10 Ways to Overcome the Wall in a Marathon

If you are training for a marathon, no doubt you've heard of the the dreaded "wall". While avoiding the wall may be nearly impossible, these 10 foolproof strategies are sure to help you beat the wall and conquer all of it's challenges during your next marathon.

Saturdays are always incredibly exciting, but today is a particularly thrilling one. Not only am I in New York City doing your typical touristy things, but today is MARATHON EVE. Tomorrow morning I will wake up at the crack of dawn to run my 5th marathon! There are many thoughts running through my head as I attempt to mentally prepare myself to run another marathon. Many of them are excitement, a few of them nervousness, and a couple filled with anxiety. Anxious not about the logistics or event itself, but rather, about the notorious “wall”.

Related: New York City Marathon Recap

In the past four marathons, I have definitely hit the wall at some point in all of them. However, each of them have been drastically different. (Click here to download my beginner or intermediate marathon training plan)!

First Marathon:

My first marathon felt like a dream – I didn’t walk once, beat my goal time, and met some amazing people. I remember crying at one point during the race because I just couldn’t believe how many great people there were on the course. I ran with a pace group during this marathon which helped me conquer the wall very easily.

If you are training for a marathon, no doubt you've heard of the the dreaded "wall". While avoiding the wall may be nearly impossible, these 10 foolproof strategies are sure to help you beat the wall and conquer all of it's challenges during your next marathon.

Second Marathon:

The second marathon was a completely different story. I ran with my mom, who had a great race, and I unfortunately did not. I walked for many miles, and remember feeling so angry when I should have felt excited –  when we had 6, 5, 4, even 1 mile to go. I never truly hit the wall in this race because I felt pretty miserable the entire time (except for mile 1 where this picture was taken).

If you are training for a marathon, no doubt you've heard of the the dreaded "wall". While avoiding the wall may be nearly impossible, these 10 foolproof strategies are sure to help you beat the wall and conquer all of it's challenges during your next marathon.

Third Marathon:

My third marathon started out as my best one yet, until about mile 18 when I questioned all of my choices and ideas of fun. The first 18 miles were filled with excitement (no doubt the reason I ran too fast). It all caught up with my when I hit the wall at mile 18, where I realized that I was completely alone, and wondering why in the world I thought this was a good idea.

If you are training for a marathon, no doubt you've heard of the the dreaded "wall". While avoiding the wall may be nearly impossible, these 10 foolproof strategies are sure to help you beat the wall and conquer all of it's challenges during your next marathon.

Fourth Marathon:

My previous marathon started out cold and miserable, but quickly turned out to be great. The race took place in October, but it was so cold that it snowed at the start. After a few miles spent warming up, I started to settle into a happy place and felt really strong for the rest of the race.

If you are training for a marathon, no doubt you've heard of the the dreaded "wall". While avoiding the wall may be nearly impossible, these 10 foolproof strategies are sure to help you beat the wall and conquer all of it's challenges during your next marathon.

Download my marathon training plan here!

Although all marathons are the exact same distance, each race brings such unique challenges. Challenges out of our control, as well as some that are very much in our own head. I came to New York City this weekend with so much excitement for this race, ready to tackle its obstacles. I know without a doubt that I will wind up hitting the wall during this marathon, no matter how well or poorly trained I am.

No matter how hard we resist, we will inevitably reach some point along the course where we hit a wall. This wall comes in many forms – sometimes mental, physical, or both. After spending a great deal of time nostalgically reliving my previous marathons, I have created a mental game plan as to how I am going to beat the wall when I reach it tomorrow morning.

If you are training for a marathon, no doubt you've heard of the the dreaded "wall". While avoiding the wall may be nearly impossible, these 10 foolproof strategies are sure to help you beat the wall and conquer all of it's challenges during your next marathon.

10 to Overcome the Wall in the Marathon

Start fueling EARLY.

I always make the mistake of waiting too long to take in fuel, mostly because I am excited and feeling good at the start. Begin taking in fuel after no more than an hour of running, and continue to fuel in 30 minute increments afterwards. One of my favorite ways to take in extra calories during a marathon is to alternate between Gatorade and water at each aid station.

Related: Fueling Tips for a Successful Long Run

Start out slowly (aka don’t let excitement get the best of you).

The excitement of race day has a terrible way of making runners go out too fast in the first mile. Start a little further back than your goal pace group when you’re lining up in the corrals to help prevent starting out too fast.

Recite a mantra.

My favorite mantra is “pain is temporary”. I love this because it reminds me that the pain I am experiencing in the moment will not last forever. This is so easy to forget when we are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. I like to wear my bracelet with this saying and look at it periodically for a reminder.

Be completely present in the moment.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the pain that I am feeling that I forget to take notice of what is around me. By the end of the race I have completely missed all the sites and crowd support. Remind yourself that this is truly a once in a lifetime experience, and try to focus on what is around you instead of what you’re feeling.

Take some time to meet the people around you.

So often I get caught up in my own head and forget about those who are around me. Whenever I meet other runners I am always filled with motivation and inspiration, and the continuously warm my heart. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet people from around the world who all share a common goal.

Eat two breakfasts (if the race starts late).

Try one when you wake up, and one a few minutes before heading into the corrals. Make sure to fuel just as you practiced during training – which may mean once you are already in the race area and are waiting to start.

Remind yourself that you can walk if you need to.

While you most likely have goals for the race, no doubt your ultimate and main goal is to finish. It’s so hard to predict the conditions on race day – how you’ll feel, what the weather will be, if you’ll get enough sleep, etc. If you stumble along the way and really find yourself struggling, remind yourself that it’s okay to walk if you’re desperate.

Related: Running Goal Setting that Will Make You Proud

Dedicate each mile to a different person or thing.

I love to run races “for” others, mentally dedicating each mile to a person or cause. That way, when things get hard and I start to struggle, I will remind myself that I need to stay strong for them. Determine a few people you’d like to honor during your run and focus on them when things get tough.

Remember how much work you put in to getting there, and why you started.

When all else fails, I like to have a clear vision as to why I am running. At mile 20 of a race, the excitement from your first week of training is easy to forget when you’re experiencing pain. Reminding yourself of the “why ” before you start helps keep it fresh during the race.

Smile!

Nothing tricks your brain more than forcing yourself to smile.

In just 24 hours I will be on my way to Staten Island along with 50,000 others. I have looked forward to this experience for almost a year and can’t wait to take it all in. New York City has not disappointed so far this trip, and I’m sure the race will exceed my expectations.

Good luck, marathon runners! (Click here to download my marathon training plan)!

Further reading:

How to Conquer the Wall in a Marathon

Overcome the Wall in Marathon

Overcome the Wall in a Marathon or Half Marathon
How to Conquer the Wall in a Marathon
How to Conquer the Wall in a Marathon
How to Conquer the Wall in a Marathon

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I loved this list! I struggled this summer during one of my half-marathons – hit the wall hard at mile 10 and just focused on finishing. As I prepare to take on a marathon this upcoming summer, I worry about that happening again and love to hear what other people do to combat the mental and physical breakdown. Thanks again!

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful! Hitting the wall is such a struggle with any distance. These things have really helped me on those rough runs! Good luck with your upcoming training, how exciting!! 🙂

  2. Great 10 ideas, #8 is the best and most encouraging, I shall try that.. Thank you so much!

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