vaincre le mur marathon

Breaking through the wall!

The wall, a key moment in the marathon, occurs when your stores of glycogen - the exercise fuel stored in your muscles and liver - are depleted. Here are three tips for better preparing to overcome that inevitable 30k slump.


Train consistently (based on predetermined objectives)

To prepare yourself for facing the wall – and to limit its impact as much as possible - you have to put in enough hours of training. An increasing number of runners, encouraged by the democratisation of the marathon, line up to run the 42.195 km with insufficient training. As a result, they sometimes set themselves up to be greatly disappointed.

Training must focus on building your endurance. Teaching your body to slowly draw from its glycogen reserves is the most effective way of preparing for and limiting the effects of hitting a wall towards the end of a timed race.This means both running increasingly longer at a given speed (a speed at which you are able to hold a conversation without running out of breath), as well as doing qualitative sessions, such as interval training on a track, or fartlek. (Fartlek was introduced by the Swedish trainer Gosse Holmer in the 1930s. It is an interval or intermittent training session that consists of varying your speed without following a set pattern.)  When running in nature, runners can use their environment to vary their pace, such as gradients, the wind, etc., in order to increase their MAS (Maximum Aerobic Speed, which reflects the intensity of your physical exertion during a run; is different for each runner). An optimal cardiovascular fitness level should allow you to pace yourself for several hours, particularly by learning to draw from your body's stored fat and therefore protect your stores of glycogen.


Have a race plan and stick to it

Running a marathon (or similar event such as an endurance trail) should be preceded by participation in competitive races over shorter distances. It is important to put yourself to the test, and to establish reliable points of reference.The impact of hitting the wall during a marathon will hit you sooner and be more devastating if the pace you set for yourself during the first half is too ambitious. To go further, you have to learn to pace yourself. It is generally advised to drop at least one kph between your average 10k and half marathon speed, and another kph between your average half and full marathon speed. For example, if you run a 10k in 50 min, or 12 kph on average, you should aim for an average speed of 10 kph for a marathon, for a total time of around 4 hours and 15 minutes.

You should take at least ten weeks of diligent training to finalise your race plan. It should be based on certain objective parameters (your performance in previous races), as well as on how in shape you feel at the moment. It's good to be ambitious, but you should also remember that a marathon's distance is unforgiving.  

See the Kalenji training programmes


Learn to nourish yourself intelligently

Everyone knows it's important to eat slow-release sugars in the days running up to a marathon or an endurance event. It's also important to store as many carbohydrates as possible in your muscles to get the best performance over several hours.

Eating pasta or rice (whole, if possible) is strongly recommended, and should make up at least half of your daily calories during the week before the event. Also make sure that you are sufficiently hydrated the night before the race. Before setting off in the morning, eat a balanced breakfast without stuffing yourself.

The training period should also serve as a dress rehearsal for your nutrition during the race. While certain rules apply to all, there are some details (that can prove to be critical) you should check yourself on. In particular, check your tolerance to energy drinks or gels.

During a marathon, you need to hydrate yourself at every pit stop (every five kilometres). Drink water to start with, then add energy drinks after an hour of running. As for food, try to consume sugars regularly - and right up to the finish - in order to delay the symptoms of hitting the wall for as long as possible.

Managing your resistance to hitting the wall is also psychological. Overcome the feeling of extreme fatigue, and don't give up! At most, reduce your pace or even walk a short distance if necessary. And, of course, eat and drink in order to give your body the means to continue the race.


Happy Marathon !