An Evaluation of the Implementation of a UK School-Based Running Program

Anna E Chalkley, Ash C Routen, Jo P Harris, Lorraine A Cale, Trish Gorely, Lauren B Sherar

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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The adoption of school-based running programs has rapidly increased over the last five years in the UK and globally. However, there is currently a lack of information on how these initiatives are implemented, and whether they are generalizable and/or sustainable. This study evaluated the implementation (including reach, fidelity, and dose) of a school-based running program over seven months to inform future delivery. This observational study used a mixed-method, single-group, before-and-after design strengthened by multiple interim measurements to evaluate the implementation of an optional school-based running program. Five state-funded primary schools in Leicestershire, UK, participated, with 17 teachers and 189 (81 boys (47.4%) and 90 girls (52.6%)) Year 5 pupils (aged 9-10 years) from eight classes. During the 2016/2017 academic year, data were collected via several measures (including interviews, focus groups, observations, questionnaires, and teacher implementation logs) at multiple levels (i.e., school and individual) and at multiple time points during implementation. Follow up qualitative data were also collected during 2017/2018. The school-based running program achieved good reach, with 100% of pupils opting to participate at some point during the academic year. All schools implemented the program with good fidelity, although the level of implementation varied between schools and over time. The average number of sessions held per week ranged from 0.94-3.89 with the average distance accumulated per pupil per week ranging from 0.02 to 2.91 kilometers and boys being more likely than girls to be classed as high-level participators. Despite an initial drop off in participation over time, all schools remained engaged in the program and continued to implement it until the end of the school year. Contextual features (e.g., staff capacity and resources) differed between schools and influenced the quality of implementation and the frequency of delivery. The school-based running program is simple, inexpensive, and versatile and can be implemented by schools with relative ease. However, schools are diverse settings, with unique challenges to ongoing delivery. Thus, planned adaptations, specific to each school's context, are likely necessary to sustain participation in the longer term and should be considered prior to implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Issue number10
Early online date25 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Sept 2020


  • physical activity
  • program evaluation
  • implementation
  • school children
  • running


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