How to avoid hitting the wall during marathon training or a race?

Prevent yourself hitting "the wall" and run your best marathon ever.

Prevent yourself hitting “the wall” and run your best marathon ever. (Images from Eric Canton Fashion Clip Art,

You may have heard about the dreaded wall that marathon runners can encounter during training or a race. In fact, if you are a marathoner yourself, you may also have experienced the wall which renders you unable to run or in worst-case scenarios, even unable to walk properly.

Hitting the wall usually happens when your body runs out of stored glycogen for energy and it has to start burning fat to keep you going. For many runners, this usually takes place after the 30km mark in the marathon. So you become helpless and your legs start getting all cramped up or you may even end up lying on the ground in sheer pain and agony.

However, it is possible to overcome the wall or to not even experience it at all during your marathon race. In fact, contrary to belief, hitting the wall can be controlled by your mind.

Here are some tips on how to do so.

Do not consciously keep thinking about your aches and pain during the run

During the marathon, you will definitely experience discomfort. But the trick is to distract your mind and not to pay attention to these feelings of discomfort. For example, try to focus your mind on the scenery or listen to music to distract yourself. You can even sing along to the music if your favourite song begins to play. After a while, you may realise that your marathon pains will have temporarily “gone away”, simply because you are not thinking about them.

This method works, because if you are consciously thinking of your pains, then it will become magnified and feel much more painful than they actually are. But by not focusing on them, your mind tends to forget that you are even feeling them in the first place.

Do not tell yourself that you are going to hit the wall

Sure, you have heard plenty of cases about marathon runners hitting the wall during races, but you may have also heard that psychology is a very powerful thing. If you keep on telling yourself that you are going to hit the wall after the 30km mark, it could really happen. But if you tell yourself that you will run a good marathon race and won’t collapse at the 30km mark, then the reverse may also be true.

So do not start a run with the expectation of hitting the wall. If you keep thinking about it, you may really experience it. Instead, you should tell yourself that you are going to run a great marathon and beat your personal best timing. By doing so, there is a great chance you will cross the finish line with a brand new personal record. It is mind over matter.

Do not stress yourself out during the run

Being in a stressed state makes your body burn calories and glycogen faster than being in a relaxed state. So during the race, do not put unnecessary stress on yourself because this will burn calories at a much faster rate, thus increasing your chances of hitting the wall. Instead, do the run in a very relaxed manner and try to enjoy yourself.

For example, if you can’t maintain your pace and find that you have to slow down, just do it. Don’t stress yourself out and keep saying that you must maintain your pace at all costs – no matter what. You are the one who knows your own body the best, so you should listen to what it is telling you. Do not force your body into doing something that it may not be capable of achieving.

Get more tips on running here.

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