A woman handing a baton to another woman

Three-person Continuous Relay

  • Good for mixed-ability groups
  • Great for speed and a bit of competition
  • Ideal for groups of 3-21 runners
  • Works well in parks and on the running track

A three-person continuous relay is a special case of a continuous relay in which each participant runs several times. They're good fun and an excellent way of getting a bit of speed in everybody's legs.


A few flexi-cones to mark the changeover points, but natural markers such as trees and lamposts can also be used.

Setting Up

Find an area with a good surface (lump-free and good traction) and place two flexi-cones 20-30 metres apart.

Split the runners into groups of three and assign each runner within each group a number from one to three.

Runner number one stands next to one of the flexi-cones and runner number three stands behind runner number one. Runner number two stands opposite the other two runners by the other flexi-cone.

The Session

The first runner runs to the second runner and then waits there. As soon as the first runner reaches the second runner, the second runner runs to the third and waits there. As soon as the second runner reaches the third runner, the third runner runs to the first runner, and so on.

Since the relay legs tend to be run quickly with short recoveries it's best to limit running time to about 90 seconds and perform several sets with recoveries between each.

The recovery periods are a great opportunity to discuss technique which can be put into practice on subsequent reps.


It's best to agree on a changeover protocol in advance. A high five usually works best.

Group Size

A minimum of three runners is needed. And since each group needs three runners then the entire group size must be a multiple of three.

Space may limit how many different groups are possible, but generally up to 21 is manageable (i.e. seven groups of three runners).

Real World Example

There is a group of ten athletes and the session is taking place in a park.

The run leader sets down two cones 30 metres apart on an area of well-maintained grass.

The ten athletes are sorted into groups of three with one left over. The leftover runner acts as the judge.

Athletes within each group are assigned numbers from one to three and get into position. The runners numbered one from each group stand in line with one of the cones and each of the runners numbered three from each group stands behind their teammate. The runners numbered two from each group stand opposite their teammates in line with the other cone.

The runners are told they must run fast and relaxed while completing the relay and the judge (the extra runner) will watch and pick out the most-relaxed-looking runner.

The teams run the relay for one minute and the judge identifies the most-relaxed-looking athlete. This athlete now becomes the judge and the former judge takes their place in the team.

The athletes are taken through a high knees running drill and told to focus on a good knee lift during the next set. The judge picks out the athlete with the best knee lift and they swap roles.

A further five sets are completed and each time a new technical focus is established and the runner determined most-proficient by the judge becomes the judge for the next round.


This works really well at the end of another session as an add-on.


Ensure good traction on wet or slippy days. The short nature of each relay leg means that runners tend to sprint and get tired quickly.

Ensure there is room for athletes to decelerate after handing over. E.g. don't position the changeover points next to a fence.

Remember to warm up before your session and cool down afterwards. Accelerating and decelerating several times over short distances can be demanding.