Every year hundreds of thousands of runners will have the opportunity to “hit the wall.” “The wall” is defined as that period in a marathon or long distance event, when things transition from being pretty hard to being really, really hard.
Hitting the wall is basically running out of energy. For the first couple of hours/miles of running you are using up all your carbohydrate/sugar stores. After these are used up, your body starts to use fat as its energy source. This transition from using carbs to using fat is what causes the wall. Elite athletes don’t have this problem because the amount of time they are running for is not long enough for them to transfer to using up fats. Whereas non elite athletes who take over 2.5 hours running will run out of their sugar stores and hit the wall.
More than half of all non elite marathon runners will admit to hitting the wall at least once. This can also be a mental challenge to push past the wall, the ability to override your thoughts of pain and stopping and to keep going instead. Think about the reason you are running this marathon. Remind yourself of how good you will feel and how well you have done after you’ve finished.
When you hit a rough patch, stay focused and try to be a problem solver. Whatever is bothering you at that time, brainstorm possible solutions for the problem. Then, pick the best to keep you going.
Try following our 5 steps to break through your wall:
1. Pace Yourself. One way of doing this is to start the first half of the event slightly slower than the pace you have been training at. THis stops you ‘burning out’ and allows the remaining part of the race to be run faster to achieve your goals.
2. Break the race up mentally. Making goals throughout the race for example, can I run for 5 more minutes? or Can I make it to the next mile sign? or Can I make it to that building in front of me? is a good way of keeping your mind active and motivating yourself to keep going. You will feel defeated if you stop and your legs won’t want to start up the gruelling pounding again.
3. Positive self-talk. Develop at least one positive mantra to use during the race. Mantras can be performance-oriented or feeling-oriented. When you find your mind wandering into the land of negative self-talk, use one of your mantras to change your mindset. Paula Radcliff uses a counting system, which is also proven to help with positive thought and foot strike! We researched a few mantra’s for you, these came from active.com:
- “I’m fit, I’m good, I’m fast.”
- “Every day, in every way, I’m better, stronger, happier.”
- “I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m light on my feet.”
4. Drink lots of water. Hydration is a very important part of your race. Whenusing aids stations two miles apart, consume 50 to 100 calories of energy drink and four to eight ounces of fluid at each aid station. That equates to nearly 6-8 oz of water every 20 minutes. If the race-supplied energy drink doesn’t suit you, carry your own drink, this avoids upset stomachs on the day. Make sure you do replace what you lose in sweat to continue to reach your goals throughout the race.
5. Take in extra energy. Energy drinks and gels are important because they contain electrolytes that help you feel better. Heavy sweaters use up a lot of your sodium and electrolyte stores so it’s very important to carry some extra supplies with you. You will know this after your training runs. Make sure you train with the gels you are going to use, to avoid any upset stomachs. Click here to view our nutrition guide to energy gels and carbo-loading.
Hitting the wall in a race is tough, but follow these tips and you’ll find a way to push through it, if not avoid it all together.