Road Runners Club of America

Empowering Everyone to Run!

Guidelines for Leading a Group Run

Most RRCA clubs host regular, organized group runs throughout the year. Group runs accomplish many goals for a club or training program; they bring people together, both seasoned and newer runners. They create a social atmosphere for the group that supports a runner’s training needs, and more. Organizing and leading a group run is an important responsibility. To help ensure your group runs are well organized and safe, the RRCA has issued the following guidelines for leading a group run. These guidelines focus on leading a group that has 15 or more people, however most of the advice still applies for smaller group runs of 5 to 10 people.

  • The run leader should contact their club’s RRCA point person or the RRCA to ensure that their RRCA membership is up to date and the insurance premium has been paid for the year. Do not assume the liability for leading a group run if your club, shoe store, or training program is not adequately insured or your dues (insurance) with the RRCA are not paid in full.
  • The run leader or a designated individual participating in the group run should have current CPR and First Aid certifications. This person should also keep a club owned general first aid kit in their car.
  • The run leader should map out the route(s) using a GPS or mapping tool..
  • Clearly outline the distance(s) for the run. If your group is doing a 20 miler, can the run be broken down into a 5-miler, a 10-miler, etc for people that want to join the group but not go the full distance?
  • If your group run is very large and/or it is run on a multi-use trail or road where a permit may be required, check with your local authorities before promoting the run. If permits are required, consider altering the course or staggering start times for the run by pace or distance groups. This may eliminate the need for a permit.
  • The run leader should outline pace groups and recruit pace leaders. The run leader should also identify water stops on the route and recruit volunteers to deliver water or man water stops if none is readily available on the route.
  • The run leader should recruit a back of the pack runner or sweeper who carries a cell phone (be sure it is fully charged up). Cell phones with cameras are beneficial in the case of confrontations or emergencies. You can call the police, take a picture of a vehicle, and make certain someone knows where you are at a moment’s notice.
  • The run leader or social chair should identify new members and/or guests and ensure they have signed a waiver before the run begins. If they can’t remember whether or not they have signed a waiver, have a few extra copies available to fill out. Or have a waiver printed at the top of a page and have all runners sign the page. DO NOT let anyone run with the group if they refuse to sign a waiver or follow the rules of the group run.
  • Consider a sign-in sheet so you know who is running with the group, how many people you have in the group. The sign-in sheet should also ask for an emergency contact name and number for you to have handy just in case something happens.
  • The run leader should provide clear instructions as to the route, the various paces for the group, the turn around point, the terrain, the hydration support (is water provided or should participants bring their own?), etc.
  • The run leader should provide the “rules of the run.” Remember you are leading the run and assuming responsibility for the group’s well being. These rules should include, but are not limited to:
    • Stick to the designated route
    • No headphones allowed
    • No dogs
    • Do not run more than two abreast especially on busy roads, sidewalks, or multi-use trails. The goal is to share the roads/trails, not hog them.
    • Be mindful of your language and conversation content. Adult conversation does happen on group runs, but it should not go so far as to create an uncomfortable atmosphere for the group.
  • Everyone in the group should wear reflective clothing if running in the dark or if it will get dark during the run. Work with a local shoe store to donate reflective vest and have a grab bag handy for people to borrow a vest. Be sure that people return the vests after the run and get a volunteer to wash them when they get home. Encourage people to wear a flasher on their back if running the dark. At minimum, the leader, mid-pack runner and sweeper should all wear reflective vests and the sweeper should wear a flasher on their back.
  • The group should follow the “ranger rules”, which means leave no one behind for any reason (bathroom breaks, “need to walk”, twisted ankle, etc).
  • Everyone in the group should obey all traffic signs. The group leader and pace leaders should NEVER run the group against a light or through a stop sign. Mid-sections of a group tend to ignore traffic signals while following the front of the pack. This has been the number one reason why people get hit by cars on group runs. Work with your runners to stress the importance of paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Use sidewalks and trails for group runs as much as possible, if you need to lead your group run on a road, face traffic and run no more than two abreast. This will allow oncoming motorist to see the group as opposed to driving upon the back of the pack. If there is a confrontation with a driver, follow the path of least violence. It’s better to lose an argument than to lose a life.  Use a cell phone camera to document a confrontational driver.
  • The run leader or social chair should engage people in conversation—especially if they seem to be in distress. Watch for signs of leaning, slurred speech and spontaneous stumbling, this could signify a stroke.
  • The run leader or a designated volunteer should be the last one to leave post-run. Most health related problems such as heat stroke or heart attacks tend to occur in the down time immediately following a long group run.
  • Consider a post run brunch or lunch at a nearby restaurant. After all, your members say the number one reason they joined the club was for the social aspect.

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