Ultimate Guide for Running Lingo

Running Paces & Often-Used Terms

Depending on who you talk to, runners and coaches alike, have different terminology for describing the same pace or effort a runner can run at. What one coach calls “floating pace” another may call it “easy tempo pace”. There are almost as many words to describe the effort level as there are effort levels!

Running Lingo Unpacked
Commonly used running terms and their meanings


Today, I’m going to describe the major effort levels of running, break down how the effort level should feel, what the percentage of your “max” that effort should be, and give you a real-life example on how to perform that pace.

Remember, an individual’s running pace may be different than yours and the next person reading this. An easy run pace for me might be interval pace for someone else. Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon pace (tempo pace) is obviously significantly faster than everyone else’s in the world.

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Find Trainwithmarc on Instagram


I started at the slowest pace and moved towards the fastest pace.

Running Paces

  • Easy Pace (E)
    • Also known as a basic run or a recovery run. This is any paced run that isn’t a workout.
    • Easy pace is a range and can be based off of effort, ranging between a 5 and 7 out of 10.
    • The easy run pace should be conversational. This means that you should be able to tell a story AND even possibly run the same distance again at the same pace.
    • If your easy pace is continually run too fast (over a period of weeks or months), you will risk burnout or injury. Further, when your easy days are too hard, the hard days cannot be as hard as they should be.
    • Long runs are also considered basic run pace, however, they are typically on the faster end of this pace spectrum.

  • Tempo Pace (T)

    • Tempo pace is considered “comfortably hard” and it’s the point at which your body creates and removes lactate accumulation at the same rate.
    • Doing tempo workouts improves your lactate threshold (the rate and onset of lactic acid during a running activity).
    • The intensity of T pace tempo run is between 75 – 84%.
    • Tempo runs typically last between 20 minutes and an hour and are a continuous running effort.
    • A tempo run is a threshold run (see below) without the recoveries. Therefore, it should be a little bit slower than your threshold repeat pace.
    • It should be a pace that you could sustain for an hour long race.

      Tempo running explained
      Tempo runs for distance runners

  • Threshold Pace (T)

    • The pace is considered “comfortably hard” and it’s the point at which your body creates and removes lactate accumulation at the same rate.
    • You can do a fairly high amount of work at threshold because it requires relatively low muscle-stress.
    • Doing workouts at T pace improves your lactate threshold (the rate and onset of lactic acid during a running activity).
    • The intensity of a T pace repeat workout is between 83 – 88% of your max ability.
    • Threshold workout (repeats) – will vary in distance and amount of work depending on person. A typical workout would be a repeat distance (say 1,000 meters) with a specific recovery. The recoveries are shorter because you are running at 83-88% of your maximum capacity.

  • Critical Velocity Pace (CV)

    • Critical velocity is a pace that you can sustain for some 45 minutes
    • Within the range of 89-91% of VO2 MAX
    • Roughly 1:00 of rest for every 1000 meters run
    • you can maintain a high percentage of your VO2 MAX
      and a lactate steady state for the duration of the individual reps of your workout

      Running Paces & Often-Used Terms Defined
      Running Paces & Often-Used Terms Defined

  • Interval pace (I)

    • Interval pace is considered 5k pace.
    • Workouts at I pace improves your lactate response (your ability to remove lactic acid from your system) and, your aerobic capacity (ability to carry and store oxygen).
    • Interval pace is used to optimize your VO2max capacity. In this type of workout, you are looking to work at maximum oxygen consumption.
    • Usually speaking, interval pace workouts have the same amount of recovery as effort.
    • The intensity of an I pace workout is 95- 100% of your max.

  • Race pace (R)

    • Race pace workouts are fast in nature and are short in interval length.
    • The longest R repeat should be shorter than 600-800 meters, depending on the person.
    • Doing workouts at R pace improve your running economy (your form) and makes paces slower than race pace feel more comfortable.
    • The amount of recovery is usually, but not always equal to the distance cover. Ex. 4 x 200 with 200 recovery.
    • The intensity of an R pace workout is 105- 120% of max.

Key Running Terms

These next key terms are widely used in most or all training programs. They include supplementary work, such as sprints, weight lifting, or mobility that runners can and should do to improve their running ability.

  • Mobility
    • Mobility exercises are designed to improve flexibility.
    • Mobility exercises include dynamic and static stretching; it may also include yoga or pilates based routines.

      Guide to Running Terms
      Guide to Running Terms

  • Strength Training

    • Using body weight, machines, or other methods to produce stronger, more resilient muscles and joints. Examples can be found here and here.

  • Flexibility

    • The ability to be able to move your joints through a normal (full) range of motion.

  • Striders

    • Usually 100-150 meters of an accelerated pace.
    • The main objective is working on form, technique and turn over.
    • General advice is to not do another one until you can do the next one as fast and with correct form as the last one. In other words, take a full recovery – wait until your heart rate slows and your breathing gets under control. Roughly 30 seconds to 1 minute break is sufficient.
    • Usually prescribed 4-6 x strider.

  • Workout

    • Any running activity that is not a basic/easy run. Could be T, I, R or any combination of the three or more paces.

      Running Terms and Their Definitions
      Running Terms and Their Definitions

  • Ancillary work

    • Examples: core, abs, strength training, rehab/prehab, glute work, etc
    • This is all supplementary to (doesn’t take the place of) running.
    • The goal is to improve running economy (how efficient you are), your strength, form, technique.

      Core Exercises for Distance Runners
      Core Exercises for Distance Runners

  • Cross training

    • Examples: elliptical, stationary bike, swimming, rower
    • The goal is to increase heart rate with the minimal pounding from running
    • Typically supplemental to running (does not replace running)
    • Effort level can be greater because you’ll be able to recover quicker than the same effort while running

  • Race

    • Your chance to show off all the work you’ve done. Your ability to put together your training – both physical and mental – will enable you to have the best race possible. mistakes to avoid on race day

There you have it! All the key terms to hold a conversation with a bunch of nerdy runners!

Would you add any key words I’ve forgotten?


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Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach
Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach

I am a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!

3 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide for Running Lingo

  1. Such a comprehensive list – thanks! I learned a few new terms even though I’ve been running for a few years lol


  2. Glad you liked it! Which term or terms was new to you? I’m guessing critical velocity!


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