While the weekly long run is a definite staple of marathon training, it’s not the only workout you should be doing — especially if you’ve got a finishing time in mind.
Here’s why including the Yasso 800 workout just might be the missing ingredient to perfecting your pace and improving your speed before the big race.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Created by legendary biathlete and ultrarunner Bart Yasso, the Yasso 800 has been used to train for and predict goal race times for the marathon. The workout consists of 800-meter repeats, typically performed on a 400-meter track. The idea behind this interval training session is to get used to running the exact pace you will run during your marathon with minimal rest in between sets.
As the story goes, Yasso began completing the workout when training for the 1981 Boston Marathon. Upon reviewing his training logs years later, he noticed his workout times always closely mirrored the pace he would end up running during the race. Today runners around the globe have used this workout to successfully predict their marathon times on race day.
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HOW TO DO YASSO 800S
To complete the workout, take your goal marathon pace and use that as a starting point. For instance, if you’re trying to finish your marathon in less than five hours, your pace per mile will be roughly 11:23. When you do your Yasso 800 repeats you’ll cut this time in half, which would be a two-lap time of 5:41.
While the exact number of repeats you run may vary according to your fitness, it’s recommended that you work your way up to at least 10 before you taper for your race. If you’re new to this style of workout, you can start with 4–6 repetitions and work your way up to completing 10 in a single workout two weeks before race day. In his prime, Yasso was known for starting with 4 intervals a couple of months before his race and adding one interval to his workout each week until he reached 10 two weeks before his race.
Warmup: 1 mile of easy jogging followed by 3–4 100-meter strides.
Set: 10 (or fewer) 800-meter repeats at marathon goal pace, jogging one lap (400 meters) in between each interval. Complete the series without walking or taking a break.
Cool down: 1 mile of easy jogging.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
No single workout contains magic in a bottle. While this workout may be effective, it must be used in conjunction with a well-rounded marathon training program. Long runs, strength training, tempo runs and other workouts must still be included.
You also want to keep in mind that fast-paced training should be done no more than twice per week to avoid injury when training for a marathon. Yasso recommends this specific workout once per week, but if you’re not used to interval training doing them less frequently (such as every other week) is OK, too. Listen to your body and monitor how it feels in the days following the workout and modify as necessary.
Also be aware that since this workout is typically run on a track, there are several other factors that can influence your time on race day. These include the elevation gain/loss on the race course, the surface of the course, the weather on race day, dehydration and calorie consumption during the run.
While Yasso 800s are usually done on a standard track like you’ll find at a high school, you can do them on a long stretch of road or on a treadmill if you don’t have a track nearby. If you don’t like the monotony of track workouts or doing the same interval over and over, modify the workout by including your marathon goal pace during a long run.
Every 2 miles or so, run for 800 meters at your goal pace. This helps your body adapt to the pace you expect to run when you hit the start line and get you mentally ready for the effort you’ll need to put forth. And like Yasso 800s, training at race pace provides you with confidence you can run your goal pace even when you become fatigued in the latter part of your marathon.