Running the long race

You are training for a long distance race and the training has been progressing perfectly. Based on pacing tables you should be able to nail a PR because you have been hitting every mile exactly on pace, just as planned.

The stars and planets have aligned and this is going to be YOUR race!


You head out for another long training run and everything is going smoothly, the miles ticking by like clockwork. You can’t believe how great this feels!

You look at your watch and realize that you are more than halfway done with your run and a smile stretches across your face. Another mile down, then another. Only a few more miles until you can sink your teeth into a nice, big peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

But wait. What is this strange feeling?

Hello, meet the “wall”

Why do you suddenly feel so tired you want to lie down on the side of the road and take a nap? Why does it feel like somebody chopped off your legs and replaced them with spaghetti noodles? Is this the end of it all?!?!

Don’t panic.

You have just been introduced to the “wall”; that ever talked about and never welcome training partner.

While you may have heard others talking about bonking, crashing, or hitting the wall you may not know exactly what that means. Basically, it’s your body’s way of telling you that it ran out of fuel.

Storing glycogen

Our bodies store glycogen in the muscles and liver and this is what we rely on for energy while performing any type of physical activity. Once our muscle glycogen stores are depleted our bodies begin burning fat.

how to break through the running wall_2This may sound wonderful (especially to us ladies) but this process requires a greater amount of oxygen, which makes it difficult to maintain a specific pace and pushes us squarely into “The Wall”.

Carbohydrate loading is often recommended in the days leading up to a long distance race in order to fill muscle glycogen stores, but you can only store so much glycogen and the amount you are able to store is not likely to get you through a long race.

How to break through the running wall

Hitting the wall doesn’t happen to everyone but for many of us it is just a matter of time. So what can you do to push through the wall and finish your run or race?

1. Ingest carbohydrates

When your energy stores have been depleted ingesting simple carbohydrates, such as sucrose, glucose, and/or fructose, gives you a boost of energy that can help you push through the wall and finish your run or race.

The best form of fuel is a mix of glucose and fructose, which is often found in commercial sports drinks, energy gels and energy blocks.

If you prefer gels and solids make sure to take them with water in order to avoid stomach upset and better absorb the carbohydrates. Another great source of quickly digested carbohydrates is dried fruit. During training it is highly recommended that you experiment with various types and amounts of carbohydrates in order to figure out what works best for you.

2. Change your pace

Nonworking muscles do not release glycogen into the bloodstream to be used by other muscles. By changing your pace during a run you are able to activate more muscle fibers and/or different muscles, which then release stored muscle glycogen.

This can give you just enough of a boost to break through the wall and finish strong.

3. Distract your mind

When you focus on how horrible you feel it tends to make you feel even worse, so take your mind off of your body and focus on something around you.

Look at the scenery, stare at the runner ahead of you, sing your favorite song, do anything you can to stop focusing on how miserable you feel. A great trick is to come up with a mantra and repeat it to yourself when the going gets tough.

It doesn’t have to be long or fancy, just a few words or a short sentence that you can repeat while pushing through the difficult miles.

So, if you find yourself hitting the wall for the first time or the 100th time, try these tips and see if they don’t help you blast right through. As always, happy running my friends!!

Connect with Expert Pauline Shiver

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