Track Running Games

Women passing baton to each other during race

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned cross country or track and field coach at the high school or college level or even lower levels, along with all your responsibilities comes many challenges; keeping your workouts productive and fun for team members at the same time may be one of the biggest.

One way to achieve this might be to incorporate fun running games into your training sessions. Running and racing games not only keep your athletes motivated and engaged, but can help improve their skills, endurance, speed and pace, and concentration.

IAAF 'Day In The Life' in Kenya

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Endurance Game

The “Continuous Relay” game works on your runners' speed and endurance in a fun and competitive environment.

  1. Mark off four evenly spaced baton hand-off locations around the track
  2. Make two teams of five runners and have two runners from each team begin at the starting location and one from each team at the other three hand-off locations
  3. At the starting location only one runner from each team starts with the baton
  4. Upon your starting command, each baton-holding runner runs to the first hand-off location, hands the baton to his teammate and waits while the second runner runs to the next location. The runners continue to run around the track and hand off the baton

The first team to have all its racers back to their original locations wins.

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Interval Training Drill/Game

Everyone on your team can benefit from “Indian Runs”. This drill or game teaches your distance runners how to surge and recover while running.

  1. Have your runners line up in a single file, about an arm's length apart, and start running at a comfortable pace
  2. Upon your signal, such as a whistle blow, the runner at the back must increase her pace to top speed and become a sprinter, passing her teammates and taking the lead position before returning to a comfortable pace
  3. You control the number of kids running to the front until you put an end to the drill.

For a fun variation, give the front first runner a water balloon and have the group start running. After a few strides, the front runner tosses the balloon over her head to the next runner. Each runner does the same until it gets to the last runner who then runs to the front and the tossing repeats. Have plenty of water balloons on hand.

Speed and Pace Game

To help your runners improve their speed and work on their pace, try an “elimination game”.

  1. Start with six runners and have them take their stance at a starting line on the track
  2. Upon your "go" command, have them run one lap, with the last runner to cross the starting line is eliminated
  3. After a short rest, have the remaining runners run a lap, with the last runner again eliminated.

Continue until one runner is left. To avoid elimination, runners quickly learn how to control their pace and when to make a surge toward the finish line.

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Race-Start Concentration Game

Youth track runners tend to take off too early -- when they hear the words "get set" instead of the word "go." The “Nerves of Steel” game can help runners stay focused and patient at the start of their relay race, and avoid false starts.

  1. Mark off a distance of about 30 meters from a start line and have your runners find a race partner
  2. One pair steps up to the line and with your command "get set," takes their starting stance. Tell them that you will pause one to four seconds before giving the "go" command

If a runner commits a false start, he automatically loses the race. Otherwise both runners sprint toward the finish line, the loser is eliminated and the winner finds another partner.

Repeat with another pair and continue with more races until one runner is left.