September 7, 2023

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The miracle marathon workout known as “Yasso 800s”

It’s peak training season for that fall marathon, and hence a good time to review the once-revolutionary (two decades ago) but now classic Yasso 800s workout. If you do little more than a few long runs and a few Yasso 800 sessions, you’ll find yourself in fine mettle for a solid marathon. 

I call the workout “once revolutionary” because it didn’t come from a physiology lab or an Olympic marathon champion. It was invented by a solid, blue-collar runner guy who just happened to find himself working at the Runner’s World home office in the 1990s (because he lived nearby). 

Bart Yasso is beloved by all for his combined work ethic and happy nature, but no one ever considered him a math genius. Not until he explained Yasso 800s in the early 2000s. “If you can run 10 Yasso 800s in a certain number of minutes and seconds, you can run a marathon in the same number of hours and minutes.” Wait! What? That sounds crazy.

Two decades later, thousands of runners can confirm that Yasso 800s come pretty darn close to working as advertised. That’s more than enough reason to include them in a marathon buildup. Here Mario Fraoli reviews Yasso 800s, noting (as very few others have managed to deduce) that a Yasso 800 is close to your 5K race pace. And 5K race pace just happens to be one of the best, most efficient training paces for distance runners.

Those who like to go full monty on Yasso 800s will gradually increase from 4 x 800 to 10 x 800 over a period of several months. That’s how Bart did them himself. Like I said, he’s a hard-working, blue-collar guy.

I’m inclined to think that “less is more” when it comes to repeated hard sessions like Yasso 800s. When I did them, I would often go from 4 x 800 to 6 x 800 to 8 x 800. Then I’d call it quits while I was still ahead of the game. But if you want to Be Like Bart, you can go all in. 

With good luck, you might end up as successful as Bart, who got his marathon PR down to 2:40. More at The Morning Shakeout.


What goes up … gets faster

Whenever I get the chance, which isn’t often enough, I enjoy running stadium steps. (I don’t live close to any large stadiums.) Others seem to find the repetitions boring and tortuous, but I like working them into an easy run. I might do a few miles, then loop through a stadium for some quick step sprints, then head out for a few more relaxed miles. Etc. 

Step-ups aren’t exactly the same, but you can do them at home, and they’re a great strength and balance builder. Here’s an article claiming they will “improve uphill running, boost power, and prevent injuries.” While no evidence is offered, I do consider step-ups a great exercise for runners.

They are, after all,  a one-leg-at-a-time movement, just like running. More at Canadian Running.

In this short video, big-name health book author and podcaster Peter Attia shows exactly how he does step ups. He considers them a “foundational” exercise for the lower legs, and is careful to load the front leg rather than popping off the rear leg. He also emphasizes the importance of great control on the eccentric down-step. As you get more comfortable with step-ups, you can increase the resistance and your potential benefits by doing them on a higher step or while holding dumb bells in your hand. Good stuff. More at YouTube/Peter Attia MD.

All hail Courtney Dauwalter, undisputed Queen of the ultras

RLRH isn’t a newsletter about elite runners, because the other 99.9 percent of us are different from the elites, and need to look elsewhere for the training and health/fitness advice most likely to benefit us. That said, we should always celebrate the consistently great ones. They are achieving on the world platform what we all want to achieve in our less-celebrated but equally important lives.

That means it’s time to give Courtney Dauwalter a standing ovation. This summer she won three of the world’s hardest ultramarathon trail races, all 100 miles or longer, and did so in record-breaking fashion. Western States. Hardrock. And, last Saturday, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). Dauwalter has clearly gone where no female ultra star has gone before, and it might be a long time before someone dislodges her records. (As has been the case, on the male side of the coin, for the unfathomable Yiannis Kouros.)

You can now find hundreds of articles, podcasts, videos, and more on Dauwalter. Have at it!. I’ll simply link to an excellent New York Times story (with glorious photography) that was published just before her Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) win on Saturday. There’s so much to enjoy about Dauwalter’s approach to the sport, especially her refusal to hire a bigtime coach, follow any particular formulas, or define herself in the rigid way some ultra runners think they must engage the sport. 

“In general, I am pretty tired,” said Dauwalter, whose motto when things get tough in a race is “This is fine” and “Be brave and believe.” She said running all three races was not the plan at first, but that she just had to try it. “I am so curious what will happen and excited to test myself.”

So many pearls: “I try and go into every week really open to whatever happens so that I will actually tune into my body and listen to it,” said Dauwalter, who wears a running watch but does not post her workouts on popular running apps like Strava, as many ultrarunners do. “If I go into a week thinking it is going to be a really big mileage week or I have all these grand ideas about it, then I find it harder to listen to my body and actually respond to what it is telling me.” Her big mileage weeks are often 140 miles.

If  you read this article or others about Dauwalter and the “pain cave,” you might feel better prepared for your next endurance race. It turns out that when the going gets tough, the tough imagine themselves with hammer and chisel in hand. They just attack that damn cave until they reach the bright sunlight on the other side. At least that’s the Dauwalter approach.

Courtney Dauwalter, you’re ridiculous. But you’re also an inspiration and role model for all of us. Thanks. Personally, I’m going to adopt your mantra: Be curious. Be brave. And believe. More at New York Times, I Run Far, and many other places.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Statins vs tendons: In a large population study, statin use was linked to greater risk of tendon injuries. 

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

NOTE: If you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text version of RLRH for $4/month, you would also have received new articles on:

# Everything you think you know about marathon pacing is wrong

# Listen up: These are the best paces for your speed work

# 7 simple steps to better training and faster racing

# Yes, some endurance supplements actually work. Here they are

# How the right pair of socks can keep you cool. (Honest!)

# 10 rules of weight loss for runners

# Hard-training youngsters face no heart risks + decreased cancer later in life

# A motivational “Test your limits” quote from Bill Bowerman, legendary Univ of Oregon running coach

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