Yasso 800’s – the great marathon predictor?

I’m going to be bold and say that Yasso 800’s really aren’t a great predictor of marathon times, in fact I’m not even sure they’re a great speed session for marathon training. I’m making this statement based on my extensive research of a grand total of 3 sessions and just the one athlete, me.

If you’ve never heard of Yasso 800’s then let me explain; the idea came from Bart Yasso who was an editor for Runners World and back in 2001 suggested that a test to know if you were in shape for your target marathon time was to run 10x800m at a pace fitting your target. So if you’re aiming for a 3 hour marathon you would do each rep in 3 minutes and then have an equal amount of rest in between.

In my quest to get some speed back for my autumn marathon this sounded like a perfect session so I headed out for the first time. I thought I’d be sensible and just try 5 first and see how I got on. That felt pretty easy but I stayed disciplined and didn’t do more. The following week I did 7 which also felt easy so in the 3rd week I did the full 10.

A run with a viewWhile it wasn’t easy on a scale of 1-10 it was no more than a 5 and possibly lower. Now I know I’m in reasonable shape and have some good endurance built up after the 2 ultra’s in the summer but I did expect it to be this easy. My goal is a 3.15 marathon so I was doing my 800’s in 3min’s 15 sec’s and that pace is a good tempo pace for me. Nothing too strenuous and with 3 minutes rest between reps pretty easy.

That I think is a big part of why I have an issue with this session, there was too much standing around waiting. It takes over an hour to do the full 10 and quite honestly I think there are more productive ways to spend that time that will contribute more to my running. There is also no scientific research etc behind the design of this session as a marathon predictor, it just happened that runners who hit their times could do it. With that in mind I think I don’t think I’ll be doing them again unless I start entering 5k races when it could be useful.

My weekly speed session is now a bit different, I’ve gone back to doing 6 minute reps at threshold pace with 2 minutes between them. I think the longer reps are much more suited to building speed endurance for marathons and by building up the number each week should help build a good base.

I’m also doing a progressive run each week with either 10 or 15 minutes at each pace, starting easy, then a medium pace and finally finishing at threshold. Again a good session for building endurance and also training your body to pick up speed. Finally in my last couple of long runs I’m going to add in some marathon pace sections to get a good sense of what that feels like.

Any thoughts on speed work? What sessions give you confidence of your race fitness? Any session that you would always have in your marathon training plan?

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