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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 24 January, 2019

Marathon running: how to scale 'the wall' and reach that finish line

Every marathon runner faces the wall at some stage, but it’s how they deal with it that matters.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MARATHON SEASON IS well and truly upon us. Ridiculously sore legs, sweating buckets, chaffing, the dreaded wall, you name it..

The Cork City Marathon kicks off on Monday, with thousands set to take part as always for what is a huge annual event and a great day whether you’re running or cheering for someone else.

One thing that most people who’ve completed a marathon speak at length about is “hitting the wall”. In-or-around the 20 mile mark, runners speak of the ominous and sudden wave of exhaustion and lack of energy that comes over the body.

Although this tiredness is quite understandable, it’s said to be more of a mental obstacle. There are a few things that you can do before the race to lower your chances of meeting the wall head-on but unfortunately, it’s more or less a given that you’ll encounter it. It’s a matter of how hard it hits you.

Here are some tips of what to do when you find your energy levels dropping.

Stay relaxed

The worst thing you can do at this point is start stressing. Try to keep your rhythm and your pace. Use whatever usual methods you use to keep yourself concentrated; listen to music, count in your head, do your 12-times tables, sing songs in your head, visualise yourself crossing the finish line. Stay focused and try not to let your mind wander.

Imagine the distance left being somewhere familiar

Say for example you have five miles to go. Think of somewhere that’s five miles from your house and imagine that you’re running home.

Picture the houses, fields, the road. Likewise, you could try to imagine the five-mile loop that you run day in, day out. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this little trick makes when you block out the view of what feels like a never-ending hilly stretch.

Thomas Cornthwaite after crossing the finish line Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Think laps, not miles

Everyone has their own techniques but some runners have said that they think of a certain amount of miles as a lap. Say for example, three miles is one lap. Mentally, this makes everything more manageable. If you were to concentrate on every mile, it would be like never taking your eyes off the odometer for the entire duration of a four hour drive.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Take advantage of the water stations dotted across the course and make sure to grab a bottle of water or an energy drink at any given chance. At some of these stations you’ll also find quick snacks that you can take on-the-go. Especially when you’re struggling with your energy levels and feel like you don’t have much left in you, a protein bar, some chocolate or a piece of fruit is sure to give you a bit of a kick and raise your spirits.

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Leave time in your routine to work on your mindset as well as your fitness

5 mental tricks a marathon runner uses to get through the toughest parts of a race


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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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