In the marathon running scene, more often than not we hear the term hitting the wall. It is really the bane of marathon running. Hitting the wall is feared! Whether or not you hit the wall can make or break your race. It is important to understand why you hit the wall in order to prevent it.
What Is Hitting The Wall?
This hitting the wall phenomenon refers to the depletion of your glycogen stores. Fatigue starts to set in and with that comes negativity. Glycogen is the energy stores in our muscles and liver. It is the easiest most readily available source of energy. It is our body’s preferred source of fuel. When glycogen stores start to run low, as a preservation method, our body and brain starts to shut down. This explains the negativity that comes in the later stages of the race.
When Do You Hit The Wall?
Typically, runners hit the wall at the 18 – 20 miles mark. Our body stores 1800 – 2000 calories worth of glycogen in our muscles. Depending on pace, our body uses approximately 100 calories per mile when running. So, at the 18th – 20th mile, this is where our glycogen stores start to deplete and also where runners normally hit the wall.
How To Overcome This?
Although our body primarily uses carbohydrates as an energy fuel, we also have the ability access our fat stores. The answer lies in training our body to access these fat stores to continue to produce energy to sustain our effort. However accessing fat stores for energy is a longer complex process, one that we need to constantly train our body to utilise the metabolic fat pathway in a more efficient way. One way to do this is doing the long run.
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Another way to overcome this is by consuming gels. Gels give you a quick fix of carbohydrates. Always try taking gels during training so you know how much more additional fuel you require to complete the distance. Always take gels before you feel the fatigue setting in. There is a saying, always eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. This will enable you to avoid the hitting the wall phenomenon.
Hitting the wall is not something to be feared. Instead, we should understand it, embrace it, and prepare ourselves well.