How to Do Yasso 800's For Marathon Training

Okay, marathon friends, this one’s for you. Even though I’m not particularly fond of the marathon for my own personal endeavors, I know that you probably are and many, many people are.

How to Do Yasso 800's For Marathon Training


Okay, marathon friends, this one’s for you. Even though I’m not particularly fond of the marathon for my own personal endeavors, I know that you probably are and many, many people are. And if you’re like me, and you like to go fast, and that’s one reason that I’m not super big on the marathon, then you may think, oh, I’m missing out on interval work. I can’t go fast. It’s just a lot of miles. Well, you’re wrong there if you’re thinking that. There’s actually a workout that’s very popular that you can do, and I’m going to show you how to do it, the Yasso 800.


If you haven’t been with me here before, I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I call Runner’s High where we talk about everything running, including today’s topic, the Yasso 800. This is a particular workout built for marathoners. It’s kind of a cheat sheet on a workout that you can do that isn’t just a long slog of miles. And that is crucial for multiple reasons. Number one, because if you’re just running long miles, they can get boring, right?

You can get tired of the running routes you’ve been doing. I mean, that’s what I did this morning. I had to find some new combination of roads to run on because been here a few years now, I’ve run the same route over and over again, and I had to do something new. So, doing interval training is one easy way to do that. But beyond that, there’s some physical adaptations that take place that can help you in your marathon time. So, let’s get into how exactly do you do Yasso 800s.

The formula for how to do the Yasso 800 is actually really, really simple, and very, very nice. That’s why I call it a cheat sheet. We’ll get more into why I call that later in the video, but let’s get into how you actually do it and the quick way to figure out what you’re doing, which is a whole workout. And that is take your intended marathon time, convert it into minutes and then that is the time you should be running 800 meter intervals in.

So, stick with me here. As an example, maybe I want to run three hours and 30 minutes. Or if I want to qualify for Boston, I’ve got to be under three hours, because I’m still in the 18 to 34 age group. So, but we’ll go three hours and 30 minutes for now.

Say I want to run three hours 30, take that, convert it into minutes, which is three minutes and 30 seconds. So, you just take that, and you move it straight over from hours and minutes to minutes and seconds. And that’s your 800 meter time. So, if I want to run three hours and 30 minutes for a marathon, then I need to be doing 800 intervals at three minutes and 30 seconds. And the way to do this workout is with one to one rest with an exception, we’ll get there in a second.

So, for me, if I want to hit that 3:30, then I go to the track, I got to get a warm up in. If you don’t know how to warm up, hit subscribe, stick around to the channel, I’ve got videos on that, you can check that out here in a minute. Maybe we’ll link that at the end of this video. So, you go to the track, do your warm up, get ready to go, then you go run three to four 800s with one to one rest. Meaning I’m going to try to run an 800 in three minutes and 30 seconds, then I can take walking or standing rest for three minutes and 30 seconds and repeat.

The Yasso 800s actually build on themselves week to week. So, you start with that three to four in the very first week. And then each consecutive week, again, doing it once a week, each consecutive week you’ll add an additional 800 to your workout. So, if you start with three, the next week you’ll do four and the following week you’ll do five and you’ll go all the way up to 10, and that’s the maximum you build in to this particular workout. It’s called the Yasso 800 because it was popularized by Bart Yasso, the former chief running officer at Runner’s World Magazine. So, this is something he popularized. But I get to thinking about this and I went, well, why does this work? And what’s actually going on here? How fast are we actually running? Does it get backed up by anything else?

So, I actually looked into this and the numbers worked out really nicely. And I’m sure he built this workout, in part because he saw how the numbers worked out with this other thing I often like to refer to that we’re going to refer to here in a second. And that is our old friend, the Jack Daniels running table. Again, coming back to the Jack Daniels running table, it’s so invaluable. It’s such a great dataset, and he did the work. He did the work. Jack Daniels did the work for us to collect the data to say this is where everything basically lines up. Now we don’t have to worry about it. And so I looked and tried to figure out, does the Yasso 800 line up with this and indeed it does.

So, let’s go back to my 3:30 example. I want to run three hours and 30 minutes. If that is the time I can run, then what’s my VDOT? And if you excuse me, I have to refer to my notes, so I’ll be looking. A 3:30 is a 44 VDOT on the table, which if you go down to the workout section, in the interval pace, that actually is going to make it a 144 400, or roughly a 328 800. Right there, 328 330. Well, right in that ballpark, it fills out perfectly for that.

But what about my three-hour time I’ve got to hit if I want to go Boston qualifying in my age? Same thing, 53 VDOT, it’s a 92nd quarter, that’s a 400 meter, sorry, the track speak, or a three-minute flat 800. So, again, it works out for that three minute-time. But what if we’re going slower? Four hours. So, 38 VDOT 156 400, or roughly a 352 800. So, maybe that one’s slightly quicker than that four but again, we’re still in the same ballpark.

Now, I did mention, there’s one exception to this workout, that you would not do it the exact way it’s described. And that exception is, if your marathon time gets slower than this kind of nice, four and a half to anything faster than that range if you’re going to go five, six hours for your marathon, which is awesome. Keep up the good work, do not be disheartened by that. You need to actually take less than one to one rest. So, if your 800 interval is five minutes or six minutes, don’t take five to six minutes rest, take three to four minutes rest.

And the reason is, it’s all about maintaining a particular heart rate. So, we do interval training, because we want to achieve one predominant thing, but a few other things. And that is increasing our anaerobic threshold. And you might go, what does our anaerobic threshold have to do with marathon training? Well, as you progress on through your marathon, your muscles fatigue, that means that they’re capable of producing less and less energy, and the more likely you begin to rely on anaerobic systems. So, if you’ve increased anaerobic threshold, then by definition, you’ve increased endurance, because you’re able to do the same activity for longer without fatiguing.

The other thing that we can get from doing these is simply increased strength. And bigger strength means easier time maintaining slower speeds. So, if I’m now capable of going much harder, then when I work on those slower speeds, it’s usually easier to maintain that speed, because my maximum capacity is much, much higher. There’s obviously interplay there. It doesn’t mean that like Usain Bolt is going to be the best endurance runner because he was the fastest sprinter, he had just a high max capacity. There’s obviously more factors in play. But at a basic level, that’s something to keep in mind that we increase our maximum power as runners, as endurance people, that that typically makes that whatever that level is, we’re trying to go at, marathon pace in this case, it usually makes that easier to maintain, because that maximum power has gone up.

The other neat little kind of biological thing that may be going on. And we need a little bit more data to suggest this, absolutely. But one of the reasons that may be easier is that interval training is thought to increase the efficiency of our mitochondria. So, if you don’t know anything about cell biology, mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Back to biology class. Mitochondria is what produces power for the cell or produces ATP. If you’re in biology, biology people, please give a more detailed description down below because I’m sure I’m going to butcher it. But the short version is that ATP is what we use to move ourselves around.

It’s the energy that our cells and muscles use, so that we can move, so we can run or do whatever movement it is; me flailing my arms around talking to you. So, if we increase the efficiency of mitochondria, as we think happens with interval training, then again, we can use our energy stores, turn them into usable energy more efficiently, thus, taking our fuel stores and making them go farther, reducing fatigue time, allowing us to go faster for longer.

So, that’s the how-to-dos, the whys, and all the things around the Yasso 800. If you have any questions for me, leave them down in the comments below. I’ll link to that, hopefully, the video about warmup, how to design your warm up routine here on the screen shortly, and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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