The wall

My brother and I have done a couple of long runs/marathons now and on all occassions one of us has hit the "wall" and had to slow up. Does anyone have any advice on how to combat this during a run and the best way of training to avoid it in the first place?


  • Yeah, Jim. Easy. Don't ever run a race that's longer than 18 miles.

    It is said that if you do plenty of long training runs (without necessarily hitting The Wall in training) to improve your leg muscles' ability to store glycogen and your body's ability to start using fat as fuel earlier in the race, taper properly, and carbo-load in the run-up to your marathon, you should be able to sail past The Wall with only minor discomfort.

    Let's have the voice of experience. Anyone here got The Wall well sorted?
  • Oops, forgot - and acquire the ability to consume and keep down plenty of fluid and carbs during your run, starting from the beginning.
  • I had the same problem till I started training with a slightly higher fat diet.

    Fat gives a lot more energy per gramme than carbohydrate. The problem is that the fat must first be turned into Glycogen. This is a slow process. The Wall is hit when the muscles run out ready energy and have to really on Glycogen being made from fat. You have to slow down as this process is slow to start and is a slow process anyway.

    If you train with a higher fat diet, the body starts to burn fat earlier, and more efficiently, so the wall is either avoided or delayed.

    This advice was taken from the "Non-runner's Marathon Trainer"
  • I once read a book that said, that due to a body holding about 2-hours glycogen reserves, there were two ways to avoid the wall and its advice was to: -

    1) Run fast enough as not to run out of glycogen reserves
    2) Refuel en-route

    Being as slow as I am, I use option 2

    I also agree with V-rap that long training runs are also a good bet :o)

  • I haven't hit the wall yet (cross fingers, touch wood). I suspect this is because (1) i did the training - 16 - 18 miles a day, three days a week at the peak week before tapering, and (2) i take glucose tablets, sports drink and water round the course with me. I start on the sports drink at about 3 miles, the glucose tablets at about 14 miles (1 every 4 miles thereafter), and water taken whenever available. Seems to work for me.
    This is coupled with a good hefty pasta with cheese sauce meal the night before and porrige for breakfast a couple of hours before.
  • Pacing is also important - did you run at a fairly even pace? You may just be starting too fast. Far better to start slower and avoid the wall - even pace or negative splits is ideal. I've only done 2 marathons but I think the long runs are the key part of the training, for the reasons others have described.
    Good luck.
  • Cheers for the advice,
    We'll machinate over it for a while and see if we can adjust some training and tactics. I think our main problems from what everyone is saying is, being too optomistic of our time for the level of training we were doing (we tried to do 8 minute miles for the Cardiff marathon when 9 might have been more sensible) and not having any energy drinks/food with us.
    Incidently our next effort is the Tal-y-bont 20 in the Brecon beacons (in the race diary in RW) - a lovely place to run if you like hills!
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    What date is the Tal-y-bont 20?
  • Long runs and more long runs -

    as V-rap says, you've got to train your body to adapt to the whole glycogen depletion/fat burning thing and that really is the key. The accepted wisdom (Bruce Tulloh, I think, but others as well) is that your 5 longest training runs should add up to 100 miles and this definitely works for me, though I put in a few extra to be on the safe side. I find that by the time I've logged my fifth 18-22 miler I can clearly feel I've gone through the adaptation and my body is coping with the change in fuel burning in the critical zone.

    I also personally think it's important to go up to 22 miles at least twice in training - unless you're running your first marathon in which case it's not advised. Quite apart from anything else, beating the wall is psychological, so it really helps to get into that final 10K zone in training. 18-20 miles is not quite far enough for comfort in my view, but then I like to over-prepare rather than the other way round!
  • Hilly, the Tal-y-Bont 20 is on Sat 12 Oct. There are a few of these type of events run each year by the Breacon beacons Mountain Rescue. They are not so much races as sponsored walks but a lot of runners do enter them. They are well organised but you need to be fairly self sufficient. The Email address for more info is is
  • Yeah I agree, get a 22 miler under your belt. And forget about fueling on the run with carbs/gels/energy bars at anything beyond 15 miles distance, they won't help. (This is a tip from the RW marathon training schedule.) Drink water regularly throughout the race, (small sips often) and take some extra carbs/gels etc early on and up till just over half-way. Then grit your teeth and plough on. I'm tackling my 3rd marathon soon and hope to make it my most successful, but I expect I'll find something else that I could have done better afterwards !
    p.s. I take two Immodium b4 the marathon, and that definitely helps ! (Good for peace of mind too.)
  • DT - how does Immodium help you beat the wall? sounds most intriguing! ;-)
  • Long runs - it has to be.

    Doing five of them may be too antisocial for the family, but get in at least 3 20+ runs.

    And a big bowl of porridge, with jaffa cakes to follow. I've only done two marathons, but managed to avoid the wall. I put it down to the above, but maybe it was the Immodium after all.
  • Achilles - out of interest, why do you say that 22 miles isn't recommended for beginners?
  • what I meant of course, it not real beginners, but 1st time marathoners!
  • what I meant of course, is not real beginners, but 1st time marathoners!
  • Jo - I'm not sure why I said that except that all the books say it! I did a 23 miler before my first marathon but it was an accident because I got lost running somewhere in rural France. It didn't seem to do me any harm so perhaps there's no reason not too try 22 milers - except that they hurt a lot! The other bit of supposed wisdom is that your long run should not exceed half your total for the week, so if you're only doing 40 miles which is typical for a beginner, then 22 miles is probably too far. Hmmmm - see, I don't really know the answer, do I? ;-)

    Johnny - the trick to avoid being antisocial is to get up before dawn, then you come back and make everybody breakfast!
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