A word that didn’t really mean anything to me about 6 weeks ago.
But with a season of Spring races looming, a group of friends who wanted to break up the weekly street runs and easy (and free) access to a track at work I decided to reach out to Ciaran from Still Waters Run Deep as I knew they’d been experimenting with Track work to improve the crews overall speed and stamina.
We chatted a little about what the goal was (to improve half marathon and marathon times for Rome & Berlin) and a Yasso 800 programme was immediately suggested as a programme to look more into.
So find out more is what I did.
The funky name itself comes from a certain Bart Yasso, Race Services Manager at Runner’s World (well, they have to be good for something). Bart initially developed the programme for himself, but it was so simple and effective that colleagues started to pick up on it an eventually he succumbed to calling it the Yasso 800.
The first thing that will strike you about this training programme is just how simple it seems. So simple in fact that when you see it written down you may struggle to believe that it will have any impact at all. But, trust me, it does.
In Bart’s own words;
“I’ve been doing this particular workout for about 15 years, 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.”
And that’s it.
Each week you run increasing multiple sets of 800m at a fixed pace, calculated using your desired marathon time. Between sets of 800m, you should recover (slow jog or walk) for the same amount of time. The basic format to calculate your rep time is to take your ideal marathon time and simply move the decimal over two places. For example, if you’re aiming for a 04:00:00 marathon then your 800m pace is 00:04:00.
You start the 7 week programme by aiming to complete 4 x 800m on your first session, but the aim of the game is to add a rep every week until you reach 10, so the finishing week’s programming consists of 10 reps x 800m .
However, here’s the key part to success, CONSISTENCY IS VITAL! If you miss two weeks, you need to jump back right to the start, no matter how far through you were. You’re on 9 reps but them miss two weeks? Tough shit, you’re back at 4 reps next time.
So, how did it work out for me?
The first time I hit the track it brought back a whole heap of amazing memories from my teenage years. I used to run track pretty well (until I discovered drinking, smoking and girls) and devoted much of my life from the ages of 11-16 to trying to make the team GB Under 18 sprint team. Weeknights spent on freezing tracks in the winter, hazy summer evenings practising relay changeovers, weekends traveling to different tracks, making friends, winning medals, getting injured. It all came back on the very first lap of the familiar red orange rubberised surface.
I’m aiming for a 3:45hr marathon pace, so my 800m splits are 03:45mins. The first week seemed ridiculously easy, so much so that we had a little sprint relay action at the end of the session for fun and to burn a little more energy.
I must admit at the end of that session I was wondering just how effective this programme could be.
I’m 5 weeks in now (after missing a couple of weeks and, yes, having to start right back at the beginning again) and 6 reps of 800m at 03:45mins pace definitely feel like they’re doing something. They’re tough, but not so tough that they can’t be done. 800m is the perfect distance for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and the recovery time is much needed and just enough to put the wind back in your sails for a another kick.
And the results? Personally I’ve noticed a big difference on my pace during my longer runs, knocking off around 20s per KM between November and December.
It’s been tough on the cold nights of December to find the motivation to get onto the track, but the motivation of not having to start again from the beginning, the support of a good group of people (high fives have some kind of magic power when it comes to running) and ultimately seeing a measurable improvement in my running has me hooked.
And the nice memories the experience drags up from my youth? Well that’s just a nice bonus.
Spring. I’m coming for you.
COME AT ME BRO.