Plan 2: Run Yasso 800s
We learned about this amazingly useful workout in a casual conversation with Runner's World race and event promotions manager Bart Yasso, and first wrote about it nearly a decade ago. Since then, literally thousands of runners have told us at marathon expos or in e-mails that the program has worked for them. With the Yasso system, you run 800-meter repeats on a track in the same minutes/seconds as your hours/minutes goal time for a marathon. (So if you're looking to run 4:30, do your 800s in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.)
Runners are drawn to Yasso 800s by Bart's unforgettable name, the simplicity of the workout, and word-of-mouth success stories.
Doug Underwood is one of those Yasso fans. A runner for just 3 years, Underwood completed his first two marathons in 3:55 and 3:53, and then was bitten by what he calls the "Boston bug." He wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and was willing to train harder to get there.
The core of his program: Yasso 800s. Since Underwood needed to run a 3:30 to reach Boston, he ran his Yasso 800s in 3:30, building up to 10 of them in a single workout, taking a 3:30 recovery jog between the fast 800s.
Underwood finished his goal race, the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, in 3:30:54, good enough for a race entry to Boston. (Boston Marathon organizers offer runners a 59-second grace period beyond the strict qualifying standards.) "I credit the Yasso 800s with getting me there," says Underwood, who also made sure to log plenty of long runs. "They are tough workouts, but they do the job. If you can run 10 of them at your goal pace, you have a great chance of achieving your marathon goal time."
What you should do: Run Yasso 800s once a week. Start with just four or five of them at your appropriate pace, then add one a week until you.
Plan 3: Run Long and Slow
Meghan Arbogast was already a successful marathoner 5 years ago, with a 2:58 to her credit. Only one problem: "I was overtraining and killing myself," she says.
No longer. Since 1998, Arbogast has been training slower and racing faster under a program designed by Warren Finke, a well-known coach in Portland, Oregon, near Arbogast's home. Finke believes marathoners should focus on consistent, easy-paced training runs that help them build endurance without getting hurt every couple of months. "A lot of runners train too hard, get injured, and never reach their potential," he notes.
The Finke program emphasizes "effort-based training," and he believes in keeping the effort modest (at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance) most of the time. "Most runners are probably training at about 90 percent of their race pace," says Finke. "Running 80 percent is pretty easy, but it helps keep you injury-free."
The program has certainly turned things around for Arbogast. Two years after beginning Finke's effort-based training, she improved her marathon personal record to 2:45. And last June, she won the Christchurch Marathon in New Zealand with another 2:45. "I think I can keep improving," says Arbogast. "The key is to stay healthy and keep gaining endurance."
What you should do: Do most of your runs at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance. So, if you can race 10 miles at 7:30 pace, you should do your 10-mile training runs at 9:23. To convert a race pace to an 80-percent training pace, multiply the race pace by 1.25; for more details, visit Finke's Web site, Team Oregon.
To find a wide range of your equivalent race times, go to RunnersWorld.com, and click on "Race Time Calculator" under the calculators section.