Named after the legendary Bart Yasso, this is perhaps the most well-known speed workout amongst dedicated marathoners of all levels. The premise is pretty straightforward: If your goal is to run a marathon in, say, 3 hours flat, you should be able to do ten 800m repeats in 3:00 with a 400m jog for recovery between reps. A 2:45 marathoner would run their reps in 2:45, and so on and so forth. No doubt, running 10 x 800m in a split that corresponds with your goal marathon time—which actually works out to around your 5K pace, according to the Jack Daniels VDOT calculator—is a challenging workout, but it doesn’t actually tell you anything about your ability to run goal pace for a marathon. It’s simply a good workout. “For me, it was just this coincidence, correlation that I would see,” Yasso told me in a conversation we had a few years ago on Episode 36 of the podcast. “I loved that workout: 10 x 800m, 400m recovery…It was short enough that you get leg speed and long enough that you get the endurance.” Whether you call them Yassos or not—Bart does not, for the record—there’s a place in your program for 800m repetitions at a hard effort whether you’re a marathoner, 5K specialist, or something in between. I like to call 800s “the honest interval,” meaning they’re short enough to keep your attention, but long enough that you can’t fake your way through a set of them. Here are the details:
What: 6-10 x 800m at a split that corresponds with your goal marathon time (e.g. a 2:52 marathoner would aim to run their reps in 2 minutes and 52 seconds, a 3:14 marathoner would target 3:14, etc.) with a 400m jog for recovery between repetitions. If you’re not training for a marathon, or have no idea what your goal time should be, simply aim to run the 800m repetitions at your 5K pace.
Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-30 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 5-15 minutes of easy running.
Why: This workout will improve your speed-endurance and serves as a good benchmark workout to repeat a few times throughout a training cycle.
Where: Yasso 800s are best done on the track but can also be completed on a treadmill or a measured stretch of road or trail.
When: I like to assign this workout three times over the course of 10 weeks during a marathon training block. The first time we do this workout the goal is 6 reps, four weeks later we’ll target 8 reps, and finally, 10-14 days out from the race, we’ll aim for 10 x 800m.