Breaking Down the Wall to Avoid Hitting It

Your next marathon PB is around the corner...

The exhilaration of the starting line, the rhythmic beat of your shoes hitting the pavement, and the anticipation of conquering 42.195K– there’s nothing quite like the journey of a marathon. Yet, many of us have faced the daunting challenge of hitting ‘the wall’ at some point during the race. In this blog, I will share some reasons behind this notorious phenomenon and explore how to overcome it.

WHY you hit the wall

For those unfamiliar, hitting ‘the wall’ refers to that dreaded moment in a marathon when everything suddenly becomes an uphill battle. Legs feel heavy, energy levels plummet, and every step seems like a Herculean effort. But fear not, understanding why this happens is the first step toward overcoming it.

  1. Depletion of glycogen stores: One of the primary culprits behind hitting ‘the wall’ is the depletion of glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is the body’s preferred source of energy during prolonged exercise, and when it runs out, fatigue sets in.

  2. Hydration imbalance: Maintaining proper hydration is crucial during a marathon. Dehydration can lead to decreased blood volume, making it harder for your heart to pump oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. This, in turn, contributes to that overwhelming feeling of fatigue.

  3. Electrolyte depletion: Sweating profusely over the course of a marathon can lead to the loss of essential electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. When these levels drop too low, it can result in muscle cramps, weakness, and an overall sense of exhaustion.

  4. Mental fatigue: Running a marathon is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. The monotony, self-doubt, and sheer duration of the race can lead to mental fatigue, causing your body to perceive the effort as more strenuous than it actually is.

But how to overcome it?!

  1. Fuel smart: Ensure you’re adequately fueling your body with a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the days leading up to the race. During the marathon, consume energy gels or snacks to replenish glycogen stores and maintain energy levels. It is advised to take between 30-60g of carbs/hour. Train this in advance so you don’t have any surprises during the marathon.

  2. Hydrate wisely: Develop a hydration plan that suits your body’s needs. Avoid overhydrating, as this can lead to electrolyte imbalances. Consider sports drinks to replenish both fluids and electrolytes during the race. TIP: look where the hydration posts are and don’t be afraid to walk through these posts. It is better so have some sips of water than all the water over your clothes and only some extra air in your stomach.

  3. Break the race into segments: Mentally divide the marathon into more manageable segments. Focusing on smaller goals can help alleviate the mental fatigue associated with the sheer length of the race. For example; your first focus point might be running a half marathon, then getting to the 25K mark, 30K mark, …

  4. Positive visualization: Envision your success. Picture yourself crossing the finish line, feeling strong and accomplished. Positive visualization can boost your mental resilience and provide the motivation needed to push through tough moments.

Hitting ‘the wall’ during a marathon is a shared experience among runners, but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle. By understanding the physiological and mental factors at play, and by implementing smart strategies, you can conquer ‘the wall’ and revel in the triumphant feeling of completing 26.2 miles. Embrace the challenge, stay fueled, and keep pushing forward – the finish line awaits! Good luck and let me know how your marathon has been please, it always makes my day when I receive messages from people reaching their goals ☺️

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