Avoiding hitting the dreaded wall

Your legs feel sore and heavy, your trainers make you feel like you’re running with bricks in them, and you start to feel the urge to quit. This is what is known as hitting the wall, and it can make a marathon go from hard to really hard. 

Why does ‘the wall’ occur?

It comes down to how long and how far you’re running; it doesn’t matter how hard or fast you run it.

The dreaded feeling happens when your carbohydrate stores are completely depleted and your body starts burning fat. This can cause your pace to drop by up to a third and your body starting to feel painful and fatigued. Essentially you’ve run out of fuel, and you feel like you can no longer carry on.

Preventing this from happening

There are a few strategies to help prevent this from happening.

Start smart and stick to your training pace. Don’t start off too fast. We know it’s easy to get caught up in the crowd and start speeding up, but keep to your training pace.

Stock up on carbs both before and during the race. Ideally you want to start carb loading around three days before the big race. As you’ll have reduced the intensity and volume of your training, this will ensure your glycogen stores are fully stocked up.

You’ll need additional carbs during the race; energy gels and Jelly Babies are favourites amongst runners. Don’t wait until your body is craving food before you start feeding it; try and give yourself a little energy frequently along the route.

Trial what food works for you in your training runs; some people find it hard to eat on the run and digest their food.

How to come back after hitting the wall

Hopefully, you’ll prevent yourself hitting the wall in the first place, but if it does happen to you, don’t worry -- you can come back from it. You’ll need to get sugar into your system, fast. Go for a sports drink, fruit juice, gels – something very high in sugar.

It may take up to 20 minutes to recover, and slow walking whilst your body takes it all in will be a must. Try not to think about how you feel and concentrate instead on anything and everything that isn’t to do with running.

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