My secret weapon during my self-created training plan for the 2011 Surf City Marathon was Yasso’s 800s. If you aren’t sure, Yasso’s 800s (called Yassos for short by me) are intervals created by Runner’s World’s Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso. He found that if he could complete 10 of these intervals at his goal marathon time with about 1/4 of rest (walk or jog) between, he could run the marathon that quickly. For example, if you want to run a 3:30 marathon, run your 800s in 3 minutes, 30 seconds.
I learned of this method back when I was part of the Vavi Running Club training for my first marathon. I only used this method a couple of times while training for that race but when I wanted to really improve my time for my 2nd marathon at Surf City 2012, I started running Yassos every week except for recovery week. I started in November (the race is the first weekend in February) with 4 intervals and worked my way up to 10. I ran all of the intervals in 3:50 or less, and ended up running a 3:49:26 marathon.
However, Mike also performed all 10 Yasso 800s at or better than his goal time of 3:20 (most were about 3:00) and he ran 3:18. He achieved his goal, but his Yassos times would have indicated he could have gone 3 hours. Needless to say, Yassos don’t always work and you can’t guarantee that just because you can do 10 at your desired pace that you will do that on race day.
Despite this, I really think that Yasso’s 800s are a great way to do speed-work. I think the reason I like them so much is because it’s not arbitrary. I dislike when workouts say to “run hard.” What does that really mean? Yassos provide a specific goal pace for each interval so I know if the workout was a success or a failure. I also like the fact that each week or two I add one more interval on to the workout so I know that I’m making progress. The first time I did 4 x 800 @ 3:50 I wasn’t sure how I could possibly do 10 at that speed, but eventually I worked my way up to it and it felt just about as difficult as the first time I did 4. Basically, Yassos satisfy my Type A need for progress tracking.
Since I’ve been following Pfitzinger’s 18/55 plan, I haven’t been doing Yasso’s because the first few phases of the plan do not include any “speed-work.” Instead, I’ve been doing fairly long tempo runs and runs with strides. The plan also includes long runs with a portion of the run at marathon race pace. Pftizinger believes that tempo runs are actually more beneficial that traditional speed-work, especially in the base building phase of a plan. However, now that there are only 8 weeks until race day, the plan is starting to incorporate speed-work. This week’s workout was 8 miles with 5 x 800 @ 5k pace. Since I have no idea what my 5k pace is now, I just decided to do this workout like a Yasso workout. I contemplated using my new Surf City goal time of about 3:42-45 for them, but then decided to go for it and just do them at my Boston Qualifying goal time of 3:30 (close enough to 3:35).
I went to the gym on Wednesday after work and battled the crowds for a spot on a treadmill. I decided beforehand that I’d just go for 7 miles since I was still getting back into things after my trip. After a 2 mile warm-up, I went into my first interval at a 6:57 min/mile. It was HARD but not impossible. I told myself I could change to the 3:45 goal time intervals instead if I got tired (that would be a 7:30 min/mile). The second interval was even harder than the first but I got through it. For the 3rd and 4th, I decreased the pace by 1 notch on the treadmill to 7:03 min/miles. Still hard but I survived. By the last interval, I was begging for mercy but was able to finish it! I had to briefly walk between intervals because I was so out of breath but then I increased it to a jog. Walking or no walking, I was proud of myself for running 2.5 miles of my 7 mile run at a 7 minute mile pace!
Pfitzinger’s plan has about 4 or 5 more interval workouts on the schedule and I plan to replace them with Yassos (the plan has some 600s, 1000s and 1200s). I don’t think I will make it to 10 at 3:30 before Surf City, but I would like to attempt 10 at 3:40 at least once before then to give myself confidence that I should go for the 3:42-45 goal (actual race goal TBD).
What type of speed-work do you typically do to improve your marathon or half marathon time?
I’ve always thought of Yasso 800s as a negative predictor – that is, if you can’t do it on the track, you won’t be able to run it on race day. But just because you can run Yassos doesn’t mean you have the endurance, etc to run a full marathon. Does that make sense?
I think that’s a good way to look at it! Bart Yasso definitely says that Yassos are a best predictor if you are a seasoned runner, not a beginner.
Yasso 800s are definitely a go-to workout for me during marathon training. I also like to run sets of 3 minutes hard and 1.5 minutes off too during a weekday run for some speed. Good luck with that 3:42-45 goal!!! I’m still working on hitting 3:48 🙂 Maybe I need some more Yassos!