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Running a marathon is hard but hitting the dreaded ‘runner’s wall’ can make a difficult task almost impossible. When your body has exhausted its glycogen stores and your mind is telling you to stop, every step becomes a triumph of will. Our experienced ambassadors, Dann, and Sally, share their advice on avoiding the wall altogether.
Our ambassador Dann Sullivan recalls hitting the runner’s wall around mile 21 at the London Marathon in 2018.
“I had to stop and tell myself that giving up wasn’t an option,” Dann explains. “Running a marathon is a huge mental battle. Once the buzz runs out, you’re hit with a constant nagging in your mind telling you to quit. I convinced myself that I was fit enough to run the last five miles and that I was doing this for my family. You can trick your mind into doing a lot of things, but you can’t trick your body in the same way.”
Dann described feeling grains of salt all over his body from sweating so much. When the glycogen reserves are empty and you’ve sweated the electrolytes out of your system, the body will shut down. “Come prepared with salt or electrolyte tabs and gels to top up your energy right to the end,” Dann added. “You must be prepared for just about anything at a marathon.” Now Dann has run an impressive seven marathons and plans to run seven more!
Our ambassador Sally Brider also vividly remembers hitting the wall at the London Marathon in 2017, around mile 20 at her very first marathon.
“I remember it being a very warm day. I hit that wall and literally had to stop,” she said. “It was a feeling of overwhelming fatigue and a total depletion of energy…my legs just didn’t want to run anymore.”
Thankfully a Lemon Fanta and a slice of cake were a quick fix to get Sally’s blood sugar levels somewhat back to normal. At the start of Sally’s running journey, her knowledge of hydration and fuelling was minimal, but since learning the importance of re-fuelling, Sally has run an incredible seven marathons and two ultra marathons with no wall in sight!
“Experiment with energy gels, drinks and salt tabs every 5km and hydrate well with electrolytes on the day, and two to three days before the marathon. Lots of experienced runners will tell you it’s not just about carb loading the day before, but preparing your body in the months leading up to a marathon by getting your stomach used to the gels, tablets and drinks you’ll take on race day.”
Conquering the mental battle of running a marathon requires practice and finding ways to make it easier, like breaking up the distance into small chunks, and managing yourself. The same applies to nutrition and fuelling – if you wait until you’re hungry or thirsty, it’s too late!
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