There are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of hitting the wall, and one of which boils down to your training routine
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No marathoner is exempted from hitting the wall. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a veteran—as with injuries, anyone is susceptible to it. But there are a few things you can do to lessen your chances of experiencing this phenomenon.
But before talking about how it can be done, what exactly is this wall?
According to the Centre for Health and Human Performance professor Greg Whyte, hitting the wall is a condition in which you experience sudden fatigue and energy loss. It’s when you can’t find the drive to run because you’ve exhausted all the glycogen stored in your body.
In case you didn’t know, glycogen is a carbohydrate stored in your muscles and liver. It’s the most readily available fuel source for when the body is engaged in physical activity. When you run low on glycogen, you’ll end up experiencing fatigue and your brain will gradually shut down.
So how do you avoid hitting the wall? Here are a few tips:
Train at a marathon goal pace
When it comes to training, Whyte says that you must at least hit 80 percent of your target distance before race day. If you can complete 30 kilometers as your longest training run, then you’ll be fine. Follow your marathon training schedule religiously and prioritize days when you do long runs. The general training rule is to never increase mileage more than 10 percent each week. It’s best to stay at your new mileage for approximately three weeks before you increase your pace.
Don’t start out too fast
Starting off a race at your quickest pace is one of the worst mistakes you can make. If you start out too fast, chances are you’ll immediately burn all your stored energy and won’t have enough by the end of the race. A strategy you can apply is to plot your pace by identifying a set minute per 1.5 kilometer in line with your goal finish time. For example, if your goal is to finish the race in 4:10, you can run the first five kilometers at a 10-minute/mile pace.
The general rule when it comes to training is to never increase mileage more than 10 percent each week. It’s best to stay at your new mileage for approximately three weeks before you increase your pace
Take walking breaks
It’s been proven that taking short strategic walking breaks can help marathoners finish faster. One key to successfully finishing a marathon strong is to know how to properly pace yourself throughout the race. You can try taking a 30- to 60-second walk at every one and a half kilometer marker during a race—and you’ll see a difference towards the end. Again, the best way to know if this works for you is to test it out during your training sessions and figure out when you can incorporate this during an actual marathon.
Recharge with calories during your marathon
A study found that consuming specific carbohydrates during a marathon is a good way to replace glycogen reserves. Recharging yourself with carbs will help you avoid hitting the wall and at the same time fuel your performance. The three most recommended energy boosters are gels, sports drinks, and solid foods like energy bars and pretzels.