People running in a single file on sand

Single File

  • Perfect for beginner groups
  • Options to incorporate speed and drills
  • Ideal for groups of 5-12 runners
  • Works best in parks and on the running track

Single File (still sometimes referred to as Indian File or Indian Run) is a perfect activity for introducing new runners to speed and also to get complete beginners running for the first time.

Setting Up

Runners line up in a single file, with a little space for movement between each runner and the person in front and behind.

The Session

The single file of runners jogs along at a gentle pace as a close-knit unit. Each time a runner finds themself at the back of the line they run quickly to the front, whereupon they slow back down to a gentle jog.

In this way each runner takes a turn at running fast from the back to the front of the line and at leading the group temporarily.

It's key that the group stay as a close-knit unit during Single File. Runners should be careful to slow back down to the group pace after running to the front of the line. Having a group leader continually reiterate this point can be very useful.

Group Size

5-12 works best. Any less than five means that the distance travelled from back to front of the line is very short and the exercise loses its effectiveness. With more than 12 or so in the group it can be difficult to run as a close-knit unit, and runners also end up waiting quite a while between turns (which can get a bit boring, especially for younger athletes). For larger groups using a double file can work well.


Walking Single File

An excellent way of gently introducing complete beginners to running is by using a mix of walking and running. In this variation the group simply walks and the person finding themself at the back of the group is free to run to the front at whichever pace they find comfortable.

Double File

A great variation for Single File, which allows for larger group sizes, is to have a two lines of runners in pairs. In this variation there will always be a pair of runners at the back of the line. The runner on the left runs to the front of the line on the left-hand side and the runner on the right runs to the front of the line on the right-hand side. They meet back at the front of the line.


Another way of introducing variation is to use different means of travelling from the back to the front of the line. Some suggestions:

  • Running with high knees
  • Skipping/bounding
  • Jumping (hard work)
  • Hopping (very hard work)
  • Side stepping

Real World Example

There is a group of 16 adult beginners and the session is taking place in a park with paths.

Runners are organised into pairs, the session is explained and the group starts jogging slowly as a double file. The pair of runners at the back of the group run quickly to the front of the group - one on the left-hand side, the other on the right-hand side - whereupon they start jogging slowly again.

A new pair of runners now finds themselves at the back of the group and they run to the front in a similar fashion.

After a few pairs have made their way to the front the group is starting to string out, so the run leader has everybody walk for 20 seconds to regroup and reminds the runners of the importance of keeping things slow when at the front of the pack.

When each pair of runners has taken two turns running to the front of the group everybody takes a minute's walk recovery.

The activity is then repeated, but instead of taking turns to run to the front of the pack, the pairs of runners take turns skipping to the front.

The activity is repeated a final time. This time the group walks while pairs of runners take turns hopping to the front.


Continually remind runners to slow down once they reach the front of the line so that nobody is struggling to keep up with the base pace.


Ensure that on a busy track or road there's plenty of room for runners to overtake the rest of the pack. This is particularly important during the double file variation.

If the session is taking place on public roads then be very aware of traffic, pedestrians etc. and it's probably best to avoid the double file and drills variations altogether.