Hitting the wall (or bonking as it is known among the running fraternity) is effectively hitting a point during exercise where you feel so physically tired that you feel that you simply cannot continue.
What Does It Feel Like?
During my first marathon I hit the wall after about 22 miles. I suddenly felt like I could not go on, my legs did not want to go one in front of the other but with only four miles left to go I managed to dig deep and push through.
But it was not fun, I felt drained and after crossing the finish line I had to sit down to avoid collapsing (not recommended).
Why Does It Happen?
Common among marathon runners ‘hitting the wall’ occurs when the body runs low on Glycogen (the body's stored form of carbohydrates), in simple terms it means the body is running low sugars which help to produce ATP (energy), our bodies chemical energy unit.
It is not to say the body has run out of all carbohydrates/fat but it does mean that you don’t have the metabolic device to access it.
Won’t Carbohydrates Make Me Fat Though?
If not burnt off, then they will contribute to the build-up of fat stores but for intense long term training they are crucial.
Carbohydrates are stored energy, the more you consume the more exercise you will need to do to ensure you burn the fat off but for marathon training especially (where training runs can go up to 20 miles) Carbohydrates are exactly what you need to avoid ‘hitting the wall’.
What Else Can I do?
Re-fuel during the race, after my fateful first marathon attempt I decided to look for new ways to ensure I was fuelled enough during 4 hours of cardio. Someone said take some sweets with you so you can snack as you run.
As inexperienced as I was, I thought this was madness but gave it a go. It worked! I took some Jelly babies around with me (pretty rock’n’roll I know) and at regular intervals took one.
The effect was two-fold. It kept my sugar levels up and also acted as a psychological tool for motivation, I took one at 2 mile intervals and found myself setting short term goals allowing me to forget about the fact I had 26.2 miles to travel.
Jelly Babies Are the Answer Then?
Not quite. If I had prepared better, refined my training and also worn my KYMIRA, this might have all helped too. Ultimately the better prepared you are and the better you know what your body needs during competition, the better off you will be. All of this combined will play a major part in ensuring you keep the dreaded wall at bay next time you line up for 26.2 miles of gruelling marathon fun.
Written by Ian Waterhouse