Every marathoner has his bread-and-butter marathon workout. For some, it's the classic tempo run: a "comfortably hard" effort that corresponds roughly to your one-hour race pace.
For others, it's the fast finish long run, where you run the last several miles at your goal marathon pace or faster. And some runners don't do any workouts—they just log a lot of miles at an easy pace.
Whatever your preferred workout, there's another type of run that will help you train for a marathon: Yasso 800s. As you might have guessed, these are 800-meter repetitions typically performed on a track. Bart Yasso, one of the few people to have run races on all seven continents, invented them.
Called the "Mayor of Running," Yasso won the 1987 U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship, has completed five Ironman triathlons, and ran the Badwater Ultramarathon (146 miles in Death Valley, California). Needless to say, Yasso is an accomplished runner.
And his workout provides a helpful way to measure your fitness, and give you a good indication of the time you could run in a marathon.
How to Run Yasso 800s
The premise is actually quite simple: Take your goal marathon time and then run that time for 800 meters—use minutes and seconds rather than hours and minutes.
For example, if you're trying to run a 4:15 marathon, your Yasso 800m goal time is 4 minutes and 15 seconds. The same holds true for faster runners. If your marathon goal is 3 hours, your Yasso 800m goal time is 3 minutes.
Run 10 x 800m repetitions on the track at your goal time with an easy jog recovery of 400 meters. If you've never been to a standard outdoor track (found at most high schools or university campuses), an 800m is two laps around the track. And 400m is just one lap.