by Paul Koks in Training Tips, image by viZZZual

How to Avoid Hitting the Marathon Wall

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The marathon wall feels exactly like it sounds. You physically hit a wall that leads to so much pain and agony that it threatens to knock you to the ground and stop you in your tracks. The problem is the wall is inside your body and your mind. It is hard as bricks and can bring the strongest bodies to the ground shaking. Basically, it is an overall exhaustion that makes every movement pure struggle. A strong runner suddenly slows down and feels as if they need to sit down and rest awhile. The most energetic personality suddenly feels all energy has been sucked out of their muscles and they cannot take the next stride.

Rather than worrying about hitting the wall, it’s best to train properly and think ahead so you can prevent it.

Get Used to the Distance

Running a marathon is a big deal to your body. This distance is quite different than a 5K or 10K, so if you felt fatigue or pain at the end of those distances you are at risk of feeling the pain when you get toward the end of the marathon as well. That’s why it is so important to run longer distances while training for the big race. One long run a week will train your muscles to store up more glycogen. The marathon wall is caused largely by all of that built-up glycogen running out, so the more your muscles store up the longer you can go before the exhaustion hits. You should run 20 miles at least a few times while training for the marathon. Trainers conflict on whether you should make your long runs any longer than that.

Keep to a Consistent Pace

You should have some idea of what time you would like to make in your marathon. That time will help you determine the pace that you need to maintain in order to be successful. You should train at this pace so your body feels comfortable with it. You should also stick to the pace on race day regardless of how energetic you feel on the course. Many runners set themselves up to hit the marathon wall because they simply go too fast. If you feel a huge burst of energy and adrenaline at the beginning of the race remind yourself that the goal is to make it to the end, not to go as fast as possible. Your muscles will gradually burn up that stored glycogen and you will need all the energy you can get later on in the race. Going too fast and breaking that pace will only make the end of the race harder.

Fuel Your Body Properly

You have to add fuel to your body as you run the marathon. Make sure to take advantage of the stopping points and get some high quality carbohydrates in your system. This will deliver more glycogen to your muscles and help you stretch it out to the end of the race. It is when you stop fueling your body that you drastically increase your chances of hitting the marathon wall. Of course, eating the right foods for your runs during training is equally important. Marathon distance training is hard word so this is not the time to restrict calories. It is just time to give your body high quality, natural foods filled with nutrients you need on those long runs.

Where’s Your Head?

There is a huge mental component to running a marathon. You have to get your head in the right place or you will hit the marathon wall and you will be less likely to push through it and finish the race successfully. You need a positive mindset and a huge dose of self-confidence. That is just for starters. You also need to know how to distract your mind away from the physical tension and pain that is felt when training for a longer race. Keep your mind on the surroundings, the finish line, or other things so you don’t focus too much on the discomforts of racing and fall right into that wall.

If you can learn to control your thoughts and distract away from the discomforts of long distance running you can push yourself through the marathon wall. Even those who smack that wall incredibly hard and feel disoriented and completely wiped out can make it through the last miles of the marathon. If your mind isn’t in the race then your body is not likely to make it all the way to the end, either.