Long Distance Drills

Keep the Pace

Maintaining an even pace over various intervals is important for the distance runner.

Setup – Place cones at 50m or 100m intervals around the entire track.

Procedure – Intervals are important to the distance runner because it helps them to make sure they are keeping pace with the rest of the field.

This drill builds on the runner’s ability to make the intervals in a certain amount of time.

The drill starts with the coach blowing a whistle to start. All of the runners participating will head to the next cones. The coach will set an interval time for the runners to meet. To start the season, you may want these intervals lower than normal – say 15 seconds for 50m.

The coach will blow the whistle at the 15 second mark, and the runners should have already arrived, or be arriving at the 50m mark at that time. Rest for 3 minutes between each 400m, and then run again. Repeat 3 times.

This can be used to build runners to meet a certain interval time for their respective event.

Cross Country Run

The elements of true cross-country running can come in handy for the long distance track athlete

Setup – Coaches need to set up a 30 to 45 minute course that has varied terrain. Coaches should also mark off which areas are sprint areas, jog areas, walking and rhythmic stride areas.

Procedure – This most difficult part of this drill will probably be for coaches – coming up with a great course that challenges the runners. The idea in creating different areas and various terrains is the different elements of long distance running are covered: endurance, sprint, and strength.

Runners need only follow the route, meeting certain intervals for each section.

Not only is this drill going to condition the long distance runner, but it is also going to build endurance, strength, and help them work on a good rhythmic stride.

Same Time Drill

This is an endurance drill for long distance athletes, but it also helps them build quick sprint skill

Setup – The coach will need to mark off different distances: 40m, 50m and 60m. Runners will only run one distance at a time.

Procedure – The coach will set a specific time, say 15 seconds, to reach the 40m interval. Then the runners will walk back, and then they have to run 50m in 15 seconds. Walk back and then they must run 60m.

This sets the drill up to be run at longer intervals if the coach desires. The next step would be to decrease the amount of time the runner is given in order to meet those interval times.

Mental Fatigue Drill

Mental fatigue plays an important role in determining the success of a person’s long distance race

Setup – Coaches need to set up a long distance run for all of their long distance runners, and then a short course for them to run at the end. Intervals of 50m will work well for this drill.

Procedure – This drill is meant to work runners when they are fatigued. Mental fatigue takes place in many races, and runners need to work at breaking through the mental fatigue.

For this drill, the group of runners will have to run over a long distance – probably around 1,600m. This run should be at a good pace in order to build fatigue in the runner. Once the long distance run is done, then the runners can rest for 3 minutes.

After three minutes, the runners must run the Interval Sprints drill.

Interval Sprints

This is a great drill to help build endurance in the long distance running.

Setup – Mark off intervals of 50m and 50m, 75m and 75m, then 100 and 100.

Procedure – The first time runners go to do this drill, they run at half speed for 50m, then walk for 50m, then half speed for 75m and then walk for 75m, then half speed for 100m and walk for 100m. Rest for 5 minutes.

The second time the drill is run, the athletes should do the same thing at ¾ speed. Then the runners should rest for another 2 or 3 minutes and then do it again. The final time they run this drill, it should be done at a sprint.

This can eventually build up the runners to higher intervals. You can run this drill at 100m, 150m, and then 200 meters, but instead of sprinting, you can focus your runners on rhythmic strides and making sure their stride is even and regular.

This drill will build stamina for the runner and it will also help to work on good stride development. And, finally, it will work on overall endurance for the long distance runner.


This is a good drill to once again build endurance for the long distance runner.

Setup – Coaches can mark off the following intervals: 100 meters, 150 meters, and then 200 meters.

Procedure – This the pyramid approach to the endurance running. The runner will start off running for 100m, and then they rest for 10 seconds. Then they start running again, for 150m, and then a 15 second rest. Then the runner does the last 200m and then rests for 20 seconds.

At this point (the top of the pyramid), the runner runs again for 200m, but then only rests for 15 seconds, then runs 150m. Then the runner rests for 10 seconds and runs the final 100m.

You can repeat this drill twice – with a 4 to 5 minute rest in between.

These kinds of drill work on the endurance of the long distance runner.

Uphill, Downhill Runs

This is good for building strength and endurance for the long distance runner.

Setup – You need to find a hill that has a slight incline, but is about 150 to 200m. The incline should be about 20 degrees, but any hill with a decent incline is going to work.

Procedure – This is a great early season drill to start building conditioning and strength. The uphill run will get the blood flowing. The runner will start by running half speed up the hill, and then at the end of the specified distance (150 or 200m) they rest for 30 seconds. Then they turn around and run down the hill.

Then, the runner begins again and this time runs up the hill at full speed. Then they rest for 30 seconds and run down the hill. Rest for 5 minutes and then start at half speed again. Then the runners do it at full speed once more to complete the drill.

This is a great strength building drill, but it also builds excellent endurance to begin the season.

Distance and Sprint

It is important to be able to accelerate slightly and gain an advantage at the end of a long distance race.

Setup – You will need an open track for the runner to run a distance – depending on what event they are working on.

Procedure – This drill is meant to help the runner learn to keep just a little boost in reserve for the final 50 to 75 meters. So, this acts as an endurance drill for the runner to work on their respective event.

Once the runner reaches the final 50 to 100m (depending on the length of the race), they need to increase their acceleration for that final stretch. It is important for the runner to finish the race strong, and not lag behind.

Coaches should chart the final 50 or 100m time of their distance runners over the course of the season using this drill. A steady decrease in the final distance times will indicate that their runner is building the capacity to give a last ditch burst to the finish line.

Note: Runners should not be holding too much in reserve to the point it detrimentally affects their overall event time. They should be running at their regular pace, and then kick it into another gear.

Repeat - With repeated work, they will train themselves to develop that end burst.

Hurdle Hops

This drill works on burst for each stride when running long distance

Setup – Set up 5 or 6 hurdles that are about 10 feet apart.

Procedure – The runner will stand in front of the hurdles, and on two feet, with the feet together the runner will jump over the hurdle and land on two feet.

The runner will continue in succession to go through all five of the hurdles that are set up.

The hurdle hops train the muscles to burst, which is important in stride strength and overall running power.

Endurance Sets

The idea for distance runners is to build up the endurance to keep them running at peak performance for longer distances.

Setup – You need an open track for the runners to do this drill.

Procedure – This drill can be split into three different groups based on the distance that the runners are going to run at a meet. For example, if the runners are going to be doing 800m or 1500m, they can run endurance sets of 400m. If their event is 1500m or 3,000m, then they can do the sets at 800m. For runners doing 5,000m or 10,000 (rare), they can do 1500m sets.

For 400m or 800m, the runners should do 5 runs. They should rest for 3 or 4 minutes in between each run. Runners should go at ¾ speed. For 800m sets, the runners should do 3 runs, with a 5-minute rest in between. If you do longer runs, (1500m), then do only two sets with a 7 minute rest in between.

The result is the same as a lot of the long distance drills: it works on building endurance so the athlete can give their best throughout the entire race.

Sprint over Distance

This is a good drill to help a runner work to their distance by running just a little over the distance.

Setup – Open track for runners to work on their distance – plus a little more.

Procedure – Conditioning to hit another gear once a race is in the final stages is important. Your runners need to understand that they need 40% of their energy left over to finish the last 25% of the race.

In this drill, the runners will run 100m over their distance. For the 800m, runners will run 900m, 1500m runners will run 1600m, 3,000m runners will run 3,100m, and so on. The catch is that once the runner finishes their event distance, they must sprint for 100m at full speed.

The runner should run the event distance at ¾ speed for practice, and then full sprint for the last 100m.

This drill builds the runner for the final stretch of the race, but it also helps the runner learn to adapt to situations where they are going to have to adjust their race tactics from slow pace to full sprint.

Touch Contact Drill

This drill is a great teaching drill that helps runners to react to different situations in a long distance race.

Setup – This drill can be run as a group of runners, but you can run it with partners running through their event.

Procedure – Either in the groups, or in the partners the racers will run an event length race. Pair up or group runners that are going to be running the same length of race. Some runners may run this drill more than once to simulate true race tactics.

Designate one runner as the leader and the other(s) as the trailer(s). The leader should change up their race tactics as they run the event – and the other runners are to try to keep within a ‘touching’ distance. That is a rule of thumb when racing long distance – try to keep at a point where you can reach out and touch the lead runner.

Runners will learn to keep up with the rest of the pack and keep within striking distance.