Distance Races (800 and 1600 Meters)

Distance Form, Waterfall Start, Drive Phase

Warm-Up Light jog, building leg strength, form activities
Skill Development Introduction to coaching distnace events, distance form, starting distance races (waterfall start, drive phase)
Wrap-Up Game Circle of endurance
Cool Down Light jog, static stretching
Printable PDF of this session


Light Jog (2-5 minutes)

Lead the group on a light jog.

Building Leg Strength (10-15 minutes)

Have students form a circle around you and lead them in leg strength exercises.

Refer to the Supplementary Topic on Muscular Strength and Endurance for appropriate activites and exercises.

Form Activities (3-5 minutes)

High Knees

Students can do high knees in place 15 to 20 seconds. Tell them to maintain an upright body position while bringing the knee level with the hip and pulling the toe up towards the shin. Alternate legs quickly, while taking very small steps forward. Move arms in a coordinated fashion with legs as if running.

Butt Kicks

Students can do butt kicks in place for 15 to 20 seconds. Tell them to keep the back straight while moving forward slowly with quick, light leg movements that bring the heels toward the buttocks. Emphasize speed in completing the motion, not moving forward.

High Skips

Runners can practice power skipping at 10-, 20-, 40-meter intervals. Drive arms and legs upward in an exaggerated skipping motion. Bring the leg toward the chest while the opposite arm reaches up. Emphasize getting as far off the ground as possible.

Introduction to Coaching Distance Events

Most children can develop a level of fitness that will support continuous running for two miles. Keep these four points in mind while teaching kids about distance running:

  1. Make running a habit: Distance runners need to run consistently to make progress. Children new to running should eventually progress to doing some form of endurance three or four days a week.
  2. Do different activities: Keep training fun and interesting by integrating different activities and drills.
  3. Proceed with caution: Distance training should start very conservatively. Maintain thorough training records for your athletes, taking into account the volume and intensity of practice sessions. As championship meets approach, decrease the volume of activity at practice and increase the intensity.
  4. Take time to rest: Rest and recovery are just as important as running and doing drills. Students need to take full days off from practice every week and need adequate rest between specific exercises and drills.

Distance Form

Distance runners share a similar stride to sprinters but with slightly less leg lift and arm swing. A straight line should be drawn from the top of a runner's head through the ankles along the center of mass of the body.

Distance Run

Have new and intermediate runners go for a 5- to 15-minute run. Runners can go between running, jogging, and walking. For a more advanced session, have runners count their laps while running. After five to 15 minutes, let runners have a 2- or 3-minute water break before running again for the same amount of time and trying to run more laps.

Chain Run

Set up two cones 50 to 100 yards apart. Runners line up single file and start running around the cones. On your signal, the last runner in the line sprints to the front. When that runner has reached the front, he or she yells "Go!" and the runner who is now at the back sprints to the front. Repeat until all runners have led the group. The video below shows a slightly modified version of the exercise.


Scatter cones over a large area. Half should be the right way up, the other half upside down. Divide the students into two teams. Tell students to imagine it is raining. Team A wants to catch the rain in the upside-down cones, so they must rush around, turning them all upside down. Team B doesn't want to catch the rain, so their mission is to turn them back the right way. Both teams do this for a set time, and then the cones are compared to see which team has the most their way.

Starting Distance Races

The Waterfall Start

All runners line up on the curved starting line. Runners should use a standing start. To start the runners, call out "On your marks, set, go!" Use a whistle or starter pistol when you yell "Go!" Runners can move to the inside lane as long as they do not interfere or impede other runners. Have runners practice at different positions on the starting line, running for 100 meters before starting again.

Drive Phase

Have runners prepare for a waterfall start. They will run 100 meters, rest for one minute, run 200 meters, and rest for two minutes (the rest should be a walking rest). They should accelerate aggressively out of the start for the first 100 meters. Runners on the inside of the track should run quickly out in front to avoid being obstructed. The runners should focus on getting in a good position for the race. For a more advanced session, have runners run 100, 200, 300, and 400 meters, with one minute of rest for each 100 meters run.

Wrap-up Game

Circle of Endurance

You will need cones and/or boundary markers, a stopwatch, and a measuring wheel for this activity. Set up three circles inside each other, which the largest about 200 meters in circumference. This can be done in lanes 1, 3, and 6 on a track. Set up three cones side by side on each circle. On your signal, three students, one at each circle, begin running and stay in line the whole way around. In order to stay in line, the runners will have to pace accordingly. Give everyone a chance to run the different circles to practice pacing. To make the activity more advanced, increase the distance of the circles and/or add more of them.

Cool Down

Light Jog(2-5 minutes)

Lead the group on a light jog.

Static Stretching(3-5 minutes)

Have students form a circle around you and lead them in static stretches.

Please see the Supplementary Session on Stretching for additional stretches.

Youth and Schools

New York Road Runners Mission