I discovered Yasso 800s the hard way, when I was a college runner! They were tough, but I loved them as they improved my strength, endurance, and pacing.
Although most experts agree that the long run is the bread and butter of marathon training, it’s not only the important workout serious runners should be doing.
In fact, there are many other workouts and sessions that will help pave the way to marathon running success.
One of these sessions is what’s known as the Yasso 800s in the running world. That’s where today’s post comes in handy.
In this article, we’ll dive into what the Yasso 800s are all about, explain the benefits and the limits, and show you how to include them in your marathon plan.
What Are The Yasso 800s?
First things first, what is the Yasso 800s?
In essence, it’s a session based on running multiple intervals of 800 meters—the equivalent of two laps around a standard track. The workout has been long used to predict finishing marathon time as well as condition athletes to run their best 26.1-mile event.
The session is named after Bart Yasso, distance running legend and former editor of Runners World. He’s also one of the few athletes to have completed races on all seven continents. In fact, in some running circles, Bart is unofficially referred to as the “Mayor of Running.”
The theory behind the Yasso 800 is that the average time required to complete two laps around a standard track in minutes and seconds roughly correlates to how long it should take you to complete a marathon in hours and minutes.
For example, if your average time for an 800-m rep is three minutes and 20 seconds, then this correlates to three hours 20 minutes marathon finish time.
This is what Bart Yasso concluded after reviewing his training logs as he observed that his 800-meter times always closely correlated with the pace he would end up covering the race.
But is there any actual proof that supports this?
Although Yasso 800s are the go-to session for predicting marathon time, the truth is there is no actual science that shows that it’s a reliable predictor of marathon time.
The fact is, you could run a bit faster on the intervals than your predicted marathon time. And even if the workout was accurate, it would be based on accidental correlation instead of a causative one.
In fact, Yasso 800s achieve nothing but reveal what you’re capable of in terms of aerobic capacity and running efficiency. But it doesn’t say much about your endurance, so outcomes can vary widely.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but correlation doesn’t mean causation and all that. That’s why you should consider Yasso 800s as an approximation, or rough guide, of marathon time instead of a reliable predictor.
But all in all, Yasso 800s is a useful and efficient session for marathon training. Performing them can cause fitness adaptations and gains that can improve performance in virtually all distances from the 5K to the marathon.
Decide Your Marathon Goal
Just because the workout is straightforward doesn’t mean it’s something you can do out of the gate—especially if you’re a beginner runner.
In fact, there are many things you need to put in place before you attempt such a challenging workout.
To perform the session, decide your target marathon pace and use that as a starting point.
The goal is quite simple.
Take your target marathon finish time and then run that for two laps around a standard track—choose minutes and seconds instead of hours and minutes. Remember that.
That’s why, as a prerequisite, you should first decide—or know—your marathon target time in hours a minute. Then you simply convert it to minutes and seconds.
For example, if your target marathon goal is four hours—a common goal among beginners—your converted time is four minutes for 800 meters.
A faster runner? The rule still holds true. For example, if your marathon goal is 2 hours 45 minutes, your Yasso 800-m goal is 2 minutes 45 seconds.
During your first few weeks, aim to complete no more than four to five reps as you get fitter work up to at least ten before you taper for your race.
Once you have your target time, follow the below training plan.
Where To Do Yasso 800s?
The best place to perform Yasso 800s is on a standard track as it makes it easy to measure the distance of the reps. The distance is also roughly one-half a mile. You can also perform the session on a treadmill because you’ll know exactly how fast and far you’re running.
Don’t have access to a track or treadmill? Well, as long as you have a way to keep track of your distance and time, you can pretty much perform Yasso 800s anywhere.
How Many Repeats To Run?
If you’re trying this out for the first time, begin with four reps and work your way up to complete ten intervals in a single session two weeks before race day.
Can’t maintain your target pace throughout all four reps? Then simply stick with four reps again during your upcoming speed workout. Aim to build speed and power gradually. As long as you stick with it, you’ll make it eventually. It’s just a matter of time and practice.
Don’t worry, though. This is, after all, is marathon training, and it’s not supposed to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would be a marathon runner, right?
The Exact Routine
Begin by warming up. Complete an easy five to ten minutes easy jog, then perform a few dynamic exercises, such as squats, inchworms, lunges, to get your body ready. Try doing a few 100-meter strides, too.
Run your first 800-m interval at your converted time. Then recover by jogging or walking for the same amount of time.
Then repeat, shooting for three or four reps per session on your first few sessions. You should also aim to complete the reps without walking or taking a break.
Last up, cool down with an easy one-mile jog to get your body back to normal.