Do Yasso 800s work?

Two weeks ago, I gave the infamous Yasso 800s a try.  Bart Yasso, the Chief Running Officer (CRO) of Runner’s World and author of My Life on the Run, has created a workout that (many claim) predicts your marathon time.

Here’s how it works:  Want to run a 4:00 marathon?  Do 10x800m in 4:00 with an active (jogging) recovery of 4:00. Shooting for a 3:15 marathon?  Complete your 10x800m in 3:15 with a 3:15 active recovery. (*Note: Bart recommends incorporating Yasso 800s on a weekly basis in your marathon training plan – he suggests starting with 4x800m and working your way up to 10.)

I had never done this workout before but since I’ve been doing mile repeats on a pretty consistent basis I wanted to see how many I would be able to complete. I ran 8 repeats before my son woke up from his morning nap.  I am training for a 3:10 marathon, but was (overly?) ambitious and ran the repeats in 3:05 (with a 3:05 active recovery).  To be honest, I’m not sure I could have finished the last two – numbers 7 and 8 were extremely difficult and I almost stopped on the 8th one because I was dry heaving.  However, the NJ Marathon is 12 weeks away, so I should be able to complete the 10 well before the big day. 

But do Yasso 800s work???

I’ve come across many reports of runners who swear by Yasso 800s – the time they run the repeats in holds true for their marathon time.  (Note: These runners have marathon times ranging from 2:30 to over 5 hours.)

However, I’ve also heard that Yasso 800s are not a true predictor of marathon time. There are many who claim that they have run considerably slower than the Yasso 800s indicated they would.

Since I have not run a marathon after giving the Yasso 800s a try, I cannot properly answer if they work – I will be able to after the NJ Marathon.

However, while I thought the Yasso 800s were a great and exhausting workout (10x 800m repeats are no joke), I will not incorporate them as a weekly workout in my marathon training plan. My plan has three “key” runs – speed, tempo, and long runs (the other runs are easy/recovery days); Yasso 800s don’t fit the mold for any of these key workouts.

According to the McMilan Calculator (my go-to source for my pace on all my runs), I should be running 800m repeats for my speed workouts between 2:46 and 2:54…the Yasso 800 pace is 11-19 seconds slower than my target “speed” pace.

Per McMilan’s Calculator, my tempo runs should be between 6:25 and 6:42 (I try to run 20-25 min straight at this pace) and tempo intervals (I do 4x mile fast and 90 second active recovery) should be slightly faster – 6:20 and 6:33…the Yasso 800 pace is 10-32 seconds faster than my target tempo run pace and is only a half-mile interval – much shorter then a textbook tempo or tempo interval workout.

I am certainly not criticizing Bart Yasso – he is a running legend and expert and knows FAR more than I do about running and training for races.  Yasso 800s are a killer workout – I enjoyed doing them and walked away with that feeling of a great workout.  And I definitely plan on giving the workout another try in a few weeks to see if I can hit the target pace for all 10x repeats. If nothing else, it will be a great mental boost going in to the marathon in May!

What are your thoughts?  Do you incorporate Yasso 800s into your marathon training plan??  Did it accurately predict your time? 

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    26 thoughts on “Do Yasso 800s work?

    1. Well, I found this when googling about Yassos. I had to do them today for my coach. Horrid loathsome workout! Lots of vomiting. I am VERY curious to know from you how it panned out. I did a slower workout but its a marathon time I would LOVE to have. (Without the vomiting…please.) 😉
      Holly recently posted..Marathon Training Day 5.My Profile

      • Hey Holly! I never ended up running NJ because I found out I was pregnant with my 2nd child around this time. I am going to try the 800s probably next week to see where I stand and will let you know when I do =)
        You vomited? WOW. That is hardcore!!!! What time are you shooting for?
        nycrunningmama recently posted..IntervalsMy Profile

        • well it wasn’t very Hardcore. I think it had to do with the large amount of water I needed after the 4th one. I know you all have a lot of snow and all, but here in sunny Florida its still hot and dry.

          I am shooting for a 4:20, slow to you, but…not for me. 20 months ago I had a life changing hip surgery and have been slowly slowly getting back into running form….it’s been an interesting journey!

          Congrats on your Second child!!! You are amazing to balance that all!
          Holly recently posted..Marathon Training Day 8My Profile

    2. I did the Yassos workout for the first time this fall training for Twin Cities Marathon – they were a pretty good indicator – averaged 2:23.x and ran 2:27:20 on that hilly course. It’s always difficult considering a marathon course is going to be very different than running 800’s on a flat track. I also ran pretty much the same thing 8x800m when recovering from Twin Cities and running Marine Corps Marathon four weeks later….

      27 days between = 9 days recovery / easy running + 9 days training (3 quality workouts) + 9 days taper

      My 3 quality workouts included a tempo run on feel, 8x800m, and a marathon pace run … the 800’s actually were probably the best indicator I had my legs back since you’re working your turnover and running through different systems … I look forward to different variances in the future!

    3. Definitely depends on the runner and the make-up of fast and slow twitch muscles as well as fitness level. But it does work somewhat well as a speed-interval type workout for the marathon. Curious to know what you are running for speed workouts as you don’t consider it one.

    4. i’ve tried yassos in the past and always ran slower on race day. for me personally, i don’t think they would ever work since speed is not my strong suit…endurance is. i get faster through marathon-paced LRs, tempo runs, and hill work (although i still do track work, it’s definitely not my focus).

      i ran the NJM last year. it’s super, super flat!

    5. I haven’t done Yasso 800’s – have always meant to do them. Probably closer to my next marathon I’ll actually do them. Definitely curious to see how your marathon goes in comparison to your Yasso 800’s! What times of speed workouts are you doing now?
      LifeisaRun recently posted..Braving the Cold: Texas StyleMy Profile

    6. Hi Michelle. I must say I am with Rob on this one. I am currently training for a 3:10 marathon as well and have the McMillan training paces going through my mind on a daily basis. :-) My tempo pace ranges from a 6:36-6:53. Easy run pace is 7:46- 8:16. 800 repeat pace- 2:58-3:07. I’m a big believer of Yasso 800’s. I did another round last week and like you, I also did 8. The first 7 ranged from 3:07-3:09 (my goal was 3:05-3:10) but I let myself go all out on my last one and it was 3:01. It can be very easy to feel good on the first few and want to go all out but pacing/ saving for later is crucial to get the full workout done right. I wish we lived closer so we could train together! It sounds like we run very similar paces/ race goals!

      In my opinion, Yasso 800’s work! I started doing them 2 1/2 years ago when I tried to BQ for the first time. I started at 4 sets and actually worked up to one time doing 12 and then back down. At the time my range was 3:25-3:35. I did BQ (actually ran a 3:35) and I was very happy with that. Then this past fall I used Yasso’s 800’s again, this time pacing for a 3:20. I ran my 800’s in the 3:15-3:20 range. My marathon was a 3:19. So now I am going for a 3:10 and have set my 800 range from 3:05-3:10.
      Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom recently posted..All By Myself & Running for SherryMy Profile

      • Tia – it does sound like we have very similar (identical!?!?) goals for the marathon! When is your next one? I commented on Rob’s comment below – I agree 100% with what you are both saying about altering it as necessary. I guess I wanted to try to make it clear that you can’t just expect to run a certain time by running Yasso 800s…there’s a lot more than goes into it. But based on your experiences, it seems to be pretty accurate!!!

        • Gotcha! You are right- there is definitely a lot more that goes into hitting your target time. (Tempo runs, easy runs, longs runs…) For me my weekly tempo run was my hardest workout but I think it helped me the most.

          I am actually running in a marathon in 3 weeks (Little Rock) but getting a 3:10 is not very realistic for this one since I’ve only been training a few weeks for it (since Houston). My A Race for the fall is the NYC Marathon and I am targeting my goal time for that one! :-)
          Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom recently posted..All By Myself & Running for SherryMy Profile

    7. Two quick observations Michele:

      1) To piggy back on Kevin’s comment, there is a lot of individual variability that these calculations can’t compensate for. They are a good guide but they need to be adjusted once folks get a feel for their training and the race day performance that results from that training. Training logs are vital to make these adjustments.

      2) Are you sure you’re plugging in the right time into the McMillan calculator? I’m getting different numbers than you are for a 3:10 finish. If I put in 3:10 for a marathon time I get:
      Speed Workouts (Long Distance Runner): 2:58.8 to 3:07.1
      Tempo runs: 6:36 to 6:53
      Tempo Intervals: 6:30 to 6:44

      Let me know if I’m missing something here. These times are slower than what you are showing but still a tad faster than the Yasso 800.

      That’s another thing I’m cautious about with online calculators, one bad keystroke and you might be training with bad guidance.
      Rob recently posted..Back to Boston: Boston Marathon Training Week 7My Profile

      • Hey Rob! Thanks for your feedback. I am hoping to run 3:10, but actually prefer to use the 3:05 times for some of my runs because I feel that the 3:10 pace is a little slow for me (in some instances). And since I did the Yasso 800s in 3:05, I decided to use a projected finish time of 3:05 when I plugged it into the McMilan calculator. I probably should have been more specific about that in my post.
        I agree with you about adjusting the times (and that’s why I use 3:05 for some of my workouts).
        I wrote this post b/c I got the feeling that a lot of people just automatically buy into Yasso 800s – that if you do them in “x” time then you will run “x” on marathon day. I wanted to see what experience runners I interact with have had with Yasso 800s – whether they thought it was off a bit from their speed workouts.
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Do Yasso 800s work?My Profile

    8. I have done a few Yasso 800 workouts before and you’re right – they are seriously tough. I have only been able to handle 4 of them. I think they’re great but also have a hard time finding a way to incorporate them into my training.
      Tina @ Best Body Fitness recently posted..The First 14 MilerMy Profile

    9. I have yet to try Yasso 800s but they TOTALLY intrigue me!! And scare the pants off me all at once. Either way – I agree with you, regardless of how well they predict your marathon time, they sound like a ridiculously puketastic workout to me! I must try these once I start ramping up my training again!
      Jess recently posted..Enduring vs. enjoyingMy Profile

    10. I do Yasso 800’s but certainly not every week. I think they’re a good ‘approximation’ of marathon time, but in the end, I think marathon time depends more on endurance and training mileage. The yasso’s say I can run a marathon faster than I have, again because I enjoy and tend to do more faster running than high mileage. That’s my 2 cents anyway. :)
      Marcia recently posted..Weekend RewindMy Profile

    11. I have mixed feelings on them–they have both worked and not worked for me in the past. I think they are a fairly decent predictor, but certainly not the be all end all. I tend to incorporate them in each training cycle to some extent.
      misszippy1 recently posted..Too much fun!My Profile

    12. Yasso 800s are included twice in my current marathon training plan. I’m definitely not doing them every week. I don’t know if they will really do what they’re supposed to do, but I like them as a form of speedwork. I hadn’t done much speedwork before this training cycle so it’s all still new to me. I am anxious to see if they work for you!
      Kristen (The Running Mom) recently posted..Runner’s highMy Profile

    13. Yasso 800s are a great workout. It is a relatively good predictor for the marathon – better than, say, 400 or 200 repeats. But its efficacy may vary from person to person based on fitness level. For example, it may be more accurate for an experienced runner than for someone training for his/her first marathon. Additionally, one should only use it as a reference to review or evaluate training progression comparatively – instead of relying on it for a record. Because running 800 meters is vastly different from running 26.2 miles in terms of running economy and energy expenditure – not to mention the mental aspect. Lastly, the relationship between 800 meters and 26.2 miles seems rather arbitrary to me. If you can use 800 meters to predict your time for 26.2 miles, does it mean that you can also use 1600 meters for 52.2 miles accurately? With all due respect, I am not here to discredit Bart Yasso. But I’d like to remind everyone to run the Yasso 800s with a grain of salt.

    14. I did the Yasso 800s earlier this year just for fun. I have never run a marathon so I don’t know if they work, but I was happy to take the time as a mental boost :)

      I’m not sure of the pacing but I guess any hard 400 reps must be good training.