Gearing Up for Your First Race: Glossary of Running Terms

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First of all – welcome, new runners! As you are probably beginning to realize, you have joined a pretty darn special community and we are stoked you are here. Participating in your first running race is an exciting milestone, whether you’re taking on the GoodLife Fitness 5 km, the ASICS Runkeeper 10 km, the Centaur Subaru 21.1 km, the Servus Credit Union 42.2 km or even the One For The Road 60 km Ultra, the thrill of the crowd, the anticipation at the starting line, and the satisfaction of crossing the finish line are experiences many runners cherish.

However, to ensure a smooth and enjoyable race day, it’s essential to prepare and plan ahead. From figuring out when to arrive, understanding race etiquette, or learning the lingo of the start line, knowing these terms will help make your race day less stressful. We recommend (and even insist!) you read the 2024 Race Guide, check out our FAQ page and read ALL your important race emails. This will ensure that you’re informed on how to minimize race day glitches, because the only logistics you should be worrying about on race morning – is making sure your pre-race poop happens when it should!


Adaptive Athlete: We have participants with varying degrees of abilities and we welcome athletes who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices as well as guides for participation.

Aid Station: A designated spot along the race course (or in our case 12 stations) where runners can grab hydration (water or nuun) and sometimes Xact fruit bars (way better than gels IMHO). Aid stations are manned by volunteers – say thank you if you are can!

Bag Check/Bag Pick Up: A designated area at the start line where participants can leave any items they don’t want to run/walk with. These items can be picked up, using your bib number, when you have completed your run/walk in your designated spot.

Bandit: Someone who participates in a race without registering or paying the entry fee. This is generally frowned upon by race organizers and the running community. Anyone caught on course on race day without a bib is pulled from the course and banned from all future events.

Bib: A piece of serious paper with a runner’s race number printed on it, we ask it to be pinned to the front of the runner’s shirt. It includes your Timing Chip to record your running time from when you cross the start line to the finish line (so you don’t have to worry if there’s a big crowd – your time won’t start until you cross the timing mats right at the start line)

Chip Time vs. Gun Time: Chip time is the time recorded from when a runner crosses the start line to when they cross the finish line, thanks to an electronic chip on the bib. Gun time is the time from the race start signal (the “gun”) to when the runner crosses the finish line. Gun time does not account for the time it takes to reach the start line after the race begins (for example, if you are in the back of a corral).

Cool Down: A period of light exercise or stretching after a run to help the body transition to a resting state and recover more effectively. Take advantage of the recovery zone at the Festival Site!

Course Marshal: A Volunteer out on course who makes sure you stay on course, take the correct turns, and ensures that no spectators and/or vehicles interfere with runners/walkers on course.

DNF: Stands for “Did Not Finish” and refers to a runner who starts a race but does not complete it.

Elite Runner: Someone who runs for a living, or who is very serious about running, and anticipates finishing with the top runners and winning a prize. They line up at the very front of the start line and you can watch (and cheer) for them as they double back on you along Memorial Drive or on the stage at The Awards.

Negative Split: Running the second half of a race faster than the first half. This is often a goal for many runners as it suggests a well-paced race.

Pace: The speed at which a runner moves, usually measured in minutes per mile or kilometer. Pace times can also be listed as the total continuous time it takes to complete the full distance. For example, our Pace Team Roster is listed by distance, then by total continuous pace time.

Pacer: An experienced runner who will run/walk the event in a specific time and ensure anyone following them maintains a steady pace to reach a finish time goal. On race day, you can find our pacers wearing backpacks with visible flags that they carry throughout the race identifying themselves. Each flag includes the race distance and the total continuous pace time.

Package Pick-up: A designated area where you go to pick up your bib and t-shirt and any additional items (swag) that come with your race entry (also referred to as the Runner’s Expo). This takes place at GMC Stadium and is the kick off to the whole event.

Personal Record (PR)/Personal Best (PB): The fastest time a runner has completed a specific race distance. This is good when you achieve it!

Porta-let/Porta-loo/Porta-potty: Sooner or later you will have to visit one. Please do not go to the bathroom anywhere on the route or venue that is NOT a designated toilet. 

Recovery Run: A low-intensity run designed to help muscles recover from a hard effort or race.

Runner’s Expo: A designated area where you go to pick up your bib and t-shirt and any other items (swag) that come with your race entry (also referred to as Package Pick-up). The Expo also includes a number of vendors who set up booths to give away samples and sell event-themed merchandise.

Splits: The times a runner takes to complete specific segments of a race, often each mile or kilometer.

Starting Corral/Starting Wave: Different corrals/waves are set up at the start line to separate runners into their general Pace in order to ensure safety at the start line. Faster runners are sent out first, with walkers and strollers sent out in the last wave.

Swag: Items that come with your event registration. This usually includes a t-shirt and Bib that you pick up at the Runners Expo. You get your medal when you cross the finish line. Please note: You don’t have to wear the t-shirt you receive with this event on race day!

Timing Chip: The timing device that is glued to the back of your Bib. Usually a piece of plastic that will activate when you cross the start line and record your running/walking time until you cross the finish line. Treat the timing chip carefully as bending or altering the timing chip could render it ineffective.

Volunteer: Someone who gives up time in their day to come out work for free to ensure that your day is amazing. Don’t forget to thank them as much as you can and consider that for every race you participate in, try volunteering for another – it’s how the industry is successful!

Walk vs Run: We want participants to know that everyone is welcome. If you want to come out and enjoy a walk then you would register for the Walk and you would be placed in the last Starting Corral. If you plan to Run or run/walk then you would register for the run and indicate your expected Finish Time so you are place in the correct Starting Corral

Warm-Up: Activities or exercises performed before a run or race to prepare the body for vigorous exercise, usually including light jogging and dynamic stretching.

Do you have questions about other terminology or phrases? Let us know in the comments!

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