After you read this week’s post and follow along with my workouts, you’ll get a better understanding of why the Yasso 800 (VO2 Max speed workout) is included in many marathon plans. I also reveal, based on my experience, what workouts best correlate to your finishing time. Yasso 800s, among other workouts are good “reference” workouts that will give you an indication of the likelihood that you will hit your goal finish time.
What Are Yasso 800s?
We’re continuing with weekly speed workouts. This week, I decreased the distance of the interval, compared to last weeks mile repeats. This week I completed my first set of a workout called “Yasso 800s.” My goal was to run the 800s at the pace generated by the McMillan calculator (2:57-3:04). The rest between each 800 is equal to the length of time of your 800. In my case, 3:00 after each interval for my rest.
Bart Yasso started his workout with 3-4 800s and then once a week he would add an additional 800 to the workout until he could complete 10 x 800m. Typically the last workout is 2-3 weeks before your race. The theory behind this workout is that the average time of your 800m over 10 intervals in minutes and seconds roughly correlates to that of the marathon time you can expect to run in hours and minutes. So, if your average time is 4:00, then this correlates to a 4 hour marathon finish time.
Yasso 800’s are really a VO2 max workout. Which means you run at max speed for your designated time (computed on the McMillian, Daniels or whatever pacing calculator you use) and then take an equal amount of rest between intervals. The purpose of VO2 max workouts is to increase your overall running fitness. These workouts improve the speed at which you can run, which would in turn should make running at marathon pace feel “easier”.
Why do coaches include Yasso 800s in Marathon Plans?
A number of coaches include the Yasso 800 workouts in their plans. Some consider it an indicator of your marathon fitness, while others use it to build up to longer intervals (1 mile, 2 mile and 3 mile repeats).
Regardless of whether you or your coach believe that this workout correlates to your marathon finish time, I think that Yasso 800s serve a valuable purpose in any ½ and full marathon plan because they help to make you faster. I typically run Yasso 800s twice during my marathon training. The first time is about 9-10 weeks out, with the 2nd being around 3-4 weeks prior to my race. In my experience, I don’t believe that Yasso 800s always accurately correlate to your finish time. I’ve run the workout each of the last 5 years and averaged under 3:00. In each of my subsequent races, my finish time was 3:05 – 3:14. Close, but not under 3:00.
I also have included this workout in numerous custom plans and the athletes whom I coach either struggled to hit the goal 800m time or reported that their marathon time didn’t correlate with their average 800m time from when they completed the workout.
Other Marathon Specific Workouts
For me, I think that marathon specific workouts like longer tempo runs of 10-12 miles or finishing fast for the last 6-7 miles of 16+ mile run are much better indicators of your marathon fitness. If I can comfortably complete these runs at Marathon Pace, then I know I’m on track to achieve my goal time.
My weekly mileage stays in the mid 40s this week, but I continue to add quality volume (combining VO2 Max and stamina workouts). You will also see in this post how I manage my busy schedule and fit in all the necessary workouts and recovery days. I’m now into Weeks 4-8 of my 12 week program, so with high mileage and intensity workouts, along with a busy professional schedule, it’s critical that I take care of my body and plan my workouts around business travel.
Monday April 30th – Easy run
The purpose of this workout was to continue the recovery from Saturday’s 15 mile long run. I was also setting up the rest of the week to accommodate my schedule. 6 mile easy runs are really important to not only optimize recovery and build aerobic capacity.
I get questions from people about which workouts they can skip if/when they get really busy and have to prioritize. I’m a firm believer in the 5-7 mile easy run. I like to include 2-3 of these runs in my schedule each week (some days I may only have time for a short run). I would not recommend skipping your short/easy runs because they really are the best way to optimize your recovery.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 6.1 miles, 47:25 minutes, 7:40
Tuesday May 1st – Track/Speed workout (Yasso 800s)
1 mile (or 10 minute warm-up @ easy pace) + strides
8 x 800m w/ 3 minute rest – Yasso 800s
10 minute c/d
This week my times for each 800m ranged from 2:59 to 3:03, so I was right on target. I completed 8 x 800m. Next month, I’ll run the workout again and do 10 x 800m.
Run Distance: 7.9 miles
Wednesday May 2nd – Easy Run
4.5 mile easy run. The purpose of this workout was to recover from yesterday’s track workout. Nice & easy run.
Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 4.5 miles, 39:44 & 8:48
Thursday May 3rd – Off Day
Business travel & meetings today. I planned the day off to coincide with my busy day. This was first break from running or conditioning exercises in 2 weeks, so the rest was well earned.
Friday May 4th – Tempo Run
Another 7 mile Tempo this week with approx. 1 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool down.
I completed this run on a local bike trail. It’s fairly flat, but does include a couple of hills which adds a challenge. My McMillan paces for tempos are 6:30 – 6:46. As you can see below (image from Strava), I’m still slightly slower than target. However, I started in the low 7:00/mile range and gradually picked up the pace to 6:39 pace the last mile. I did feel strong this last mile, which is good. The first and last 2 miles of this course are flat, so I believe that allowed me to more easily pick up the pace.
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 9 miles, 1:03:59, 7:06
Saturday May 5th – Easy/Recovery Run
6 miles on flat course. The purpose of today’s run is to recover from yesterday’s Tempo/hard run.
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 6 miles, 47:02, 7:47
If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.
Sunday May 6th – Long Run
12+ miles at easy pace
The goal of today’s run is to continue to build strength and get used to spending 90+ minutes on my legs. Because last week’s long run was 15+, I like to bring down the subsequent long run to between 10-12 miles. The pace is easy. However, on this run, the last 2.75 miles are uphill. Since I started late (after 1100am), the weather was hot. Although I try to drink a lot on my longer runs, the last portion of the run with the incline was tough.
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 12.2 miles, 1:36:31, 7:51
Weekly total = 6 days with workouts, 6 with running – 46 miles