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4. Practice Sessions

Time to start running! This section has guidelines and tips for your Young Runners practice sessions. Here you can discover more about how to plan the first practice, keep the activities engaging, and maintain safety.

First Practice

This is an important session, because it sets the tone for your whole season. Students learn about practice schedules, event and race opportunities, what’s expected of them, and set their goals and objectives for the season. Here’s an outline for day one:


  • Participant Release Form: Be sure to get a completed and signed Participant Release Form from each student; make note of students with special medical conditions prior to participation in practices

First Two Weeks

  • One Mile Challenge: Students will track their progress against this baseline.  Enter each athlete's one mile time into STRIDES.  The One Mile Challenge should be repeated during the last two weeks of the season so athletes can compare their pre and post times.

  • Goal Setting: Tell Young Runners their baseline time and help them to set realistic goals for the season. They can then use the Goal Sheets which can be downloaded from STRIDES to record their goals. Mark off each kid who completed a Goal Sheet in STRIDES.

  • Throughout the season Attendance: Record attendance at all practices and enter the information into STRIDES once a week or once every two weeks. This is important because Young Runners receive incentives based on attendance.

  • Distance Logs: Entering distance logs in STRIDES is required throughout the season so that your Young Runners can receive appropriate distance and time. 

Practice Activities

Here are helpful ideas to keep your Young Runners program both productive and fun. Attend one of the After the Basics training sessions offered by NYRR to get more tips. Your Young Runners Field Coordinator is also available to help you with planning. Practices should include a warm-up, a cool-down, and some or all components from the following resources:

  • A Running Start: This is a great place to find activities and games; revisit it throughout the season for fresh ideas
  • Form Drills: By improving their technique and form, runners can increase their speed and conserve energy
  • Strength Training: Young Runners can use their own body weight to strengthen muscles, improve performance, and prevent injury
  • Running: Create workout groups based on fitness level, endurance, and speed for some of your practices; vary the workouts for improved speed and strength
  • Mental Training: Help your athletes stay positive and focused by learning to manage discomfort and improve form and technique
  • Pacing: Teach Young Runners how to use their energy efficiently so they can run farther, faster

Running Distances

Your Young Runners will develop greater and longer-lasting health habits as they progress to running longer distances. Here's a general age-based distance guideline:

  • 3rd through 6th graders begin with 1 mile and work toward 3 miles
  • 7th graders and older can begin with 1 mile and work toward 3 miles to 6.2 miles
  • For more on appropriate distances for different aged runners, visit Kids Running
  • Athletes will be at different levels so it is best to separate into groups by ability

Safety at Practice

Know the emergency procedures of your school or organization and keep up-to-date health and permission forms for each of your athletes. Three potential safety issues that you should be prepared for at all times are:

  • Injury
  • Severe weather conditions
  • Severe illness

Bring a first aid kit to every practice and race for minor cuts and bruises. In more serious cases of injury or illness, do not hesitate to call 911. Use emergency contact numbers to call parents or guardians, and stay with the athlete until medical attention has been given.

When injuries occur during a practice or event, an Incident Report Form (available on STRIDES) must be filled out and returned to NYRR by the next day.

Extreme temperatures can pose threats to the health of your runners. If you must run in severe hot or cold conditions, take precautions to avoid dehydration, overexposure, and frostbite. 



  • 3. Team Program Maintenance

    A coach is the heart of each Young Runners team. Read on to ensure student success by managing your team well.