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Essential Race Day Jargon for the Beginning Runner

Posted by Filed Under: Races & Racing

racing tipsWe are all newbies at one time. For those of you who prefer to be more discreet about your newbie status at your first race, it may be helpful to learn a few phrases/terms that you might overhear:

  1. “I placed second in my age-group!” Age group (AG): In addition to placing first, second and third within each gender, runners can often earn awards by placing within their age-group. For example, 19 and under, 20-29, 30-38, etc. Age group may also be referred to as “age division.”
  2. “I would have placed first, but they double-dipped the awards.” Double-dipping: When you earn an award for the overall (OA) first place win for your gender, and then are awarded first place in your age-group too.
  3. “I’m hoping to BQ today.” BQ: Boston Qualifying time. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) requires that runners qualify in order to earn a spot in the Boston Marathon. That means, based on your age and gender, you need to run a marathon on a BAA-certified course in a pre-determined amount of time.
  4. “Did you get any hardware?” Hardware: Awards, trophies, plaques, ribbons, etc. given to overall winners, and usually to age-group winners, depending on the size and budget of the race.
  5. “I was afraid the SAG wagon was coming for me.” SAG Wagon: A vehicle that “sweeps” the race course to pick up injured/exhausted runners who are unable to finish the race. SAG vehicles are also used during cycling events. SAG has been rumored to be an acronym for “Support and Gear” or “Support Aid Group.”
  6. “I ran a negative split!” Negative split: Running the second half of a race (or training run) faster than the first half.
  7. RacingBib2.gif“Did you pick up your bib (number) yet?” Bib number (Bib, bib-number, number): The square piece of paper that is pinned to the front of each runner. Each number is unique and identifies each runner. At larger races, the “elite” runners are typically assigned lower numbers. For example, if the overall winner from the previous year is racing again, he/she will most likely wear the number “1” bib.
  8. “This race is chip timed.” Chip: A small plastic device that is secured to each runner’s shoelaces. The device records data whenever the runner crosses the timing mats, found at the start and finish lines. The chip communicates with a computer to provide quick, accurate results.
  9. “I took a GU every five miles.” GU: This gel-like substance is found in small packets and is composed primarily of carbohydrates (sugar). It is used to replenish glucose during exercise, keeping energy levels up. (GU is a trademarked name. There are several other brands of gels available.)
  10. “I need to do some strides to warm up.” Strides: Prior to the start, some runners warm-up by doing 100 meter accelerations, also called strides. This quick burst of speed primes the muscles and gets the legs ready for quick turn-over.

Is there any race or running related jargon that you’d like defined? Let me know!

About Dianna

Dianna, also known as the Running Chick with the Orange Hat (Running Chick for short) moved from being a periodic gym rat to a runner in January of 2003 during a botched New Year's resolution. Her newly rediscovered fondness for running quickly blossomed into a full-blown obsession. Within a year and a half, she went from suffering through two miles on the treadmill to running a marathon. Cotton was discarded for wicking fabrics and gel was no longer something she put in her hair. Since then, she has continued to challenge herself, first with achieving her Boston Qualifying time, then running a PR at Boston and doing an occasional sprint distance triathlon. Future endeavors include a trail marathon and longer distance triathlons. Dianna has been blogging about her running adventures since April 2004, even getting an article 'published' online at Runner's World as well as capturing the attention of a local news channel. She can discuss all things related to running, swimming, and biking, at great length, without ever getting bored. In her free time, she enjoys pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, with her husband and multi-racial canine in Connecticut, U.S.A.



5 Comments
  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on September 19th at 4:35 am

    “I did well in the masters race” – Masters runners are runners aged 40+, often specifically 40-49 although anyone older is technically a masters runner.

    “I’m an open runner” – Open runners are runners aged between 20 and 39, although some races consider it to be 20 to 29 or 18 to 29.

    “I am a submaster runner” – Submaster runners are those runners that are 30 to 39 for races that consider open runners to top out at 29 years old.

    The idea behind open running are runners that are old enough to take cash awards but not yet in the master’s category. In most areas, the master’s category can be very competitive even though the average times are a little lower than in the open division. In Maine, the masters runners are amongst the best and usually have the better share of the top 10 in most races.

    Some other terms:
    “I did well in the age-graded standings” or “I was under the USATF Age-Group guideline” – Age grading is when you apply a formula to your time that adjusts it based upon how old you are to come up with a comparitive list of how you did amongst people of different ages. I am not a very big fan of this practice. Many races will list folk who have exceptional times for their ages by noting that they are under the USATF guidelines for where people of that age should run.

    “I ran even splits” Splits are any division of a race into smaller pieces, usually miles or kilometers depending upon where you are racing. There will often be timers at the splits to let you know what your time is at that point in the race. Even splits are when you run each unit at the same speed. See negative splits above.

    “I got a new singlet for the race.” Singlets are running jerseys that are usually made out of some sort of ultra-wicking fabric that keeps you dry and cool while you run. Teams will often wear singlets that all look alike and announce the runner’s affiliation with that team.

  2. Ed on September 19th at 6:29 am

    “Tomorrow” – As in, “We will post the results to the webpage tomorrow.” Defined, apparently, as any time between now and the heat death of the universe.

  3. air-run on September 19th at 7:40 am

    “I got my pb (or Pr) in the race yesterday” – this means you set your “personal best” or “personal record” for that distance.

    “that was $^%$#&@ hard” – means that you had a tough run and would just like to put it behind you and move on with your life.

  4. 21stCenturyMom on September 19th at 9:29 am

    “Well…I finished” – means you ran the race and hated your time. Avoid allowing this feeling to penetrate too deep. You showed up and you ran and that’s good. There are lots more opportunities to have a better race.

  5. Dianna on September 20th at 7:34 pm

    with all these great additions, it looks like i’m off the hook for a follow-up article. thanks everyone!

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