XC Running: The Pack Running Drill

XC Running: The Pack
Running Drill

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education Update.com

The Pack Running Drill is a great way to encourage your team to run together as a group. It's also effective in developing the fitness and motivation levels of your less talented runners - those athletes who might never win a race, but whose individual finish can make a huge difference in your teams overall score in a competition. Pack Running Advantages Some coaches like their teams to work together as a group throughout entire races.

This strategy has several advantages. It builds confidence among runners, especially in large races, since each runner is among familiar faces. It also allows athletes to work together encourage each other, which can improve the placing of weaker athletes. For example, on a windy day, the runners can take turns breaking the wind.

However, the strategy is most effective if your runners are equal in terms of ability. It doesn't make sense to hold back talented athletes in a highly competitive race. In such races, a variation of the strategy is to run in smaller groups or in pairs of athletes of equal ability.

Your use of pack-running as a tactic really depends on the individual talents for athletes and the specific competition circumstances.

Here's a way to develop your team's pack-running abilities.

Pack Running Drill
Break your team into groups of 5-7 runners (since five out of seven runners usually score in a race).

On a flat course, have your athletes run as a pack for about half of their race distance at a medium pace. For example, senior boys might run for about 5 km (3 miles) at about a 6:30/mile pace or 4:00/km pace. Senior girls might run for 2.5 kilometres in 12:30 or 5:00 min/km pace. However, the actual pace you specify must depend upon the age and ability of your athletes.

After the five kilometer mark is reached, have the pack increase their speed until everyone is running at their own race pace. They continue running as a group until the slowest athlete can longer hold the pace and begins to drop back.

Measure the distance between the 5 km and the spot at which the slowest runner began losing contact with the pack.

Repeat this drill throughout the year, with the goal being to increase this distance.

Advantages of This Workout
This workout puts pressure on your slower athletes, but it also shows these runners the importance of their role on the team and it will make them feel good about the attention and encouragement they receive from their faster teammates.

The workout also develops a feeling of unity within your team and get everyone accustomed to working together for a common goal.

1. Joseph D. Auckland, "High School Cross Country, TafNews Press, 1983. Drill by Willie Tarbox, Los Gatos High School, California.
2. Sadye Scott-Haincheck, "Pack Running Provides Key for Cross Country," Truman State University Sports Articles, 2006.

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