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Your trail running dictionary

Your guide to the strange words and phrases used by trail runners

“Thank goodness that fat ass wasn’t a qualifier, cause I bonked so hard and was DFL after the cutoff and didn’t get my buckle for the hundo.” Trail runners are strange folks who sometimes speak their own language. The jargon requires its own dictionary with detailed translations. Get to know the weird terms and phrases commonly used by trail runners, and have this list on hand next time you’re caught in conversation with one:

RELATED: 15 ways to know you’re a trail runner


Aid station

A checkpoint for runners in a race. Also known as a trail runner’s buffet, hospital, water fountain, and foot clinic. 

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A hydration pack with an attachable straw used to carry one to two litres of liquid on your back. Not to be confused with the bladder in your stomach. However, both kinds of bladders can be referenced in a single sentence when out on the trails. 

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Severe or sudden fatigue in the middle of a race or long trail run. Usually attributed to a lack of calories or depleted glycogen stores. Also known as ‘hitting the wall.’ Fun fact: this term means something different in Australia.



The trophy runners receive at the finish line of a 100-mile endurance run. The belt buckle is a marathoner’s race medal. 

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The part of a trail or race that goes uphill. A synonym for power hike. Not a synonym for Miley Cyrus’ hit single. Pro tip: place your hands on your thighs or hips to look like you are climbing rather than hiking.

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One or more people who have the job of ensuring their runner does not die. They drive to aid stations and fill water bottles, change socks, serve warm pizza, and hold your hair back when it comes back up. A good crew will often work harder than the runner, on much less sleep. Also stands for: Crabby Runner Endless Waiting.

RELATED: It takes a village–tips for crewing an ultramarathon


The maximum amount of time for a runner to leave an aid station or finish a race. Cutoff times are implemented for safety reasons for longer-distance trail races. 

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Dead Freakin’ Last. The individual who is the last person to cross the finish line within the cutoff.


Refers to the act of living out of a vehicle in order to have quick and easy access to trails and mountains. Dirtbagging also applies to the lack of showers involved in an adventure weekend. For dirtbags, there is no difference between a baby wipe shower and a real shower. 



Did Not Finish. Although it is usually a shot to the ego, this term is slowly becoming more accepted in the trail running community. 


Did Not Start. When a runner is registered to race, but they don’t make it to the start line. This can either be because of injury, forgetting to train, or sleeping through your alarm. In trail races, this is important for race directors to account for all participants. 

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Drop bag

What you put extra food, socks, headlamp, or motivational quotes in for a longer event. Race directors transport drop bags to various aid stations along the course, so runners can access their favourite goodies. Pro tip: bin, don’t bag. Tupperware bins are all the rage. 

RELATED: Mantras for trail running toughness

Fat Ass

This is not referring to a body part, but to a type of race. A Fat Ass is a free or low cost grassroots race or event organized by local trail runners. A Fat Ass-style race can also refer to the inaugural year of a more formal race. A Fat Ass-style race is a great way to get involved in the trail running community.



It officially stands for Fastest Known Time. However, it can also be defined as Funnest Known Time. 


Anything with calories to be eaten before, during, or after a run. Fuel includes anything from a gooey gel to a Big Mac. Trail runners aren’t picky. Calories are calories and they need to be consumed often. 

RELATED: Breastfeeding on the trails: kid’s gotta eat

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A 100-mile endurance run. Fun fact: Even when your GPS tracks 130 miles in a race, it’s still considered a hundo. 

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The odds ultrarunners face when they enter a well known trail race. Getting into some races is worth millions for trail runners. Fun fact: a trail runner is more likely to win millions in the actual lottery than get into Western States or Hardrock. A sensitive subject for some runners.


Any kind of anti-chafing product. Comes in the form of Vaseline, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Body Glide, or straight up coconut oil. This is a trail runner’s best friend–next to anything edible. 

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“On your left”

When you’re trying to pass a fellow racer on a single track coming from behind. Pro tip: Do not say left and go right.

Out and back

A run or a race that returns on the same trail. Pro tip: an out-and-back run can be helpful for not getting lost when running on unfamiliar trails.



Part of the crew, a friend (or stranger) who runs part of a longer-distance trail race with the registered runner. Their selfless job is to also ensure you don’t die by reminding you to eat and help you at aid stations. Their selfish job is to see the trails of an exciting race they couldn’t get into. (Cue Western States 100). Fun fact: in Europe, pacers and crews are almost non-existent. 

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Hiking poles used by some trail runners for technical and mountainous courses. Although more common in Europe, they are becoming increasingly popular in North America. 

RELATED: Running in the mountains: how to prep for terrain, weather, and altitude


A challenging 100K or 100-mile race that must be completed prior to entering the lottery for Western States 100 or Hardrock 100. This also applies to qualifying races for Ultra-trail du Mont-blanc. 


The people that prefer running on pavement over dirt. A roadie can be stereotyped by someone who talks about their pace per kilometre and runs right through an aid station. Trails can be diverse, and aid stations are delicious–so pace is less important (or so we tell ourselves). 

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One of the most relative terms in trail running. Any terrain on the trails that does not include a river crossing, boulder field of hot lava, or icy cliffs. In theory, it is the opposite of a technical trail. In reality, it can include just about anything. 



Slowest Known Time. The opposite of an FKT, usually a product of embarking on a Funnest Known Time.


To travel or move laterally across or over mountains. Also known as a trail runner’s favourite pastime and word of choice. Trail runners not only love to traverse anything, they will say the word at unnecessary occasions. Throw “traverse” into any conversation, and watch a trail runner’s face light up with joy. 



No, this is not a 200-metre sprint on a track. It’s referring to a 200-mile (or longer) endurance run. For example, Moab 240-mile race in Utah.

Related: Moab 240–what really happened to  Canadian runners 


Any distance over the standard marathon distance of 42.2K. Includes courses on the trails and roads. 

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How much elevation gain a trail or race course has. This can sometimes equate to how fast a course will be–but not always. For example, a 50K trail race with 4,000 metres of vert (or gain) will likely take much longer to finish than one with 1,000 metres. (Unless the trail is made up of boulder fields and pure ice).

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