Two separate walls

Welcome! Forums Running Forum Two separate walls

This topic contains 12 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Ed 1 14 years, 8 months ago.

  • Author
  • #1564

    Ed 1

    I am curious if any one else has experienced the same thing as I had in my first marathon. I hit two separate walls. I hit a physical wall where my body got very tight and suddenly felt like iron at mile 23. Then at mile 25 my brain was telling to to lay down in the street and not move another inch. If you have experienced this before – how can I train to defeat each of them? Would it be more miles – like I am doing along with speed, hill and other types of training? Or is there something else out there?

  • #14877


    That’s the marathon. I would do two things. Increase you long run to 26 miles, that puts to bed the fear and late race slow down. I would also do 6-10 mile race pace runs, that will make your goal pace much more comfortable and you’ll be confident that you can hang on. Finally, you just need to try to apply that training in an actual race. Do have to do the work first but then you must practice application. And as you discovered, the body wants to slow down, you must will it not to.


  • #14878


    Please don’t consider the following advice. It’s merely an anectodote from a related sport.

    In Ironman, the distances are 2.4 swim, 112 bike, and 26.2 run. Training for one has a lot of similarities to marathon training. One mental issue most Ironpeeps have to deal with is overcoming the psychological stigma of “OMG thats far”.

    One of the mistakes many IMers make in their training is that they see 112 miles as some magical distance. They’ll hit up a few centuries in their training leading up to their IM, and maybe they’ll go 112 once. But psychologically this is difficult come race day. 112 is still far! However, if you go 115, 120, even a little further a couple times, then 112 becomes just another number. That attitude is almost necessary to have when preparing for a race of that length.

    As to how that carries on to marathon training…I’m most definately not advocating that you head out on 30-mile runs so that 26.2 seems like just another number. The recovery cost of runs that long is too prohibitive – at least, to most of us. But there are other things you can do to help overcome that “second wall”. Workouts that are back-loaded can help you build the confidence you need to not sweat that last few miles. (i.e. 4 mile WU, 2 x 1600 @ race pace – 1:00, 9 miles easy, 2 x 1600 @ race pace – 1:00, 2 mile CD)

    As for the physical ‘wall’, consistency in your training and increased fitness will help diminish that effect, but the reaper will always be waiting in the wings come the last 10k. Not much you can do about it other than respect him.

  • #14879


    yep… but at least now I have them in the correct order…

    in my first marathon I hit the mental wall first, in fact several mental walls… (MCM)… the first was at mile 20, I was feeling fairly good, my training had gone well and I had done 20 three times and 22 once… but there was a running club on the side of the road that had set up a candy station for there runners with a BIG sign about “the wall”, noticed that I could not peel the tootsie rolls they were handing out… then came “the bridge”… concrete and sun, no trees, no spectators, no water stops, the only sound was shuffling of feet…

    I was lucky that I had met a younger woman who was having physical trouble… her good attitude kept me going and the fact that I wasn’t cramping kept her going…

    now (other 6) I want to keep going… and I’ve improved fueling & increased miles, added speed work and I’m hopeful of better times…

    but the one comment about not being able to turn around and do it better is the worst for me, mentally…the worst physically is injury on course(done that too)… so a PR is a good thing, and the idea of continuing to take chunks off your time is what I hold on to…


  • #14880


    I believe the training will help with both the mental and the physical. To the physical side, simply more complete training will help a lot by getting you more fit. Don’t focus on just the long run. There are plenty of examples of people who have done very long runs and still hit the wall and others who haven’t gone over (sometimes not even up to) 20 miles and avoided the wall. There is a fair bit of evidence that long runs are fairly inconsequential in marathon performance once you get a few of 20+ in but average weekly mileage is significant.

    As for the mental side, if you are well prepared physically, you will be more confident, which will help late in the race. In fact, when I ran Lakefront in 2002 and everyone was falling apart late in the race, I just kept reminding myself of all of the work I put in. I was more prepared to handle the late miles than anyone out there. That gave me the confidence to keep going even when I really just wanted to stop and walk it in. Other things you can do are mental imagery and visualization. There are books on this but I can’t refer you to one without doing some digging. If you picture yourself being a success, your mind will be much stronger when the going gets tough.

    Sidenote: Mike, e-mail me and I can reset your password. If you get the e-mail to me today, I should be able to do so this evening.

  • #14881

    Ed 1

    Thanks for the advice – I was (stupidly) looking for a magic bullet – never any such animal. Hard work is what I thought and that was what you all purport. Thanks again. Hillrunner those hills I mentioned are about .35 miles – not .5. They are fairly steep – I’ve looked for elevation info but cannot find it. Let me know if ever your going to be in the area and I can show you where they are or give you exact locations/directions.

  • #14882


    the workout the doggler is talking about is very similar to the Daniel’s TLT run that I posted about some time back.

    try this….

    1.5 mile warmup

    4×800 at tempo or threshold w/ 1 minute rest between

    after the 800’s, go for a 1 hour run

    after the 1 hour …repeat the 800’s

    1.5 mile cooldown

    it should total about 15 miles…give or take. The rationale here is to get your legs used to running tired…just like a marathon. The last set of 800’s is to train you to get after it when you are tired…just like the final stages of the mary. This workout won’t kill you, but it simulates that “dull pain” of the mary distance.

    I try to work this in about 3 times over a 16 week training cycle….wiuth the final one being about 3-5 weeks out.

  • #14883

    Ed 1

    I like this one – I’ll print it out and start trying to build it into the Pfitz’s schedule that I am following. – Thanks much.

  • #14884


    Not only do your muscles require food (calories) during a marathon but so does your mind. Eating enough in a race also helps you maintain focus. When you start running low on glycogen not only do your muscles feel, but also your mind gets that woosey/spacing feeling.

    So fuel up for head too.

  • #14885


    Some thoughts on the physical and mental wall. I’ve experienced both and it’s good that you point out there are two since they can be dealt with independently.

    As for the physical I think hitting the wall is closely related to overall volume and consistency in your training as others have pointed out. As we know 18-20 miles is the natural break point for most. The question is how do you break through? I personally am not there but looking at the elites, they clearly are. At Boston, very few run negative splits. The exceptions are the elites like Catherine Ndereba. Not saying you need to train like Catherine but volume and consistency should help anyone improve their last 10k.

    I also believe in going out at the right pace. I think having a plan for the first 10 miles and sticking to it should help. Going out too hard is a sure formula for pain at the end.

    As for the mental, there are a couple things. First, finish a few of your long runs at better than marathon pace. I ran 6:20 pace for the marathon and tried to finish the last 4-5 miles of my long runs at 6:00 pace. This will hurt but will give you confidence in the closing miles. Doing this workout with friends should help. A friend gave me this advice for my last marathon and I really think it helped a lot.

    Running a half marathon or 30k (if you can find one) one month out at marathon pace should also help your confidence.

    The reality is the last 10k is going to hurt. Prepare for battle. 🙂

  • #14886


    Ed , I agree with Steve here. But I’d like to add one thing for you. I would argue there is no such thing as a mental wall, maybe a speedbump or a hurdle, but a wall means your done. That possibility should be off the table before you even start 🙂 PSKI

  • #14887


    while I heartily agree that the ‘mental wall’ should be behind you before you hit the course… what if it’s NOT…

    as an adult onset runner I don’t have the background of coaches and previous triumphs (well not running ones anyway) to get me through… I will say that during my first marathon I was not so sure I would finish… got that behind me, but there are still lots of mental gremlins that I am a actively hunting down and beating into oblivion…

    and I think that more serious training helps but I’m also reading everything I can on sports psychology… it’s like that old saw about ‘mind over matter’… “if you don’t mind than it doesn’t matter”…

    I just want to get better… and in this case it means faster while remaining relatively injury free..


  • #14888

    Ed 1

    I think that for my first marathon I did pretty well finishing in the top 23% of the field. I was only 5 minutes off of my training pace. I had done plenty of question asking before the marathon and heard time and time again that you are to go out very carefully or die at the end. I did head that advice – where I think I made my mistake was trying to pass people here and there thinking I could cut a couple of minutes – I think in the end I came out even with the time lost at mile 25. But I did well enough that I want more 😀 . I would like to keep you guys (and gals) posted on my insane quest to cut nearly 35 minutes from my first marathon to my second. I think that I can do it. Problem is my diet. I love Mountain Dew and doughnuts.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.