‘The wall’ is every runner's nemesis, and the dreaded fear that you will hit it can unsettle you even before you get started with your running training.
You know you've hit the wall when your legs turn to jelly, your lungs can’t get enough air, and your brain’s saying you can’t go on. But what if there was a way around the wall?
Follow our top tips and never find yourself hitting that imaginary block of bricks again. In your face, wall!
1. Brace yourself
You can train your body to burn fat more effectively so you don’t hit the wall quite so hard (or early). Long steady runs in the lead up to marathon day can make you into a fat-burning machine. You can also try doing some ‘fasted’ runs. Going out for a run before you have breakfast can be a great way to train your body to rely on fat for fuel.
2. Prepare for impact
Even though your course map won’t show it, you know the wall is out there. So be prepared and arm yourself with the right tools to overcome it.
‘Carb-load’ pre-race to ensure your stores are well stocked, and your muscles are primed for success. You should aim to increase your intake of high quality carbohydrates such as pasta and cereal for three days before race day.
3. Hit the brakes
The harder you push, the more your body has to rely on carbs, rather than fat, for fuel. Excitement and adrenaline can cause you to go too hard early on. Resist the temptation and stick to your planned race pace, your body will definitely thank you later.
4. Go to your happy place
One study suggests that those who spend too much time ‘inward monitoring’ (concentrating on their thoughts and feelings rather than the outside world) hit the wall earlier and suffer from its effects for longer. Distract yourself by soaking up the atmosphere of the big day, encouraging fellow runners, and using any running mantras that work for you.
When you’re stressed you use up more energy so you’ll deplete your fuel stores quicker. Try to relax, it’s only a race! A study showed that whether or not people hit the wall was influenced by if they expected to. In other words, if you run to 20 miles thinking: 'Argh, it’s coming!' It probably will. Instead, relax, and try to enjoy the race.
6. Talk to yourself
Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever (well, until your friends get sick of you talking about your PB). Speaking to yourself positively can help you to get over a bad patch. Keep going if you can and you’re not injured, or you’ll be kicking yourself later for succumbing to the wall.
7. Send for reinforcements
Put simply, the wall happens because your body exhausts its supply of stored carbohydrate and has to start burning fat. A gel can give the boost you need to conquer the wall. Even better, plan your nutritional strategy and practise it in training so that you take your energy gels before you get desperate. One to two an hour can help you to last the distance.
8. Draw strength and inspiration from others
We all know that the lure of a personal best sometimes just isn’t enough when the going gets really tough. So why not sign up to run for a charity. It’s hard to complain about feeling a bit tired when you know you are running to help others less fortunate than yourself.