Yasso 800s are a classic speed workout that are widely used by distance runners.
Yasso 800s have become a staple workout in many marathon training plans – and can be used to predict your marathon finishing time (we’ll get into how accurate they are later).
Today, we’re going to discuss Yasso 800s in-depth, and see if they should be included in your marathon training plan.
In this article we will cover:
- What Are Yasso 800s
- How To Do Yasso 800s
- Yasso 800s: Accurate Marathon Result Predictor?
- Should You Do Yasso 800s in your marathon training?
Let’s jump in!
What Are Yasso 800s?
Yasso 800s is a workout designed to improve your speed and claims to be able to predict your marathon finishing time.
The inventor of the workout, Bart Yasso, came up with this workout and says he would use it to determine his fitness level going into a marathon.
Who Is Bart Yasso?
Bart Yasso is a bit of a legend in running circles: he is the Runners World Chief Running Officer. He has been dubbed by many as “the mayor of running.”
Yasso’s runn accomplishments are worthy of mention:
- he’s run marathons on all seven continents.
- He won the U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship in 1987 and the Smokey Mountain Marathon in 1998.
- He has also completed 5 Ironman races and even finished the legendary Badwater Ultramarathon.
To further cement his legacy, Bart Yasso has been inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions.
How To Do Yasso 800s
The goal of Yasso 800s is to build up to 10x800m intervals on a running track.
The minutes and seconds you can hold for the workout are supposed to correlate to the hours and minutes it will take you to finish the marathon.
For example, a runner who can run 3 minutes and 20 seconds for all the 800m reps should theoretically be able to complete a marathon in 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Many marathon plans will have you do several sessions of Yasso 800s spread out over a 12-16 week program.
Some of the earlier sessions will start with 4-6 reps of 800m. Over the course of your training, you will add reps to the session until you are able to complete 10x800m at the goal marathon pace.
A sample 16 week schedule for a 4-hour marathoner could look like this:
Week 3: Yasso 800s
4x800m in 4 mins with 4 mins recovery
Week 7: Yasso 800s
6x800m in 4 mins with 4 mins recovery
Week 11: Yasso 800s
8x800m in 4 mins with 4 mins recovery
Week 15: Yasso 800s
10x800m in 4 mins with 4 mins recovery
Yasso 800s: Accurate Marathon Result Predictor?
Yasso 800s are a popular workout to predict your marathon finishing time, but are they really accurate?
A quick Google search will lead you to a host of articles and runners praising the workout and saying that it accurately predicts their finishing time.
Bart Yasso himself has said that when he can do the reps in 2:45, he has run a 2:45 marathon. Same for 2:50 and even as specific as 2:37.
On that same Google search, you will likely find a lot of coaches and athletes telling you that Yasso 800s are a poor predictor of marathon finishing times.
Coaches like Jeff Galloway believe there are better workouts you can run to prepare yourself for the marathon and predict your finishing time.
While Yasso 800s are a popular workout for predicting your marathon finishing time, the truth is there is no scientific data that shows that it does so accurately.
For some runners, there may be some correlation between the workout and their finishing time, but this is far from a guaranteed occurrence.
So you can consider your Yasso 800 timings to be a ‘rough guide’ of your marathon finishing time, rather than a clear indicator.
Are Yasso 800’s a Good Marathon Training Workout?
In reality, Yasso 800s are not a great marathon-specific workout.
When designing a workout for a specific race, two things should be taken into consideration: the length of the race and the pace that will be run.
Most workouts should be focused on helping the runner prepare for one or both of these variables.
The marathon is 99% aerobic.
Workouts for the marathon should be designed around running close to your desired marathon pace. These could include:
The purpose of the workouts would be to have the body experience the demands of your marathon pace and adapt to this.
A workout of Yasso 800s is going to have you running paces that will be anaerobic.
While there are benefits to doing an anaerobic workout during your marathon training, this workout is not going to be specific to the demands of the marathon.
The reps will be too short and the rest will be too long.
If this runner was going to do Yasso 800s, they would need to run two laps around the track in 3 minutes.
This would be a 6-minute mile pace.
A 3-hour marathon is the equivalent of running 6:52 pace.
That’s almost a 1-minute difference in pace.
For this runner, the 6-minute pace is closer to their 5k or 10k pace.
So our runner is doing 5 miles of intervals at 5k-10k pace while getting 3 minutes of rest between each rep.
This isn’t a workout that is going to produce very meaningful results for a runner hoping to improve their marathon time through workouts.
So what should you do instead?
The marathon is a difficult race.
Most runners will be running for 3.5-5 hours. This is a long time to be on your feet. Fueling becomes important to avoid hitting the wall. As does pacing correctly so you don’t bonk with several miles of race left.
A good marathon workout should have you practicing the marathon pace for extended periods of time. This can be achieved through several different workouts.
Here are a few examples:
Long run with a fast finish
A great marathon workout can be implemented in most of the long runs you are already doing.
For this workout, set off on your long run as you normally would. However, for the last 30-60 mins, you are going to increase the pace to your marathon pace. An example for our 3 hour marathoner could look like this:
10 miles at easy/moderate pace (7:30-8:00 per mile)
4 miles at marathon pace (6:52)
2 mile cooldown
Total: 16 miles
This run will accomplish several goals that makes it a better marathon workout than Yasso 800s:
- Running your actual marathon pace and getting a feel for it.
- Running your marathon pace on tired legs which will prepare you for the later miles in the race
- Allow you to practice fueling on longer runs and while running at marathon pace
This workout can easily be adjusted for more or less time at pace and for longer or shorter distances.
Cut down intervals
This is a great workout to get in a lot of time at marathon pace with some short jogging breaks to recover. These can be broken down into miles or minutes. Some examples could include:
5 miles at marathon pace, 5 minutes easy recovery jog
4 miles at marathon pace, 4 minutes easy recovery jog
3 miles at marathon pace, 3 minutes easy recovery jog
2 miles at marathon pace, 2 minutes easy recovery jog
1 mile at marathon pace, 1minute easy recovery jog
25 minutes at marathon pace, 3 minutes easy recovery jog
20 minutes at marathon pace, 3 minutes easy recovery jog
15 minutes at marathon pace, 3 minutes easy recovery jog
10 minutes at marathon pace, 3 minutes easy recovery jog
5 minutes at marathon pace, 3 minutes easy recovery jog
Both of these workouts provide you with double-digit miles run at marathon pace while giving you short breaks to recover.
The workouts can easily be scaled down by removing the first, longer interval or by increasing the recovery between the reps.
For these workouts, be sure to do a proper warmup and cooldown.
These workouts will give you a much better idea of what your marathon finishing time will be.
While no workout will predict your finishing time with 100% accuracy, longer workouts run at your goal marathon pace will be a much better indicator of your finishing time than Yasso 800s.
Should You Do Yasso 800s in your marathon training?
Yasso 800s can be used as a training run in your marathon training.
They will provide an anaerobic stimulus and are a great workout to push the pace and get some leg speed.
However, there is no scientific evidence that they will accurately predict your marathon finishing time.
My advice: Find other workouts that will better mimic the demands the marathon will place on your body.
If you want to throw in one session of Yasso 800s towards the end of your training for fun, go for it.
However, to get the most bang for your buck, I would skip doing several sessions of these and focus more on workouts at or around marathon pace for lengthy periods of time.