Friday, March 13, 2015

The Language of Running

I very much appreciate that many of my readers are non-runners. If you are a non-runner or a very new runner, and you've had the unfortunate experience of being around a couple of runners, or, even worse, at a gathering of runners, you've probably been overrun with runner jargon. Acronyms, obscure workout references, famous runners--you can politely nod, and if you're assertive you can ask questions, but after awhile you just zone out.

It can be especially rough for the non-running spouses of runners. While out to a meal, as the talk drifts toward the glycemic index of chicken wings and the relative benefits of carbo-loading, you might casually check your phone, eventually slipping it under your table to start a game of Candy Crush to pass the time.

For those that don't want to play their own personal sound track in their heads, I've put together a little cheat sheet. Feel free to print a copy of this cheat sheet to take with you to your next runner-related gathering.

PR or PB: Personal record or personal best time. When a runner says they ran a PB or PR'ed, she or her means they ran faster for a given distance than they've ran before.

BQ: Boston qualifying. It means a runner has run fast enough in a marathon to be get into the Boston Marathon. This is a goal of many marathon runners, and you'll often hear, "I'm going to try to BQ at my next marathon," or, "She BQ'ed at the Twin Cities Marathon."

DNF and DNS: Did not finish or did not start. A runner may have been unable to start or finish a race, usually because of an injury.

MP, GMP, and HMP: Marathon pace, goal marathon pace, and half marathon pace.

Tempo Run: A workout in which a runner runs "comfortably hard" for between 20 minutes and an hour, somewhere around 10k or half marathon pace.

Fartlek: A Swedish word meaning "speed play." A workout in which runners alternate a slower paced running with moderate and faster paced running.

Taper: A period of time before a race when runners cut back on their mileage in order to increase their chances of running a fast time in a race. Some runners feel anxiety or generally uneasiness due to the decrease in mileage, known as "taper madness."

Carbo-loading: Usually done before a longer race, runners "load up" on carbohydrates to improve the stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles for improved endurance.

Unfortunately I can't do much to make you interested in running. Although I enjoy watching races, the idea of spending time watching runners traverse an oval track for two minutes seems dull, much less watching gazelle-like runners swiftly cover 26.2 miles in a little over two hours. It can be especially hard to become a fan of running when most of the best distance runners in the world come from East Africa, making it difficult to keep straight the unfamiliar names of Keino, Farah, Gebrselassie, Gebremeskel, Bikila, and Mutai. If you want to find out more about professional runners, check out this link: 20 Runners You Should Be Following on Social Media.

And while being a fan of running can be difficult, professional runners are some of the most dedicated, inspiring athletes around. Rural Kenyans dedicate their lives to the uncertain prospect of being noticed by a manager or elite coach. And even if they do make it out of the country and into some elite races with chances at big prize money, there's no guarantee of winning any of that prize money. For even an elite Kenyan runner, the difference between changing an entire family's life, or even an entire village's life, can be matter of seconds. Unfortunately for Kenyans, the chances of becoming sponsored by and athletic brand are much less than the chances of even an inferior American athlete.

Although I very much enjoy following professional running, many, if not the majority of runners don't follow the sport professionally. They still, however, might have solid knowledge of training methods, racing strategies, and the many benefits of running. If you're skeptical about running and think it's pointless, boring, or will ruin your knees (not true), read this link: Why Run?

So the next time you're out with your running friends and are quietly zoning out of the conversation, feel free to use the cheat sheet above. Or, install more games on your smart phone and discreetly play them as those around you descend into the abyss of running conversations.

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