What Does Hit the Ground Running Mean?

Hit the Ground Running Meaning

Definition: To go with full speed from the very beginning; to seize an opportunity as quickly as possible.

Origin of Hit the Ground Running

The origins of this expression are unclear and authorities differ on their possible explanations. There are three main theories.

The first is that it comes from troops in combat. They must start running as soon as they get off a plane, train, or other automobile, so that they don’t get shot. It is believed that in World War II, paratroopers were given this command as to what to do when they landed.

The second theory is that it comes from hobos and stowaways on a train. They must begin to run as soon as they jump from the train, so that they don’t get caught.

The third theory is that it comes from the Pony Express. This was an early way to deliver mail by horseback in America. The riders had to be fast so they would ride their horses quickly and “hit the ground running” when changing to a fresh horse in order to avoid delays.

However it started, the expression saw a surge in popularity in the 1970s and has seen widespread use ever since.

Examples of Hit the Ground Running

to hit the ground running synonymHere is an example of a math professor using the expression with a student who recently got back to school after being in the hospital for a few weeks.

Student: Hello, Mrs. Cooper. I wanted to ask you about the material that I missed while in the hospital.

Teacher: Of course! Are you feeling okay?

Student: Yes, I’m feeling much better, thank you.

Teacher: Well, here is all the homework that was assigned while you were gone, and these are the pages that we covered in the book. Since you were gone for so long, I can give you some extra time to catch up.

Student: No, that’s okay. I’d rather just start doing what the other students are doing right away. I don’t want to fall more behind.

Teacher: Are you sure? You’d really have to hit the ground running. We have a test coming up in a few days, so you’d have to study a lot of material really quickly.

Student: That’s okay. I can do it.

i hit the ground running originIn this example, two friends are discussing the soccer team they are both on.

Monica: Thanks for agreeing to join the team. When the other woman hurt her ankle we really needed an extra player. Have you ever played before?

Janice: I’ve never played soccer before, but I know the rules. Also, I’ve done a lot of other sports my whole life, so I should be able to hit the ground running.

Monica: I hope so. The team is pretty competitive!

More Examples

This excerpt is about a hockey player who would need to start playing well very quickly.

  • From the moment he held out until signing his new contract on Oct. 27, Lindholm knew this would be a different season. Unlike previous seasons, he wouldn’t have training camp to fully prepare for the grind. He knew he would have to hit the ground running. –OC Register

The second excerpt is about how one person had to start his new job very quickly after another person resigned.

  • Arrula said Schroeder “hit the ground running” after Placentia’s chief financial officer, Linda Magnuson, announced her voluntary resignation last week. –OC Register


The idiom hit the ground running means to start something immediately and to start it with urgency.