A woman running in a stadium


  • Good for groups where runners can be put in pairs of similar ability
  • Good for pacing practice, implementing strict recovery times and applying a little pressure
  • Ideal for even-numbered groups of 2-20 runners
  • Works well in parks and on the running track

Paarlauf is a special form of a continuous relay involving two people per team. It's an interesting way of performing a standard interval session.


A couple of flexi-cones to mark changeover points. Naturally-occurring markers such as trees, or positions on a running track, can also be used.

Setting Up

Runners should be grouped into pairs of roughly equal ability.

Identify a loop around the track/park and mark a start/finish/changeover point with a flexi-cone, or use a natural marker such as a tree.

The Session

The first runner in the pair runs the loop while their partner waits.

When the first runner has completed their lap, the second runner in the pair runs while the first runner rests.

This alternation continues for a fixed time or until a fixed number of laps have been completed. In the case of large groups with several pairs of runners of different abilities it is better to run for a fixed time so that everybody finishes the session together.

Typically runners feel a bit of pressure to maintain a consistent pace for the sake of their partners. Despite the fact that their partner is probably willing them to slow down to allow for a little more precious recovery!

While traditional interval sessions can sometimes suffer from inconsistent recovery times (somebody forgot to start the watch or distracted the coach), this is avoided with paarlauf sessions since recovery is dictated by the time it takes each member of the pair to complete their lap.


Runners must begin running as soon as their partner finishes. No extra recovery should take place.

Group Size

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 are of similar ability. Another option is to instead do a three-person continuous relay session or the more general continuous relay session.

The number of teams of pairs is usually limited by the space available. Beyond about 10 pairs (20 runners) things can get quite crowded, even on wider paths.


Jog Recovery

In this variation, which in some circles is more common than the standard version described above, each athlete in the pair has a different start and finish point. One athlete's finish point is the other's start point and vice-versa.

After changing over the recovering athlete jogs from their finish point to their start point.

Obviously the recovery section needs to be shorter than the main running section. This is easily achieved by having start and finish points opposite each other on the loop and having the recovering athlete cutting across the middle of the loop from their finish point to their start point whereupon they take over from the running athlete.

Real World Example

There is a group of eight athletes and the session is taking place on a running track.

Athletes are told to complete a lap at about their 5k race pace. The athletes are then paired off in the order in which they finish, so that athletes of similar ability are paired together.

Each athlete in each pair is assigned either the number one or the number two.

The start point for athlete one in each pair is half way up the home straight of the track and the start point for athlete two in each pair is halfway up the back straight of the track.

All athletes line up halfway up the home straight and on command the athletes assigned number one start their 200m run.

Meanwhile their partners jog across the infield to meet them halfway down the back straight where they change over.

The second set of athletes now begin their 200 meter run while the first athletes immediately begin jogging across the infield back to their start point half way up the home straight.

Running continues for 10 minutes. There is a two-minute rest before another 10-minute period of running, this time in the opposite direction.


Pairs of different abilities can be accommodated in the jog recovery variation by arranging the changeover points so that one runner's relay leg is longer than the other's.


Beware of any field activities taking place when on a running track and crossing the infield. Dodging javelins should not form part of the session!

Remember to warm up before your session and cool down afterwards.