Workout: 10x800M at Marathon Hour/Minute Pace (AKA Yasso 800s)
Workout Summary: When I first heard about the Yasso 800 a long time ago and I remember my first thought: “geez, that’s really easy to remember!” and so it is. Bart Yasso of Runner’s World, in a 2001 article authored by colleague Amby Burfoot, set out a simple workout that goes like this: run 800 meters (two laps on your track) in the time of your marathon goal in hours and minutes (e.g. 3:00:00 = 3:00) — if you could work up to about 10 of these, then you’re ready to handle that pace for the marathon.
So what this meant was that if you were trying to run a marathon in 4 hours and 15 minutes, then you would run your 800 meter intervals (about 1/2 mile) in 4 minutes and 15 seconds each. If you could sustain that for five miles (10 x 800M) then you probably had the speed base to handle that pace in the marathon. Of course, you still need to do the long training to build your overall endurance, but this would be a predictor to see that you had the cardio-vascular efficiency to support that marathon pace. It sounds so simple, but there’s more here than meets the eye. Read on to understand how this workout really works.
Background: One of the fundamental issues that we have with marathon runners is convincing them that they need to get to the track at all. This workout is a good illustration of how to get them there. If you can throw out a simple goal that will predict marathon performance, then you’re likely to see folks show up at the track and see how it goes. This is very true with the Yasso 800. The simplicity of the workout is that it is easy to convert marathon target time (in hours and minutes) into the pace to do the 800M intervals. The complexity is that the pace of the intervals is actually quite a bit faster than your goal marathon pace. To illustrate this further, let me give you a couple of examples. I’m going to write out the minutes and seconds so that there is no confusion in these examples:
Example 1) A target marathon time of 3:00:00 (three hours and zero minutes) would require a marathon pace of 6:52 per mile pace (six minutes and 52 seconds per mile), but a Yasso 800 run at 3:00 (three minutes) is actually 6:00 per mile pace (six minutes per mile). That means that the Yasso 800 is 52 seconds per mile faster than marathon goal pace.
Example 2) a target marathon time of 4:15:00 (four hours and fifteen minutes) would have you run the marathon at 9:44 per mile (nine minutes and forty-four seconds per mile), but the Yasso 800 run at 4:15 (four minutes) is 8:00 mer mile pace (eight minutes per mile pace). This is 1:14 per mile faster than marathon pace.
These examples illustrate how the complexity underlying this workout is playing out. Yasso 800s are not a pacing workout to see if you can run your marathon pace for five miles, but rather a speed workout that require you to run much faster than marathon goal pace for five miles — which is working on the speed and efficiency required to ensure that you can actually run your slower marathon pace.
Where to do this workout: It is best to do this workout on the track for the sake measurement and simplicity. Do two laps around the track in the target time, rest for a period of 1-2 minutes and then repeat. Note: the original workout described in Runner’s World set the rest period as a jogging recovery equivalent to the length of the interval, but I find that this is too long for slower runners who could be recovering for 4-5 minutes between intervals.
How fast to do this workout: This one is all about the simplicity of figuring out the pace. The pace of this workout is to do the 800 meter intervals in the hour and minute of your marathon goal time. This pace is faster than your marathon goal pace, so these efforts will feel much harder, but that is the intent of the workout.
Nice things about this workout: This workout can be done without a brain for math or pacing. The pace figures itself out for you.
When can you start? This is a good workout that can be started early in the season and done as a progression. Start with 2×800, then move on to 3×800 and so forth until you reach 10×800 toward the end of the season.
How often can you do this workout? This workout can be done up to once per week. The last workout should be done no closer than 10-14 days prior to the goal marathon.
Advanced options: Decrease the rest interval to 45 seconds to 1 minute for a more difficult workout.
We’ll feature another workout next week, so stayed tuned! Don’t miss our video series feature every Thursday here on Running Advice and News.
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News