The days / weeks just before your race, where you cut back on running so your mind and body are fresh and ready to roll!

So there you have my 9 well used phrases.

If you think this is all a little over simplified and that there is a lot more art and science behind each phrase, then you would be 100% right.  However, that is not the point of this post.  In my experience, these are the types of phrases that are taken for granted and aren’t explained at training sessions or in conversation. Unfortunately this means that beginner runners in particular don’t learn the basic tools that they can use to improve their running from the outset.

Hopefully this gives a bite size translation of some of the main ‘running chat’ phrases that beginner or new runners are likely to hear in their first few weeks running, and that they can then go into more depth with coaches, fellow runners or in books and magazines when they are more comfortable to do so.

Happy running!

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