Common Marathon Terms

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When it comes to training for a race, and by that, I mean any race from a 5km run to a 100mile ultra-marathon, there are a number of different component parts and sometimes the jargon can seem like Latin (to those of us that don’t speak Latin)!  You can use this chapter as a bit of a glossary for terms that I’ll be using in the training plans later in the book and also in the second book in the series which will explain how to increase your distance from 10km to a full marathon.

Let’s start with a few of the different types of runs which you’ll be incorporating into your training.


Distance of 5,000 meters or 3.1 miles.

10k Distance of 10,000 meters or 6.2 miles.

Half-marathon Distance just over 21km or 13.1 miles.

Marathon Distance of 26 miles and 385 yards or just under 42km.

Ultra-marathon Technically any run longer than a marathon.  Official ultra-distance races start at 50km and popular races include distances of 50 miles, 100 and 150 miles.

Easy / Recovery Run This kind of run is pretty straightforward; it’s one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ types of training runs.  It refers to a light jog, done at a pace at which you can still hold a conversation without being out of breath.  Easy runs are one of the building blocks of training, doing slow easy runs help to increase the blood flow to your muscles which allows your body to expel waste from the muscles, leaving them healthier and more effective at carrying out their job.  The recovery runs usually take place the day after a longer run, and they get your body used to running with fatigue.  The recovery runs will come in to play for the most part in the next book.

Fartlek Yes, I know it has a funny name but trust me, fartlek runs are a fundamental part of your training.  It’s a Swedish word which translates as ‘speed play’.  It involves easy running broken up by bursts of speed, so essentially, it’s about varying your pace.  In fartlek sessions, you’re not constrained by a particular amount of time spent at each different pace, it’s more of a free session, your timings on each part aren’t set in stone.  For example, you can decide to run to a particular lamppost or a sign at speed, there’s no need for a specifically measured distance.  It’s fun to do these sessions as part of a group where you alternate being the ‘leader’ and initiating the speed sessions.

Interval It’s easy to confuse fartlek and interval training and they do have similarities in that they’re both runs of varying pace.  Interval runs are short speed sessions mixed with roughly equal recovery times.  For example, two to three minutes of hard running outside of your comfort zone followed by two to three minutes recovery run to bring your heart rate back down and get your breath back, followed by another speed session.

Hill Repeats I’m sure you can guess what’s involved with this kind of run…You’ve got it – it’s hills!  You should be running up the hill or incline at a fast pace and then jogging back down to recover and repeating this over and over.  Some runners love these kinds of runs, others hate them, either way they’re a great way of building muscle and increasing your stamina.  They also help to break up the monotony of repeated long runs.

Long Runs These are runs that are done at a relatively easy pace and they will take up between a quarter and a third of your weekly mileage on their own.  A long run can be any distance depending on what your goal is.  For example, if you’re training for a 10km then your long run may be 5 to 6 miles or if you’re training for a marathon then it could be around 22 miles.