Last night at my Vavi Running Club weekly Tuesday night run, we did something a little different. Rather than our typical out and back 5-6 mile run, we did a group speedwork drill. In the past when we do intervals, we just run out a mile, then pick it up for the desired length (either 1 mile or ½ mile) then do a recovery jog then pick it up again. Although we definitely get a good workout by doing this, nothing could compare to last night’s Yasso’s 800s interval work!
What are Yasso 800s?
Bart Yasso, a manager at Runner’s World, invented this speed workout nearly a decade ago. According to an article on Runner’s World, since then literally thousands of runners have claimed that the program has worked for them. Here it is:
- Run 800 meters (that’s half a mile or two laps around a track) repeats in the same minutes/seconds as your hours/miles goal time for a marathon (ie if you are shooting for a 3 hour, 30 minute marathon, run each 800 in 3 minutes and 30 seconds).
- Between sets, jog or walk for the same amount of time as your 800 meter run (3:30 in this case)
- Do this work out once a week, starting with 4-5 and building up to 10.
- If you can consistently finish all 10 800s at your desired pace, you should be able to run the marathon at this pac
How We Did Them
Our running coach, Blake, had us start out with a nice “easy” 1.25 mile warm up jog. We ran from our meeting point in Crown Point to the Fanuel Park that is on Sail Bay. Then, we ran back at lactate threshold pace (about 1 min/mile faster than your normal “easy” pace). I think we were a little excited because we ran our first 1.25 miles at a 8:55 pace (usually easy would be 9:20-30ish) then ran the LT 1.25 miles at a 8:10 pace.
After we arrived back at the meeting point Blake announced that we were in Group A (the fast group!) since we arrived back soonest. Our group of five girls were the only females in the pack – the rest were super fast boys! Blake had set up two sets of two cones, one set at the start and the other set 400 meters down the boardwalk. Since the boardwalk is busy, we actually ran the majority of the first 400 meters on the grass. Once our group had dispersed, we were allowed to run on the boardwalk. Oh yeah, and the set of two cones that we had to loop around to come back was at the top of a grassy “knoll” has Blake called it. Basically a small hill. No fun!
We were instructed to run at 95% of our full exertion. The first 800 I went all out and ended up coming in around 3:15. The next few were closer to the 3:20s. The 4th I came in at 3:30. During the 5th, which I believed to be the last, I pushed t really hard and sprinted to the finish, coming in at 3:19. However – Blake announced that we were doing a bonus 800! I told Mike that we don’t quit when Tony adds in bonus rounds during P90X so we obviously have to do this one. I was out of energy but pushed through and honestly can’t’ remember what my time was on the 6th one.
3:20ish Average Equals 3:20 Marathon? Not Quite…
I was absolutely exhausted by the end. Blake only let us rest and recover for 3 min between sets (which is less than I should be since I was doing the 800s closer to 3:30). I jogged a little bit after each 800 and then walked and then rested for the last minute or so. These were exhausting! But, the good news is that my times were fairly consistent and really fast! I think with several more weeks of these, I really could get up to 10 at a 3:30 average. I think I’d need to actually jog the entire rest/recovery segment to make my results completely valid though. But one thing I am pretty confident in – I think I could do 10 of these at a 4:00 average! Which means…. a sub 4 marathon? Hah! Not getting my hopes up but you never know (we are guessing we’ll finish around 4:15 and our wave start is the 4:30 group)!
This exercise really proved to me the value of a group! I definitely wouldn’t’ have pushed myself to run these intervals at at sub 7 min/mile pace had I been alone. Last week I ran my intervals on my own and did 2 one mile intervals, 2 half mile intervals, and 4 quarter mile intervals. Most of the intervals were run at about an 8-8:15 min/mile. I definitely had more gas in the tank that morning but without the group competitiveness to get me going, I slacked a little (don’t get me wrong it was still very difficult and I’m sure it was an effective workout!). At this point, my ultimate goal has remaining consistent – I just want to finish the marathon, not race it.
I definitely want to incorporate speed training into my workouts at least once per week. This was the third week in a row that I ran intervals sand I think that it builds mental toughness as well as increases your VO2 Max. Additionally, it is a confidence booster to see that I can run that fast! I highly recommend this exercise for anyone who wants to increase speed (and burn major calories)!