Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Wall

The Wall.
You can't see it.
You can't touch it.
You might not even see or feel it coming.
When you hit it, it can feel like there is no way around it.
It is a humbling and frustrating experience.

I remember hitting it three years ago in my first half marathon.  6 miles in and I was swearing off half marathons forever.  I of course have gone on to do three more that with a smarter strategy and better temperatures revealed no walls.  Just easy sailing smooth running love.

When I did my first marathon on July 8th this year it was certainly a thought in my head that somewhere in the next 26.2 miles a wall could exist.  I also was feeling a little cocky.  I am a smarter runner now than  I was three years ago.  I am better at fueling, hydrating, and pacing myself.  The weather would be on the warm side, but not too hot and not anything I had not trained in for the last month.

I remember thinking at mile 18 how good I was feeling and maybe I wouldn't hit a wall... so when my guts gurgled at mile 19 and I sat down in the porta pottie at almost mile 20 I was shocked at how much my legs decided to shut down and my stomach revolt at the last Roctane I ate.  (i don't thin oragne vanilla and I will ever be friends again) Going through the cool sprinklers seemed to sent a chill through my body.

I went from 8:07 - 8:12 minute miles to suddenly a 14 minute mile and two 12 minute miles.  My legs were cramping, I was puking, I was hot.  I wanted to sit down on the curb and call it a day.  More than that I wanted to finish my first marathon.  The 3:40 I had been on track for was gone, but I knew if I just kept moving I could still get in under 4 hours. Time seemed to be dragging, standing still, yet my watch seemed to be on hyperspeed. The fastest mile I managed was a 9:30 after that. For me, really slow

I have to admit there were moments that I wasn't sure that was going to happen.  Running hurt.  At mile 25 I thought to myself.. "Wow I have never run this far before!"  I knew at that point I could do it.  I would do it.  I might feel like I was running into a wall over and over, but I was making progress.

I do want to do another marathon.  When? I am not sure yet.  I am still dealing with the aftermath of it all.  It has taken way longer to recover than I would have guessed.  Kind of makes me want to stick to half marathons and shorter races.  I have not entered three races now that I would really like to have done since the marathon, my body has not felt ready.

I have done a lot of thinking about the wall since the marathon.  Walls box you in.  Walls can trap you. Impede your progress.  You have to figure out a way to bust through, go around, find a door in the wall, etc.  Not always easy when you can't see it.

You have to convince your body there is a way past the wall when your body is wanting to quit.  I also believe each wall has a lesson to be learned and if you can figure out that lesson you come out a stronger runner.

I know it won't be the last wall I deal with in a race, but so far definetly the worst and I feel like I am still processing it. Still trying to learn what I need to from it.   I'll get there just the same as I will get to the start line of another marathon in time. 

I did find this great article on how to beat the wall

What is the worst wall you have encountered in a race?
 How do you deal with it?
Any great wall advice?


  1. The last 6.2 Miles are always the toughest and I think I hit the wall right about there! It's a horrible thing and I have to figure out how to get through it! You ran a great race and I think the first marathon is the one where you learn about yourself and then you work towards trying to perfect it! I have no advice since I hit it every time!

  2. Thanks for sharing this experience! Something many of us runners have dealt with, yet we always want to beat ourselves up over it. I said "NEVER" would I do another, its been since May '11, my next marathon is Nov '12 :)I too am taking everything I learned the first time around into the next one!

  3. Marathons take so much out of you. I feel like it took me months to really recover from mine and start feeling like I had some spring in my legs again.

    My marathon "wall" wasn't as bad as yours, but I definitely hit a point around mile 22 or 23 when it felt like I had to put in so much more effort to run at the same pace that I had been running at. I've hit some bad points during hot races, though. I think heat makes it so much tougher.

  4. As I train for my first full I'm dreading the wall because I feel like I've been very fortunate with all the half marathons I've run because I haven't hit a wall. I haven't even had to use the bathroom during a race which I feel like is a small miracle! Not sure exactly how that is related to hitting a wall so perhaps ignore that last part.

  5. I sounds like you've learned a lot from your marathon. I have no advice, but I think running teaches us so many lessons in so many different ways. The important thing is to learn from each experience.

  6. My wall was 10 miles in my first half marathon, that as far as I ran in my training and I wasn't sure I could get past it. My first half marathon, I didn't do any crosstraining therefore my legs were not strong enough to run 13.1 miles, I ended up with knee pain and cramping and it was plain awful from miles 8-13.1 I had convinced myself I would never do another half marathon and then the next day I was already looking for my next half to run lol It's an addiction I tell you!!! But I love it!

  7. I love what you said about a lesson coming with each wall! I so believe that and think it is so true! my worst wall yet was probably in the Provo marathon. I had hit tough points in races but never so early. that one came at mile 15. I had 11.2 miles to go. I couldn't even fathom it but I didn't want to quit. Somehow someway I just kept inching toward the finish and finally made it. i realized that I AM strong but not invincible...I need to be prepared for all situations and that was definitely one to learn from!

  8. when i hit 20miles I thought i was done. I felt like I couldn't do anymore,but from somewhere I was able to pull it off.

    My second was at mile 17 took my 3rd gu and started puking to. that sucked. I have learned a lot about myself from running several marathon. One that i can do anything i set my mind to IF I JUST BELIEVE.

  9. I TOTALLY hit a wall--the worst wall of any race I've ever done--in my first marathon post-kids last September. I hadn't really ever hit it before (my first three marathons were all very different--I wasn't really shooting for a time goal and was just enjoying the whole process in different ways each time). You can read about it here:

    Happily, I took what I learned from that (do NOT go out too fast and rein yourself in for a lot longer than you think you should; fuel at regular intervals, hydrate properly and KNOW what you are consuming) and had my best race so far in Houston four months later. Nope, I wasn't as fast as I wanted to be, but I made progress, which after September I was happy with.

    You WILL climb over this wall--do not worry! I think you know what happened, and it's therefore much less likely to happen again.

  10. I found my wall around mile 22 in Chicago. I was feeling so good until I wasn't. Man it was brutal. I had to walk a tad, started making bets and bargains with myself to just past the time.

  11. I am incredibly worried about the infamous wall in my first marathon... i already can guess its not going to be pretty--- i think that is why I chose to do the marathon back home- have my family there to get me throw it. I hope your recovery picks up quick!

  12. I wonder if it is worse because one anticipates it? I have no experience with marathoning, of course.

    I don't think I hit a wall in my half.. just had a tough time finishing the last 2 km cause I was tired and it was uphill. Hadn't really thought of it as a wall.. hmmmm.

  13. I have ran 9 Marathons. The first 6 went off without a hitch including 2 Bostons. 5 of then were between 3:05 and 3:12, My first Boston was 3;25. I then took a 10 year break. Chicago 10/10/10 went bad at mile 17 and ended in a 4:04. I wanted to make a great comeback in NYC last November. It was my worst ever, portopotty at 16 miles, dizziness from 18 on. I finished in an all time worst 4:19 and ended up in the med tent for an hour and a half with an IV. I then changed up my approach and ran Surf City USA this past February with nothing in mind but a Boston qualifer which is 3:40 for my AG. I started with the 3:45 pace group thru 5 miles, caught the 3:40 pace group by mile 8, stayed with them until mile 19 and then cruised the last 7 miles at a 7:41 pace for a 3:36. I had a lot left and could have ran faster, but I just needed a positive finish. I will run Twin Cities in October, Marshall in November and Boston in April.

  14. Marathons are heart breakers, but don't be discouraged by the distance. I think it takes a couple under your belt to really be able to run them well. Give yourself a year and then sign up for another one. That is what I did- even with the long break between races I recovered much quicker from the 2nd one. Hitting the wall in any race is a given when you are pushing yourself to the limits. It is the not so fun part about racing. I hit the wall in every race and curse myself every time it happens, but I still love to race. You are amazing and talented- keep it up!

  15. I think you are a very dedicated and good runner. I am sure you will learn all the little details during your first marathon and make them into teachable moments. You can only become a better runner. Meanwhile, take your time to recover from the first marathon. Listen to your body.

  16. So if I expect to hit the wall and prepare myself to hit the wall in November when I run my first marathon, will that make the impact any easier? :)

  17. Wow. This was so well-written. I've read through it a couple times, now, and really appreciate the way you put your thoughts into words.

    Having never run a full I don't have any experiences with THAT wall. (yet) I did hit one my 1st half-marathon, though. I know, now, that it was a dehydration/fueling issue but at the time it felt like impending death. ;)

  18. This is a great post!

    The times where I hit the wall are the races when I get overly ambitious and start off faster than I should. If I can hold myself back and be conservative for the first half, I don't hit a wall.

    Have you seen the movie Run Fat Boy Run? His experience of hitting the wall is hilarious.

  19. Great post! I am training for my first half in October and have heard so much about the wall. Hoping not to experience it, but know that it is a possibility. :)

  20. I think that you have a lot of great questions and when you find out the trick, I am sure we all want to know! I didn't have too bad of a wall experience, luckily. I think it's important to fuel well and to train well and then the rest is up to your body. Have you looked into more sites about Ultra running? They go a lot longer than 26 miles and seem to do pretty well!


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