Speed work makes the dream work

…. or something like that.

As I mentioned before, I’m following Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training plan as I prepare for the Rehoboth Marathon. It’s far more challenging than the plan I’ve followed previously, incorporating hill repeats, speed workouts and a total of three 20-mile long runs leading up to the race. (My old plan had me running one 20-miler before the taper.) But let’s talk about those speed workouts.

This is my first time doing Yasso 800s, which are supposed to be a way to predict your marathon finishing time. They’re named for Bart Yasso, longtime race services manager at Runner’s World magazine and a seasoned marathoner and ultramarathoner. (I’m reading his book now — review to come!)

Basically, Yasso realized that he could gauge his marathon time based on how long it took him to run 800 meters, or a half-mile. If you can run, say, 800 meters (two laps around your typical high school track) in four minutes, you will likely bang out a four-hour marathon. Training to run a 3:30 marathon? Then run your Yasso 800s in three minutes and 30 seconds. You get the idea. Here’s the whole history of Yasso 800s and how Bart came up with the concept.

With the plan I am following, I’m running my 800s every third week. I started with four repeats three weeks ago and will progress up to eight repeats. In between each 800-meter sprint, I jog for 400 meters to recover. I’ve been shooting for 800s in 3:35. My Boston qualifying standard is 3:40, but I’m trying to give myself a solid cushion, so a 3:35 marathon is my ultimate goal! It means I need to knock seven minutes off my marathon time– definitely not impossible.

I’m not going to lie — speed work is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, I think it kind of blows. So I’m hoping this is as effective as the pros say! Three weeks ago, I went to the track at the local high school and ran my 800s as the football team practiced in the background. Tonight, it was pouring, so I ran my five repeats on the treadmill. Works just as well.

Not everyone believes in the total accuracy of the Yasso 800s — this article notes there’s no scientific data to back up its legitimacy as a time predictor. So we’ll see! Regardless, it’s certainly challenging my body and helping me to mix up my training.

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