Not everyone who runs a marathon will hit the wall. The wall is what is know as the period during a marathon where things go from being hard to being really, really hard. Your legs start feeling like jelly, your lungs can't get any more air and you wonder why an earth you are putting yourself through 42.2km.
Why do we hit the wall?
The reason we hit a metaphorical wall whilst running is because our glucose stores have depleted and with this depletion comes the feeling of fatigue. Glycogen is a carbohydrate that is stored in our muscles for energy. This is why people carbo-load the day before a long run and in the days leading up to marathon. When you are running on low glycogen, your body wants to shut down any activity it is doing in order to preserve it's energy.
So, how do you take on the wall?
- Prepare Yourself
Your course map won't show where you will hit the wall but you know it's there and your training runs will have shown where your wall may come. Make sure you carbo-load before hand to ensure your stores are well stocked and your muscles are ready for success. Also, plan where you wish to take snack and energy gels in order to keep your energy levels up.
- Hit the Breaks
Excitement and adrenaline can cause you to set off too hard too early on and use up all your energy stores. Resist the temptation to chase after all the runners passing you and stick to our planned race pace, your body will thank you later!
- Send for Reinforcements
The wall happens because your body has exhausted its supply of carbohydrates and has started to burn fat. An energy gel, gummy bears, or snack bar can give you the boost you need to break down the wall. Practice taking energy gels and snacks in your training runs so that you can work out when to take them before the wall hits.
*Do the math - many runners hit the wall around the 18-20 mile mark. Our bodies can store around 1,800 to 2,000 calories worth of glycogen in our muscles and on average we use about 100 calories per mile when running (dependant on race pace and body mass)*
- Remember how much hard work you have done
We all know that the lure of the finish line and maybe a new personal best isn't enough when the going gets tough. So, remember why you signed up to take on the marathon, all your hard work fundraising. It's hard to complain about feeling tired when you are running to help those less fortunate than yourselves.