The unit run is a United States military tradition wherein an entire unit (battalion, company or platoon) of service members run in an organized formation along a set route. The run is normally conducted on a military post on streets that are closed to traffic. Many units conduct the unit run before or around sunrise during the week. Distance and pace of the run depend on the terrain, weather, and overall fitness level of the unit. Military units can vary greatly in size. Larger units tend to run slower than smaller groups. However, since the primary purpose of the unit run is the development of esprit de corps, speed is not important. It is considered more important that the group stay together as a coherent formation.
Since a large unit can be unwieldy in a single formation, it is normally divided into its constituents (such as companies for a battalion run. In some cases, the companies further organize themselves by platoons).
A distinguishing feature of the unit run is the use of the unit's colors at the front of the formation. The Commanding Officer (or next-ranking officer in the commander's absence) will be at the front of the column. The colors will be just behind (and often to the left). It is common for the staff officers to run immediately behind the commander, followed by the smaller unit formations.
The established reasons for having a unit run include:
- Allowing the commander to assess his troops' physical fitness
- Building unit esprit de corps
- Physical conditioning
Unit runs are often performed to mark an anniversary or holiday, or simply to maintain camaraderie and adhesion within the unit.
Traditions vary among battalions, but the following are some of the most common.
- The colors and guidons are carried. Because the run is for purposes of morale and unit pride, the guidon bearer will often run around the formation during the course of the run, holding the guidon high.
- Military cadence is sung. The rhythmic, cadenced verse that accompanies military runs is intended to keep all the soldiers running in step at the same pace. During a unit run, those service members who are best at calling cadence are utilized to make the run more fun for the participants and to make a positive impression on leadership.