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 Hit The Wall
running4fun

Dayton, OH
Joined: 21 Jan 2005
Posts: 9

Hit The Wall Posted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 5:07 pm 

Hey have any of you ever "hit the wall"? I have a friend who was trying to explain it, but said to ask someone who has ran a marathon... He also said there might be a way to avoid it now. It sounds like a pretty bad thing to have happen. I was also told that it happens to every long distance runner sometime. Thanks for any comments/thoughts, and advice you might have.

Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2005 8:12 am 

The wall is definitely a real phenomenon. Exactly what it is might be debatable, but most people would probably agree it's a combination of muscle energy depletion possibly combined with dehydration. Basically you'll be flying along the marathon route, feeling relatively good, then somewhere around mile 20, everything will fall apart in a short stretch of time. It's like your gas tank hitting empty. This is where you see a lot of people stop and walk during a race.

Personally I think the best way to reduce or avoid the wall is to practice running long. Do plenty of training runs of 20+ miles. 16 or 18 miles simply isn't enough. A long 20+ mile run at a slow pace will introduce your body to the effects of running out of stored muscle energy. In turn, the body will adapt and become better at burning fat instead, and will also experience other changes that help it better deal with endurance running.

I could share some of my sad stories of hitting the wall, but they're not that exciting. Somebody else probably has more interesting tales.


Bricks
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Chicago
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2005 8:51 am 

Oh, the wall is very real. I always felt like talk about the wall was an exaggeration. For me it wasn't at all.

On paper the wall looks something like this:

1 7:55
2 7:54
3 7:48
4 7:56
5 7:54
6 7:55
7 7:58
8 7:56
9 7:54
10 7:59
11 7:48
12 8:00
13 7:53
14 7:58
15 8:01
16 7:49
17 7:55
18 7:56
19 8:07
20 9:15
21 9:30
22 9:20
23 9:25
24 9:32
25 9:28
26 9:32

Physically I can only describe it as total fatigue. No matter what you do, you can't go any faster than your boddy happens to let you go.

I think it's a factor of not only how far you've gone, but how long you've been going. You can only store energy for so long, whether you're excercising or not. It takes time for fuel to get into your system and only stays there for so long regardless. If you eat a meal every four hours or so normally and you're running for four hours...


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2005 5:12 pm 

Well, it's definitely debatable. For me, I wish my pace fell off by "only" a minute and a half when I hit the wall. Instead, my legs start to cramp up and my pace slows by 2-4 minutes. You know you've hit the wall when you can't decide if it hurts more to run or to walk.

I've had this happen to me once during the New Jersey Shore marathon. It was a spring marathon and I hadn't put in enough long distance training. I decided to run conservatively but felt really good and instead went out too fast. I started to feel horrible at mile 18 and by mile 20 I had to stop to walk. I managed intervals of walking and running through mile 22 and then had to walk the next three miles. I managed to "jog" the last 1.2 miles.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 9:11 pm 

I think hitting the wall is usually an indication of too little training, too aggressive an early pace, or both. If you find that your pace drops by 2-4 minutes per mile in the late miles of a marathon, then maybe you went out too hard at the start? For the elites, I think the wall is still there, even if their pace doesn't drop in the late miles. Perceived effort still shoots way up somewhere around mile 20, no matter how well you've trained. I suppose that's to be expected. After all, if it still felt "easy" when you reached the finish, then it would suggest you hadn't pushed as hard as you could have.

allen

Utah
Joined: 16 Jan 2005
Posts: 27

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 9:41 pm 

I think, as Rickshaw said, it's a matter of training and a proper starting pace. I have a friend who does two marathons per year, and he claims he never hits the wall. He does a lot of 22-24 mile training runs. I got the impression from talking with him that his 20+ mile training runs push the wall out beyond 26.2 miles.

running4fun

Dayton, OH
Joined: 21 Jan 2005
Posts: 9

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 8:04 pm 

So I guess that I should work on doing 20+ at a slower pace, compared to trying to gain speed? If I am thinking right, it is better (?) to have a slower pace at which I can keep for the most part over a faster pace on the start, right? I am uneducated when it comes to things like this... I am guessing.

Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 8:22 pm 

I'd suggest you grab a good training book, such as Jack Daniels' Daniels Training Formula or Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning. They both do a good job of decribing how and why to train for the marathon.

For marathon training runs, I'd say yes, initially you should focus on just covering 20+ miles, and don't worry so much about how fast you do it. That will build up your endurance. Eventually you'll be able to run far AND fast. On marathon race day, you'll want to run at a fixed pace the whole way-- that's the most efficient way to spend your energy. Find the pace you can sustain for exactly 26.2 miles before you drop dead at the finish. :-)


allen

Utah
Joined: 16 Jan 2005
Posts: 27

Re: Hit The Wall Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 8:21 pm 

Here is an example of pace. I've run four marathons and started out at a 8:30 pace and finished with a 9:00+ average. I kept the 8:30 pace until I hit the wall at 20+ miles. I think I would have done better to have kept a 9:00 pace until the last part and then speeded up (if possible) to finish the race. When I hit the wall I didn't have leg cramps or anything; I just ran out of energy and walk/jogged the last six miles.

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