Ultimate Guide To Cape Town's Trail Running Lingo

Look, I’m very much a newbie when it comes to trail running. In the last year, I’ve learned a huge amount of new things, like: how to pick my knees up to not fall on every trail run, that Nike trail shoes are not amazing, that you have to train to run a marathon distance trail race, and many more.

But, definitely one of my most significant learnings the past year was trail-running-lingo. Learning about it. And learning how and when to use it.

Since we find ourself days away from UTCT - the biggest event on Cape Town’s trail running calendar - this city will become home to well over 1,500 trail runners, plus their families, friends and supporters and whoever else they managed to convince to come and see them suffer :)

So, I thought this is now the perfect time to share my newly found knowledge of trail lingo: for all the out-of-town runners, for the supporters and well, any aspiring trail runner.

Read through this list twice. Bookmark it.

And before you know it, instead of just being a supporter on Saturday, you’ll sound like a pro-runner who has decided to not run UTCT this year, because you just want to be part of the vaaib for once :)

Ready? Let’s start.

  • Stoke: A feeling of excitement…but not too much, you know, because that would be lame. Cool, calm collected kinda excitement. “Ye dude, so stoked to be here.”

  • Frothing: This is a serious amount of stoke. Basically being super stoked (read: super excited). But using the word super is not cool. So that’s why you must use froth instead like this: “Frothing for some vert, bro.”

  • Vert: Short for vertical. This is the amount of elevation gain that your run (read: hike) includes.

  • Flowy: This refers to trails that aren’t so technical and easy to run. (All trails are technical in my view. I often slip on my carpet walking from my bathroom to the toilet.)

  • Technical: This is a trail that is considered difficult because it has lots of rocks and obstacles. Basically: ankle-twist, goodbye front-teeth terrain. 

  • Gnarly: What dudes call "technical" terrain. “That’s some gnarly single-track, bro.”

  • Single Track: A kind of trail that’s wide enough so that only that one person can comfortably fit on it. 

  • Douche Grade: This is when a trail is not flat but not steep. Basically a slow non-steep hill, that when you run, you don’t really feel the incline. It’s just Douche Grade

  • Peak bagging: When you run (read: hike) to the top of a peak - you have “bagged” said peak. “Hey bro, keen to bag some peaks this weekend? “Yeah dude, I’m frothing for some vert. Yeewww!”

  • T-dog: A the term for a dog that runs on the trails with his / her owner.

  • Strava: An app that people (especially triathletes) use to measure how fast they go over a segment of trail/road. The app then ranks you against others who ran that segment. It’s essentially an invisible competition that creates a false view of your performance - because it does not measure how far your entire run was. Thus, comparing someone who ran 5km with someone who did 25km. Ha. So strange. So addictive. (Ps. you can follow me on Strava: Heleen Mills)

  • Segments: This is a piece of trail that gets logged on Strava for which there is a mens women and mixed leaderboard.

  • Strava stalking: When runners check every single run of their friends and fellow competitors via Strava. They know what type of workout they did, the route, the total moving time, elevation gain, heart rate.

  • DNS: Did not start the race. Also known as the wise decision to rather sleep in, and drink coffee in your pyjamas and eat rusks while others run. 

  • DNF: Did not finish a race. I’m a proud owner of a DNF - picked it up in September this year.

  • Dropped: To DNF. To drop out of a race. “Bro, it was a suffer fest. I dropped at the 33km mark.”

  • DFL: Dead flipping last. When you come… last. Literally.

  • Suffer Fest: When all runners in a race or event endure prolonged suffering, misery, pain and agony together. Co-misery. “The UTCT 35k was a suffer fest, bro.”

  • Pain Cave: When, during a long race or run, you enter a state of absolute agony, pain and severe discomfort. This is an undesirable state.

  • Vaaib: This is a mispronunciation of the word vibe. Saying vibe sounds too over-eager, so you tone it down to “vaaaib” to sound cooler.

  • Yewww: The sound trail runners make when they enjoy something.  

  • Fuelling: Eating food during a race or long run that to ensure that you don’t crash, or blow up. 

  • Blow up: When you hit a wall.

  • Hitting a wall: A dark space, mentally, you can’t get out of. It’s here where you question the meaning of running and life. This is often accompanied by thoughts of quitting running and burning your running shoes. You need to get your 3rd breath to break through the wall.

  • Bombing downhills: Letting Fly.

  • Letting fly: Running downhill very fast. Something I can’t do. 

  • Throwing Down: This is basically just….running faster than normal

  • KCR / The Ridge: Kloof Corner Ridge.  

  • Type 2 Fun: Something that’s not fun while you are doing it. It’s only fun in retrospect. 

  • TT: Time trail? Nope. Not in Cape Town. TT is short for Tuesday Trails - a social trail running group that runs together on Tuesdays.

  • Sink some chow: Three words to describe one simple word: eating. 

  • Kilian Jornet: The master of masters of trail running. The speedy Spanish.

  • FKT: Fastest known time. It’s like racing against other people, but on your own.

  • Sponsored: A runner willing to sell a piece of their body, blog for advertising. And free stuff. 

  • Pack: Don’t think this is a backpack. Nope! This is a small and very light backpack, less than half the size of a pack…but more than double the price. You use it to store snacks, toilet paper, and a rain jacket and/or a warm top.

  • Fast-packing: A multi-day run with a bigger pack. Not a regular back-pack. It’s a very expensive back-pack sized running pack. 

  • Soft flasks: Soft water bottle that fits in your “vest” that you drink water from. Like a Ziplock bag with a nozzle. 

  • Wizard Sticks: Trekking poles. It makes getting up mountains easier.

  • Negative splits: This is when you run your second half of a run faster than the first half.  You also have neg splits when each km is faster than the previous

  • ITB: Iliotibial band. It’s a fascia band from your hip to the knee and generally one of the more common injuries runners get.

If you are an aspiring trail runner in Cape Town, this section is important for you.

  1. At your next group run - be sure to confidently say: “Bru, frothing for some vert today…. Yeeew”

  2. Make a shaka sign when you run post others on the trail

  3. Refer to your dog as T-dog.

  4. On your next Instagram post be sure to post a pic of the KCR and caption it: “Type 2 Fun.”

Thank me later when you get endorsement and brand ambassador deals :)

Follow me on Instagram: @heleenmills

RunningHeleen Mills