Something occurred to me last week as I ran endless circles around the track – I have never attempted a complete Yasso 800s workout. So this week I set out to test my speed against Bart Yasso’s famous marathon predictor. That’s right, you can predict your marathon finish time based on how long it takes you to run a mere 800 metres. Say you want to run a three hour and thirty-three minute marathon. Each 800 metre interval (two laps around the track) should take you three minutes and thirty-three seconds. Follow the 800 metre interval with a rest jog of three minutes and thirty-three seconds. Repeat until collapse (Ten Times). If you can complete your ten 800 metre intervals and ten rest intervals at 3.33 you have reason to be optimistic that — with proper training, optimal race conditions, blah blah blah — your marathon goal time is potentially achievable. Disclaimer: like any marathon predictor, this is not a guideline not a guarantee.
The man I go to for all my pacing needs, McMillan, advocates a mix of marathon predictor workouts throughout training: fast finish long runs, long distance races, and Yasso 800s. Even though I have an endurance over speed bias, I find that most predictor runs over-estimate my race day abilities. This, in part, is due to my conservative tendency to hold back in races Just In Case. McMillan’s experience “is that Yasso 800s predicts about five minutes too fast for most marathoners”. My Yasso 800 performance is probably going to be consistent with that five-minute trend. I was well under goal pace in my intervals, but there is absolutely no way I’m running based on my Yasso 800 time – I don’t want to risk a magnificent flameout in the final third of the race. Although I will have those Marines to revive me.
I hesitate to say this (for fear the Running Gods will smite me 21 miles into the Marine Corps Marathon), but the Yasso 800 workout was easier than advertised. I read that it was a crazy hard test of fitness (and maybe I avoided it all these years for that very reason), but frankly some of my other speed workouts felt a whole lot harder. Like those devilish pyramids. I did have a great pack of runners to keep me going, so maybe they made a tough workout feel easier. I’m always faster in a group. Still, I’m undecided about the 800s. I’ll take the confidence boost it gave me, but I’m placing more stock in my tune-up races.
As noted, I am a McMillan fan, so I will sign-off with his wise closing remarks. For those of you looking to see into the future, I encourage you to read his entire article on Marathon Predictor Workouts:
All predictors are estimates. We just cannot control how you will feel on the day, what the weather will be like, how your competition will pan out and numerous other factors. However, I’ve found that the predictor workouts offer marathoners with helpful information that can aid in race planning. Prepare the best you can, have faith in yourself, respect the distance, use these predictor workouts to establish a smart race plan and hope for the best on race day.
Title Reference: Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire. From the album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. 1963.