run circles/rings around, to

run circles around someone

 and run rings around someone
Fig. to outrun or outdo someone. (Alludes to someone who runs fast enough to run in circles around a competitor and still win the race.) John is a much better racer than Mary. He can run circles around her. Mary can run rings around Sally.
See also: around, circle, run

run rings around

Also, run circles around. Be markedly superior to, as in Ethan runs rings around David in chess, or In spelling, Karen runs circles around her classmates. The first term, dating from the late 1800s, alludes to a horse running around a riding ring much faster than the others.
See also: around, ring, run

run circles/rings around, to

To defeat decisively in a contest; to outdo. The implication here is that a runner moving in circles can still beat another running in a straight line. The term began to appear in print in the 1890s. “He could run rings round us in everything,” wrote G. Parker in the Westminster Gazette (1894).
See also: circle, ring, run