Repetition Training - The Key To Building Speed And Toughness

If I had to list the aspects of my training that I felt were most important to achieving my sub 3 hour goal, two things would top the list - long runs and repetition training. In this section, I talk a little about the repetition training I used throughout my training program.

Yasso 800s

My repetition training was based loosely on the principles espoused by Bart Yasso. Put simply, it's a program of 800 metre repetition training, where you run 800 metres relatively fast, then jog 400 metres slow, and repeat quite a few times. They're usually best done at a running track, since it then becomes just 2 laps fast followed by 1 lap slow, and repeat.


Now with the original Yasso 800s, the theory (as I remember it) goes that you try and jog the 400 metres slow in about the same total time as it took you to run the 800 metres fast. So if you're running 3 minute 800 metres, you jog the 400 metres in 3 minutes (quite slow, about 8 km/hr).

Your local running track or even a local grass park is ideal for repetition training.

Number Of Repetitions

A full repetition includes an 800 metre fast followed by a slow 400 metres. I introduced this into my training regime doing 4 reptitions - 800, 400, 800, 400, 800, 400, 800, 400. I gradually built this up, adding about one extra repetition per week, until I maxxed out at 12 repetitions. At the same time, I also tried to gradually increase the speed at which I was doing them.

However, you need to balance it out, as can be seen in the guide. When I increased from 8 repetitions to 10 repetions, I dropped the speed from 2:47 800 metres to 3:00 800 metres. Stepping up both number of repetitions and speed at the same time is risky, although you can catch me doing it a couple of times if you look closely at the guide.

My hardest sessions were 3.5, 2.5, and 1.5 weeks out from the marathon. In retrospect, I probably should have started tapering these repetition sessions a little earlier, perhaps doing my last hard session 2.5 weeks out.

Warm Up And Warm Down

Warm up and warm down is probably more critical when doing speed work. My typical warm up was about 10 minutes slow jog, with some strides at the end, followed by 10 or 20 minutes of good stretching. Warm down was similar again, although without the strides.

You need to do some form of stride outs in the warm up, otherwise you won't have stretched out your muscles enough when it comes to stretch. When you start doing the actual reps, you'll appreciate the extra limberness you get when you take big strides.

If you're in a cold climate, make sure to wear some jumpers until the end of the warmup, and you might even put them on before you start warming down. Your body will be very warmed up from the session, so you might not naturally remember to do this, but try and make a habit of doing so.


If you're doing your 800 metres on a track, step off the track onto the centre grass section for your slow 400 metre sections. Gives your feet and your knees a break, and gets you out of the way of other people using the track.

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Copyright 2007-2010 Michael Milford