How fast can you run your marathon?

Have you ever wondered how fast you can run a marathon? A marathon is long enough that it can be hard to figure out what kind of goal time to shoot for. There is a cool little workout called Yasso 800’s that can give you a pretty good idea of what kind of time to aim for as your marathon finish time. The Yasso 800’s are named after Bart Yasso, the race services manager for Runner’s World for over 30 years. Here is what Bart had to say about using them in training,

“I’ve been doing this particular workout for about 15 years,” he continued, “and it always seems to work for me. If I can get my 800s down to 2 minutes 50 seconds, I’m in 2:50 marathon shape. If I can get down to 2:40 (minuses), I can run a 2:40 marathon. I’m shooting for a 2:37 marathon right now, so I’m running my 800s in 2:37.”

Before discussing the pro’s and con’s of this workout, here is how to actually do the Yasso 800’s. The full workout is 10X800 at goal marathon pace with EQUAL amount of walk/jog rest in between. So if you want to run a 3:30 marathon then you should be able to do 10 X800 in 3:30 with that much walk/jog rest in between. But do you do all 10 every time? No! If you want to know approximately where you are at to begin with then do the whole workout. Other than that, you would work up to doing 10 of those 800’s.

Here is an example. Hopefully the marathon you are getting ready for is about 10 weeks away to progress through this workout. Let’s say, that you want to know ABOUT where to begin and you have no real idea as to how fast you can run a marathon. In that case, your first time doing them should be all 10. Pace yourself so you can finish all 10 at pretty close to the same pace. At the end, if you run all 10 within about 5-10 seconds of 4:00 min per 800, then you can probably figure that you are ready to run within about 5-10 minutes of 4 hours.

Now, that you know an 800 time, you can progress through the workout by doing them once a week. You can choose to stay with the same time you got on the test workout and just try to get in shape to make that pace easier or you can pick it up 10 seconds per 800 and try 3:50. Either way, do this workout only once a week in the middle of the week and start with ONLY 4 of them at goal marathon pace. Add one more repeat each week until you reach 10 of them. The final 10 X 800 workout should land about 2 weeks out from the race.

Some people criticize the above workout by saying that it is off by 15-20 minutes and that a marathoner doesn’t need to do that kind of workout. I disagree. Any marathoner would benefit from speed work. Now there are other kinds of speed training that are indeed more fitting for marathons than this workout, but if you don’t ever do anything fast then you can give this a go because it will most certainly help you. If you are already doing tempo or lactate threshold runs, then do Yasso 800’s every other week and add 2 800’s instead of just one each time.

The other caveat to this workout actually predicting your marathon time is that you do have to get in your long runs. Doing a long run every other week may or may not be quite enough to have the aerobic base you need to apply this speed. But don’t get too excited and do too many long runs because you are overexcited to run your 800 time in a marathon race. Weekly long runs should only be done by a runner who has been running long runs 12-18 months already. Then, all that is left is that you are rested and well fueled during the marathon. If anyone out there tries it, then let us know how it goes. Did you really run your marathon in the same time as the Yasso 800’s?

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