Fitness/Cross-Country: Group Running Equalizers for Varsity Practice & PE Classes

Fitness/Cross-Country: Group Running Equalizers for Varsity Practice & PE Classes

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education Update

One of the common problems when conducting group running sessions in physical education class is that there is usually a large difference in ability levels among your students.

The usual scenario is that your faster runners complete the run well ahead, then stand around waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. Your slower runners straggle in behind everyone else, feeling humiliated and demotivated.

However their are ways you can make accommodations for this difference in ability. Here are several techniques that will allow you to challenge your faster students while preventing your slower runners from becoming discouraged.

1. Turnarounds
Turnarounds are good when running laps of a track, field or gym. Have your class run in the same direction around the course. After several minutes, blow your whistle, which signals everyone to turn and run in the opposite direction.

This automatically puts the slowest runners in the front and the fastest runners in the rear, reducing the advantage of the faster runners' speed.

You can repeat these turnarounds as many times as you need during a run.

2. Parlaufs
Parlaufs, otherwise known as continuous relays, are also good when running laps. Pair up your students and have one member of each pair run while their partner walks or slowly jogs in the same direction. When runners catch up to their walking partners, they exchange roles.

Continue for a predetermined amount of time instead of a set distance. In this way, everyone finishes simultaneously.

It's also best if you can pair fast runners with a slower partner.

3. Prediction Runs
Before running a certain distance, have every student record the time they think it will take them to finish. The winners are those runners who finish closest to their predicted time. This gives every student an equal chance to win, regardless of their ability.

4. Most Improved
On your first group run, record every students' time over a pre-determined course. Later in this season, time your students over the same route.

The student who improves the most is declared the winner, and can be given special recognition or a small prize. This provides two other advantages:

  • It helps you monitor the improvement in fitness levels among the students in your class.
  • It develops the attitude that individual improvement is more important than being first to the finish line.


  1. Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education, May 2008.
  2. Patrick Squire, "Running as a Group Activity. Action - British Journal of Physical Education, March 1982.
  3. Dr. Mark Stanbrough, Running Games for Track & Field and Cross Country, Roho Publishing, 2013.

© 2016, Physical Education Update,

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