10 Ways To Avoid Hitting The Wall In Your Next Marathon

It’s marathon season! I can’t wait to go be a spectator this year at the New York City Marathon. Exactly a month from tomorrow! I have ran it twice with my mom and although we haven’t experienced any other marathon yet, we seriously love that race. Such amazing fan support the entire way. 

Although I’m not training for a marathon this year, I wanted to talk a bit about what I learned in 2013 on how to avoid “the wall.” Now, there’s no doubt about it, you WILL feel tired in the later miles of a marathon. But there are ways to avoid that feeling of “I can’t do this anymore” and feeling miserable. 

How To Avoid Hitting The WallPhoto Credit: familymwr via Compfight cc

IN TRAINING

Add more mileage. This is one thing that majorly helped me in my second marathon. I used the Hansons Marathon Method which focuses on adding more miles (more on that in a second). I was running the most weekly mileage I ever have before! According to Runner’s World, runners with more training miles finish marathons faster. Check out their cool chart below:

completion-timePhoto source

Do more specific workouts. Will 400s really help you in a marathon? Sure, they have their place and time…usually in the beginning of a training circuit, but there are other workouts that are more specific to your goals. Add in tempo runs and longer interval workouts. During my last marathon training round, I started doing 1,200 meter and 1 mile repeats…killer! I was also doing tempo runs that went up to 10 miles at marathon goal pace.

Run on tired legs. Another thing I loved about Hansons Marathon Method (can you tell I loved it?) is their notion of running on tired legs. You need to get used to running when you’re tired…because isn’t that what the marathon is all about? ;) A simple way to do this is to run the easy miles the day before and after a long run. Yes, the day after sucks and your legs feel like lead, but it will lead to a better marathon experience.

Run higher mileage during the week. This goes along with my first point. Stop running just 3-4 easy miles during the week and a super long run on the weekends. Add in some longer weekday runs too. Now I’m not talking about 15 mile runs or anything, but if you can, start doing 6 mile runs instead of 4 mile runs, and ramp it up from there. This will not only 1) add weekly miles but also 2) help you “run on tired legs.”

Strength train. Duh right? But during marathon training it’s easy to let strength training fall by the wayside. Make sure you hit the gym at least 2 times a week to do a full body strength circuit. I like to focus mainly on legs and core. If you’re limited on time, check out my 10 minute leg workout! Not only will strength training (especially legs) make you stronger, it will keep you injury free.

Find the right fuel plan for YOU. I wrote about this a while back, but during my last marathon training stint I realized that I needed to fuel more often. I sweat A LOT and as a result am losing more nutrients and electrolytes than others. I found that doing 1 gel pack every 45-60 minutes wasn’t enough for me. Test different types of fuel and fuel timing on your long runs and find what works for you.

DAY OF THE RACE

Don’t start out too fast. I mean we’ve all heard this before but it is all too easy to start out too fast. Your adrenaline is pumping and you feel good…until you don’t. Start off at a comfortable pace and as the miles tick by you can evaluate how you feel and if you can speed up. I say at mile 16 you will know if you can run faster or not…if you can, go for it!

Don’t be a slave to your watch. I’m a competitive person so this is even hard for me to do. But some days just aren’t going to be your best days. Don’t end up bonking because you were determined to hold that X:XX pace per mile even though your body was telling you it was too fast. Listen to your body and if you need to go slower than you goal pace, then so be it. It’s better to cross the finish than DNF.

Use electrolyte supplements/salt supplements. This kind of goes with my fueling point, and you should obviously try this in training first, but using supplements during a race can really help you avoid that wall. It helped me a lot in my second marathon. I remember in my first marathon I saw the salt accumulating on my clothes…not good. Second time around I started using S!Caps which seriously helped so much. No dehydration or salt loss this time around!

Stay hydrated but not TOO hydrated. Yet another rookie mistake by me. Because I lost a lot of salt in my first marathon, I felt SO THIRSTY. I started drinking multiple cups of water at each water stop starting at mile 15. By mile 18 I was done. That water was sloshing around in my stomach and making me feel awful. I’m pretty sure I was at borderline hyponatremia. Needless to say, I crossed the finish line, ran to the bushes and threw up. Doesn’t my first marathon just sound lovely?? :) Moral of the story: drink fluids at every stop if you need to. If you’re thirsty, drink water. But don’t overdo it. The salt caps also helped keep my thirst in check.

So this post got a bit long but these are all things I learned in my 2 marathons. I know many of you have ran way more than that, so please leave a comment and tell me what tips you would add!

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Comments

  1. Great tips! I need to work on my electrolytes for sure. I felt it in my last long training run but I’m not too sure what to use. Gatorade and Nuun don’t agree with me on the run so I’m looking for some other things to trial.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…Gilmore Girls DayMy Profile

  2. These are all awesome tips! I’m very curious about Hanson’s Method. I’ve run one marathon (and will be running NYC next month!) but have just used more custom, relaxed plans. Might have to look into it for next time…especially if I have a goal time.
    Emily @MyHealthyishLife recently posted…Food ComparisonsMy Profile

    • Really, you’re running? Awesome! I’ll be there :) I highly recommend Hansons. It was a great plan. Now I’m actually working with a running coach which is even better bc I have someone to hold me accountable and someone to ask a million questions to lol. You should check him out for your next marathon!
      http://trainwithmarc.com

  3. These are great tips! I am slowly increasing my mileage in hopes of getting a PR in my next race. I don’t do full marathons anymore but I am applying this to my future half marathons.
    Daisy- Fit Wanderlust Runner recently posted…Hello October! New Month…New GoalsMy Profile

    • It can definitely apply to half marathons as well! I’m trying to increase my mileage now in preparation for my november half…we’ll see how it goes!

  4. I definitely need to bookmark this post for when I run my first marathon! It still seems like such a daunting task. Thanks so much for the advice!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…Life After the Half Marathon: What’s Next?My Profile

    • You can totally do it! I never in a million years I thought I’d be able to run a marathon haha. Let me know once you register! :)

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