Spring into a Marathon – Part 5

Spring into a Marathon – Part 5
Reading Time: 4 minutes

ImageIf you’re running the Virgin London Marathon it may well be dawning on you that you only have just over four weeks of training left. By now you should have completed two-three of the longest runs of your marathon plan and you should be mastering the trick of long run nutrition (see previous post “Spring into a Marathon – Part 4“) but you’re also probably pretty tired, and maybe even wondering if you’re on track.

If you’ve had a major set-back, either through injury or other circumstances, taking you away from training, it could be worth re-evaluating your goals. If you’ve missed more than two consecutive weeks of training during this peak period, you might want to look at changing your time goal, or even just setting an “aim to finish” goal. If, however you’ve only missed one-two weeks, you could still be on target, and we’re going to tell you a great way of finding out if you are… keep reading for the time-predictor marathon workout.

Yasso 800s

The secret lies in the Yasso 800 workout. If you haven’t already heard of it, then you’re in for a treat. This workout is in itself a challenging session, but it is actually also a great predictor of your marathon time. All you want is for your 10 x 800m reps to equal the same time as your marathon goal. And no, we don’t mean you should be taking three or four hours to run half a mile! Let us explain:

If you’re aiming for a 4:30 hour marathon, you should be able to complete your 10 x 800m reps in 4:30 minutes.  If 3:50 is your goal, then 800m reps should take around 3:50 minutes. And as for 5 hours? Yep, you guessed it: 5 minute 800m reps!

This final test of marathon training progress is best performed around two weeks before your marathon. But to help build up to your performance test, you could add in an 800m rep workout into your weekly schedule from now; try 6 x 800m next week, 8 x 800m the week after, and then your Yasso 800 workout (10 x 800m) two weeks before the big day. Just make sure to jog for the same amount of time as your rep took in-between each one.

If your Yasso 800s average out at your marathon target equivalent in minutes, then you can feel pretty confident that you’re on track; if they come up short, you might want to re-set your expectations – you’ll feel better on the day achieving a backup target, than no target at all.

The Yasso 800 was created by Bart Yasso, legendary runner, and named by Amby Burfoot in 2001.

Let’s talk Mantras

Anyone who’s ever done a yoga class will have heard of the Hindu and Buddist mantra “om”. Meant to symbolise the manifestation of God, it is chanted to represent harmony and the ultimate peace.


The idea that a syllable, word or phrase can help you achieve a psychological state of focus and calm is well tested, and in fact most athletes will have a mantra or phrase that they either say aloud, or in their head, to help them stay calm and keep them on target.

Take Paul Radcliffe, for example, In Adharanand Finn’s book “Running with the Kenyans” he described how Paula called upon her love for her daughter, using the phrase “I love you Isla” during her New York marathon win. Finn tried this for himself, and found that saying his daughter’s name whilst running helped him through the tough mental challenges of training and racing in Africa.

So what could your mantra be? Well, the sky is the limit! For your mantra to be most effective, it needs to be short, so it can be easily remembered and said, and positive. It needs to have a meaning that really connects with you in order for it to divert your mind from the physical and mental barriers that you may experience during the marathon.

Some great examples of mantras that have been used by elite athletes include:

This is what you came for

Scott Jurek, ultra runner.

Thing strong, be strong, finish strong

Renee Metivier Baillie, indoor athletics runner.

Mind over mileage

Kara Goucher, elite marathon runner.

Concrete, meet courage

another of Paula Radcliffe’s mantras.

Whatever you choose as your mantra, keep it personal to you. Remember it and use it when times get tough on race day, and maybe it will make that final push a little easier.

We’d be really interest to hear if you’ve used a mantra in races before, and whether it worked for you – as always, please comment below or on Facebook or Tweet us @fitcetera!

The Final Phase: Taper

Very soon you will be reaching the end of your marathon training peak, and heading into the taper. Look out for our next Spring into a Marathon post, containing an explanation of this last phase of marathon training, and tips to keep rested while avoiding the very real “taper madness”!

Further Reading:

  1. Runner’s World, 2001. Yasso 800s [Online] Available at: http://runnersworld.com/race-training/yasso-800s [Accessed 19th March 2013]
  2. Finn, A., 2012. Running with the Kenyans, London, Faber and Faber.


CC Image “Red tracks” courtesy of See-ming Lee on Flickr.

CC Image “Om” courtesty of J Rindrr on Flickr.

Georgina Spenceley
Georgina Spenceley

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