A common concept when training in any sort of speed sport is that of lap times, split times, and overall times. These concepts are not relegated only to the realm of running; they are equally important in swimming, bicycling, automobile driving, horse racing and any other sports where the competitor covers a measured distance. It can sometimes be confusing to tell the three apart.

  • Overall Time: This one is pretty easy. It simply tells you how long it took to get from point A to point B. In a race, it will be how long it took you to get to the finish line. It can get a little more complicated, though, and can be split into net time and gun time.
    1. Net Time: How long it takes you to run a race from the moment you cross the starting line until the moment you cross the finish line. It is measured by an electronic chip worn on your shoe or your ankle.
    2. Gun Time: How long it takes you to cross the finish line starting at the sound of the gun, no matter where in the field you began your race and no matter how long it takes you to reach the starting line.
  • Split Time: This is your overall time at any given point in your run. For example, in a 4 mile race you might have split times of 7:00, 14:00, 21:00 and 28:00 at each mile. Your split time would be your overall time at each specified waypoint if your run ended there.
  • Lap Time: This is your time in between splits. In the above example, each of your mile laps would have been 7:00 minutes. The lap time is how long it takes you to get from one split to the next. The clock then starts over on the next lap.

Laps and splits will not always be for the same distance. For example, in a triathlon you would have seperate splits and lap times for your swimming, your biking, and for your running. In general, though, you will most often see mile or kilometer splits unless there is a more easily defined lap. On a track, you might have a 400 meter split, and in a pool you would have a 50 meter split.

Tracking and analyzing your lap and split times can help you improve your training and pace yourself through a race, which is a subject for a later day.