Did We Just Do P.D.?

The staff agrees to complete a training program to compete together in an event.

Photo of Jen Ortlinghaus
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Here are some details that will help explain how this group training program has been successful in the past:

How the Program Began

I am an experienced runner (21 marathons and many other shorter distances) and wanted to bring my knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport to my colleagues. Not knowing if anyone would be interested or willing to participateI spoke to staff members individually. The personal contact and explanation of the training made it more likely for staff to agree to join. (It was hard to say "no" aloud and in person.)

How the Program was Organized

When a staff member joined, he or she would give me an email address for receiving workouts, advice, and links to race websites. Each week I wrote a 7-day training plan and emailed it to participants. There were 3 levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. The plan would contain a weekly mileage goal, speed workout, long run, and other important tips. Communicating via email made it easy for participants to get questions answered quickly.

Once per week the group met after school to do the group run and running drills. I mapped out a route, and there were groups of different paces running or run/walking together. The participants did a 10 week training plan, and all were successful in completing a 10K event.

During the Program

Many of my colleagues began this training with hesitation. Some thought they could never finish the 10K distance. After some practice and group workouts, the running and training dominated all conversations in the staff room, at lunch time, and in the hallways.  People were constantly asking for advice, about injuries, about nutrition, how to improve, etc. However, when we were doing the workouts, we mainly talked about what was happening at school!

I believe that having a colleague support new runners in the experience also helped build confidence. Everyone knew what to wear, what to eat and drink, how to wear a race bib, how to warm-up, and running etiquette when it was time for the event.

Because we met after school and on campus, many students and families saw us running. They encouraged us, and some students and parents ended up registering for other races after our event. Our 10K was the Empire Runners Last 10K which takes place every December in Santa Rosa.

I have guided my colleagues in preparing for and completing 2 more races since our original event.

District-Wide Implementation

It would be amazing if we could have a running program throughout the district. There is evidence that interest in healthy lifestyles and physical activities exits at other sites. (12 teacher from Kenilworth Junior High completed the Ragnar Relay last fall.) In order to offer the running program to entire school district, I think that each site would need a representative to act as the coach or leader. All sites could be doing the same training (the leader would not have to be experienced) and could benefit from one person or a small team of teachers preparing a emailing the weekly training plans. Ideally, the district would agree on a race event to complete together. Each site could have its own matching shirts, uniforms, or costumes. It would be powerful for staff to complete a challenging event together, and it would be incredible for students and families to be able to see it happening!


This is professional development that doesn't feel like p.d. The plan is to have teachers and staff agree to participate in a 10 week training program that culminates in everyone running a 10K race together. Weekly group workouts are offered, and leveled training plans are e-mailed to participants each week. The leader of the training program could bring in guest speakers, and organize the final race event

Staff would learn about the history of the marathon (could be used in class for world history) and the Boston Marathon (helpful in U.S. history.) 

For elementary teachers who are required to teach Physical Education, learning about different types of workouts, modifications, drills, stretching, nutrition, and fueling can be passed onto the students. Perhaps instead of sending kids out to just run some laps could turn into more meaningful lessons.

The group will learn about perseverance, which happens to be completely in-line with Common Core.

I know this plan works because I offered it to my staff on a volunteer basis, and approximately 20 members successfully completed the 10K. At the start, most believed they couldn't complete the distance.

The event doesn't have to be running. It could be dance lessons, disc golf, rock climbing, etc.

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Photo of Margaret Powers
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Hi Jen, would you be interested in teaming up with Kelly Matteri and starting a Google doc to build out this idea? 

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