Running terms defined: Finally Understand What a Fartlek Is!

New to running and trying to figure out all these running terms? Fartlek, negative splits, tempo run…what the what?

I have been running a long time and still consider myself a casual runner. I run for me. I don’t compete…except with myself…and secretly with the person in front of me. I don’t break any records or win any races. Heck, I don’t even place in my age group (although I came close a couple of times). And over the years I have read different training plans for marathons and half marathons. I have read about training techniques to improve my pace and form. Many of these articles explain the jargon they use, and some don’t. It can be confusing even for an experienced (sounds better than older) runner like me. I have made a short list of frequently used running terms and what they mean…to make it a little less confusing.

5 Frequently Used Running Terms:

running jargon:fartlek meme
Elf’s my favorite!
  1. Fartlek: means “speed play” in Swedish. Defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. Fartleks are a casual, speed-training method where there are no true rules, ie. sprint to  make it through the next street light, or next tree, then slow down to recover. Repeat this as often as you like throughout your run. The more you do, the stronger you get.
  2. Negative splits: when you run the second half of your run faster than the first half. So if you run a 9:30 pace, you should start at a 9:45 or 10:00 min pace. This is a good practice to have especially when “racing” (I hesitate to use the word racing because let’s be real, I’m running to finish, not to win, or even place). A good rule of thumb is, when “racing” you should  start off easy and gradually pick up the pace to avoid using up glycogen stores early and “bonking” (another one of those words…’hitting  the wall’, ‘pooping out’) before the end of the race. You always want to finish strong! Conserve early so you can spend later. Hmmm…sounds like a retirement plan. 🙂
  3. Tempo run: when you start at a comfortable pace for about a mile, then you run at a pace just outside your comfort zone –you’re not gasping for air but you are having some difficulty talking in complete sentences. (These runs are usually my shorter runs depending on what I am training for.) Then finish your last mile at an easy cooldown  pace.
  4. Interval run: similar to both fartleks and tempo runs but a little more intense. These runs are more structured. After warming up (easy pace for a mile), run at a hard all out pace for 2 minutes (the longest 2 minutes of your life) followed by 2 – 3 minutes recovery pace or walking (the shortest 2 minutes of your life). I walk until I can catch my breath. Then do it again. I truly do not do interval runs enough. :-/
  5. Race pace: self explanatory? Maybe. Race pace should be faster than your regular run pace, especially if you want to PR (personal record) on race day. Depending on what you are training for, your race pace may be different. Meaning, your 5k race pace will be different (faster) than your marathon race pace. That’s why when you see training plans for half marathons and marathons you might see…run Monday at your 5k pace and Tuesday at a easy marathon pace. Most runners do marathons at a slower, steady pace.



Slow(er) and steady finishes the race. 😉

Running is meant to relieve stress and keep you healthy. Try not to overthink things. Sometimes you need to just run…without a plan.


**I am not a coach, personal trainer, or fitness expert. I write about what I have learned over the years and what works for me. Take it with a grain of salt.** 🙂

I hope I have helped clear up a any confusion about running terms. Come back next week for: Time to Take Inventory:  Do I really need 30 running shirts? and Plan Early For Your Next Half Marathon: SLO.

Register for San Luis Obispo Half this weekend before prices go up!

Click here for info.

This Saturday and Sunday receive 17% OFF when you sign up with promo code: “2017RACESLO”. Join thousands of athletes for a run on the beautiful Central Coast of California in #EnduranceTownUSA! This is an event you do not want to miss! #RaceSLO

As always, thanks for reading!

Keep running!

Leave A Comment

Tell me what you think...