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Decoding the Alphabet Soup: A Guide to Running and Racing Acronyms

Running and racing are filled with a language all their own, complete with an array of acronyms that can leave newcomers scratching their heads. From 5Ks to ultras, the running community has developed a shorthand to communicate distances, types of races, and more. If you're new to the world of running or simply looking to expand your knowledge, this guide will decode the alphabet soup of running and racing acronyms.

Race Distances:

  • 5K: 5 kilometers (approximately 3.1 miles)

  • 10K: 10 kilometers (approximately 6.2 miles)

  • HM: Half Marathon (13.1 miles)

  • M: Marathon (26.2 miles)

  • Ultra: Any race longer than a marathon, typically ranging from 50 kilometers (31 miles) to 100 miles or more. Ultra distances are often denoted by the specific distance, such as "50M" for a 50-mile race.

Race Types:

  • R/W: Run/Walk event, indicating a race where participants can run or walk.

  • OCR: Obstacle Course Race, which includes challenges like climbing walls, crawling under wires, and other obstacles.

  • MTB: Mountain Bike race, sometimes overlapping with trail running events.

  • TRI: Triathlon, a multisport event typically consisting of swimming, biking, and running segments.

  • Du: Duathlon, a multisport event consisting of running and biking segments, without the swimming component of a triathlon.

  • Relay: A race where teammates take turns running portions of the overall distance.

Race Organizations:

  • RRCA: Road Runners Club of America, an organization dedicated to promoting long-distance running and road racing.

  • USATF: USA Track & Field, the national governing body for track and field, long-distance running, and racewalking in the United States.

  • IAAF: International Association of Athletics Federations, the international governing body for the sport of athletics, including track and field, long-distance running, and road racing.

Racing Gear and Apparel:

  • Dri-FIT: A type of moisture-wicking fabric commonly used in running apparel to keep runners dry and comfortable.

  • GPS: Global Positioning System, often used in GPS watches to track distance, pace, and route during runs.

  • HRM: Heart Rate Monitor, a device used to measure heart rate during exercise.

  • SPIbelt: Small Personal Item Belt, a popular brand of waist belt used by runners to carry small essentials like keys, phones, and gels.

Running Terms and Techniques:

  • PR: Personal Record, the fastest time a runner has achieved in a specific distance or race.

  • BQ: Boston Qualifier, a time standard set by the Boston Marathon that runners must achieve in a qualifying race to be eligible for the Boston Marathon.

  • Fartlek: A training technique that involves alternating between periods of fast running and slower running or jogging.

  • DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, the muscle pain and stiffness that often occurs 24 to 72 hours after intense exercise.


  • DNS: Did Not Start, indicating a participant who registered for a race but did not start.

  • DNF: Did Not Finish, indicating a participant who started a race but did not complete it.

  • PRON: Personal Record or Not, a term used humorously to describe a race where a participant sets a personal record despite challenging conditions or obstacles.

Whether you're a seasoned runner or just lacing up your shoes for the first time, understanding these acronyms will help you navigate the world of running and racing with confidence. So, the next time you hear someone talking about their latest PR or signing up for a BQ attempt, you'll be in the know!

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