Back 'n' Forth
- Good for mixed-ability groups
- A great motivator for those who struggle to maintain rhythm in interval sessions
- Ideal for even-numbered groups of 2-20 runners
- Works well in parks
Back 'n' Forth is a perfect way of applying a little bit of pressure to runners while allowing them to run within their abilities.
A couple of cones can be used to mark the start point, but natural markers such as trees work just as well.
Pick a loop of about 200-600 meters in length and use cones to mark the start of the loop or use a natural marker such as a tree.
Arrange team members into pairs. If possible have stronger runners pair up with weaker runners.
The pairs of runners line up at the starting point and on command each runner within a pair runs in the opposite direction to their partner.
The runners continue running around the loop - one clockwise and one anti-clockwise - until they meet their partner, at which point they turn around and run back the other way.
If both runners in a pair have kept a consistent pace then they should arrive back at the start point at the same time.
The stronger runner of the pair will likely be running faster and cover more distance with each rep.
Runners are under a little pressure to perform consistently - i.e. to meet their partner at the same point with each rep - which can help motivation and consistent pacing.
Since runners must be paired up, an overall even number of athletes is required. In the case of an odd number of athletes one option is to create a team of three, with two of the runners running at the same time. Just make sure they're of similar ability.
The number of teams of pairs is usually limited by the space available. Above 20 runners (i.e. 10 pairs) things can start to get congested, even on wider paths.
This variation allows pairs of runners of similar ability to keep each other on their toes.
In addition to the marker at the start of the loop one is also placed at a midway point.
Each runner in a pair still sets off in an opposite direction to their partner and their goal is to reach the midway point at exactly the same time, turn around, and then get back to the start at exactly the same time.
To avoid runners racing against each other and running faster than desired for the session, emphasise that the goal is for each pair to work as a team and coordinate their efforts, rather than for one runner to beat the other.
Real World Example
There is a group of nine mixed-ability athletes and the session is taking place in a park with a path around the perimeter, which measures 300 metres.
Before any sorting into pairs takes place, runners complete a single loop at the pace they think they could maintain for ten reps. Each runner's finishing position is noted.
The runners finishing in positions two to five are each paired with one of the runners finishing in positions six to nine. Leaving the first finisher without a partner.
For each rep the faster runner in each pair runs clockwise and the slower runner in each pair runs anti-clockwise. When the runners in the pairs meet they turn around and run back to the start.
The runner that was not paired with anybody runs a complete loop on their own.
For the second rep, the lone runner is swapped with a runner from one of the pairs. So now there is now a new lone runner and the original lone runner gets to run with a partner.
For the third rep, the new lone runner is swapped with a runner from a different pair, and so on. A total of nine reps are completed and in this way, everybody completes one rep running solo, with the majority of the runs taking place with a partner.
Creating a little competition between teams for the best pacers is a great way of stopping pairs of runners from racing each other.