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Posted April 04, 2023 by Nick Ferguson, AT
Running a marathon can be a grueling test of endurance for world class runners, first-timers, and everyone in between. As you prepare to compete in this year’s Akron Marathon, start to plan ahead so you can avoid the dreaded “wall.” The wall is that feeling when you run out of energy and feel weak, dizzy, or that get that heavy feeling. Physiologically, the wall is the point at which glycogen (stored glucose) is depleted and your body switches to fat burning as a primary energy source.
While it is possible to make it through this point, the best way to have a successful race day experience is to plan in advance to avoid the wall altogether. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your preparation:
Do Long Runs: While mixing paces and distance is important, long distance runs are especially important for avoiding the wall because your body adapts to the demands placed upon it. Long runs that deplete glycogen stores will increase your body’s ability to store glycogen in the future. Gradually increasing your mileage and making sure you do a few 20 mile runs before the big day, should have you well on the way to avoiding the wall.
Train at Race Pace: While we like to mix up our speeds, and there is nothing wrong with a faster, shorter run (or the opposite), it is a good idea to practice your race day pace. At the end of a long run, running just a few miles at race pace can help the body adapt to those demands slowly and prepare you for the type of exercise that you will be performing on race day. On the other hand, when running a fast pace, it is good to force yourself to do race pace at the end because it helps you develop the discipline necessary to stick with a pace even when your adrenaline is pumping and you want to go fast. This will help on race day when the crowd is cheering and you are passing or being passed by other runners.
Nutrition and Hydration: Ensure that you are properly hydrated before the race by monitoring your urine color for several days leading up to the race. If your urine is dark, like apple juice, you are dehydrated and should drink more water. Before the race, your urine should be clear or lightly colored like water or lemonade. Beginning the race with maximum glycogen stores is essential for avoiding the wall. To ensure glycogen stores are at maximum capacity, it is important to reduce training load for three days leading up to the race. At the same time, increase your consumption of high-quality carbohydrates. Foods like whole grain pastas/breads, jellies, granola bars and sports drinks all help increase carbohydrate consumption.
During the Race: With the crowd cheering and your competitors running, it may be hard not to run faster than you’ve trained. Keeping your pace, especially early in the race, will help you avoid the wall and run your best time. Using a watch during training and on race day can help you stick to your planned pace. During the race, ensure adequate hydration and use energy gels, sports drinks or other simple carbs to replenish lost glycogen during the race.
The wall may sound like an insurmountable object but by following the tips above, you can avoid the wall and set your new personal record this September.