I’m always intrigued by linguistic differences both within the UK and between other English-speaking countries. I notice this most when I visit Florida, and for the first day or so my dad often reminds me to “speak American” so I can be understood! And it’s not just me. Earlier this week I got an email from my blogger friend Jessie at The Right Fits with an idea about working together on a post looking at some of the differences between US and UK running lingo. Jessie ran the London Marathon this year and her experience there, combined with reading UK-based running blogs like mine, really made her notice differences in the way those in the US talk about running compared to here in the UK. We put our heads together to bring you this post – US v UK Running Lingo: A User Guide!
(You can read Jessie’s version of this post here)
PR/PB: Personal Record vs. Personal Best!
Jessie may hear some Americans call it a PB, but generally it seems that PR is the preferred noun to discuss a personal record. PR is even used as a verb: “She PR’ed at Boston!”
Of course PB’s are the lingo in the UK, including as a verb: “She PB’ed in her race!”!
I ran my biggest PB at the Paris Marathon in 2014:
To Jessie, when she thinks of a vest, she thinks of a down winter gilet, not what she calls a tank top. But in the UK, a “vest” is your sleeveless running top: “He was wearing his club vest.”
Jessie says she really loves the term “trainers” and is hoping to bring it to the US! Yet currently, if she mentioned trainers to her friends, they’d think she was talking about a personal trainer who’s helping her with strength training, not the Brooks on her feet!
Gear check/Bag drop:
Runners in the US drop off their post-race stuff at Gear Check. In the UK, it’s Bag Drop!
At the expo, our US friends head to packet pickup ahead of a race. In the UK, you just head to registration.
Boston (and BQ)/London (and GFA = Good For Age):
I commented on this on Jessie’s “What it Means to Run Boston” post that in the UK, Boston isn’t the big deal. Rather, the “big” deal is the London Marathon, and here, you want to run a “Good for Age” time in another marathon in order to get in. In the US, it’s all about the “BQ!”
To non-runners, the term bib probably means something a baby wears when eating in a high chair, but to US runners, the “bib” is what you pin on your “vest” with your race number. I just call it a race number!
In the US, runners are grouped into starting corrals. Which corral you end up in depends on your qualifying time or your predicted finish time, but in the UK, it’s the starting pen!
Sweatpants/Trackies (tracksuit bottoms):
Chilly before a race? Americans don their sweats. You put on your trackies or trackie bottoms in the UK!
In this post, Jessie discovered the existence of the female urinal! But even the regular facilities have different lingo- in the US, these are portapotties. We refer to them as portable toilets or portaloos (although this one is a brand name and I know they can be quite protective of it, so let’s stick to portable toilets!).
Those tight fitted shorts? Jessie calls them Spandex. I call them Lycra.
Register/sign up for a race, vs. ENTER a race:
In the US, they register for a race or they sign up. In the UK we enter a race!
Since some of my family lives part of the year in Florida, I’ve had the opportunity to run races in the US as well as the UK, like this one last month:
I’ve noticed that at almost every race I’ve done in the US, the national anthem is played at the start. There’s nothing like that in the UK, it’s just any announcements from the race director, then you’re on your way.
Jessie has also noticed from my blog and from following UK runners on Instagram how huge parkrun is here. When she ran the London Marathon she saw a sign that read “Wave if you love parkrun!” and felt “in the know” about what parkrun was from my blog. While there are some parkruns in the US (currently 6 compared to over 400 in the UK), it’s still very much a new thing and unfamiliar to most, whereas for me the last 5k of a marathon is “just a parkrun to go!”. Where Jessie lives they have Flapjack Friday, which I understand as an early morning run followed by some food. Sounds pretty good to me!
One last difference- Post Race Food:
Jessie found this one really interesting. I’ve noticed that there tends to be a difference in post-race food. I don’t mean in the goody bags [or SWAG bags in the US] but the food laid out. In the UK we really only have food laid out if the race has been organized by a running club and it will likely be sandwiches (using the UK term meaning the filling is between slices of bread) or filled rolls (what Jessie would probably call a “bun”) and home baking (cakes, biscuits [that’s “cookies” in the US, we only call them cookies if they have chocolate chips!], etc) and any fruit is pretty much bananas or maybe apples whereas races I’ve been to in the US lay out a lot of BBQ, potato chips [“crisps” in the UK], pretzels, watermelon, etc.”
Jessie agrees, having noticed this at the London Marathon. The post-race food wasn’t quite as extensive as she sees at US marathons. Though they did have Jack Link’s beef jerky (straight from Northern Wisconsin!) which made her feel a bit more at home!
Huge thanks to Jessie for sharing her thoughts for this post!
If you haven’t started following Jessie, definitely do so! And with the helpful lingo in this post, you’ll actually know what she’s talking about! 😉