The wall: There’s no way around it

The Wall, marathon training
Respect the wall. Fear the wall.
Illustration by Jim Carroll

This past weekend I completed a 21-mile run with my marathon training team. It was the longest distance I’ve run to date and, overall, it went pretty smoothly.

Long runs over 18 miles are pretty much a dress rehearsal for the marathon, where we try out energy gels, practice taking in water and put hard miles on the legs. They do tax the entire body, which is why we only do a couple of these long runs in the month or so before the marathon.

My run went pretty smoothly except near the end, when I started to feel a bit strange. It was as if my mind was starting to drift away from my body, and not in some Dead Head drum circle way, but in a “hey, this might not be a good thing” way. What I now believe I was starting to experience is what runners call hitting the wall.

The wall is the point after about 20 miles where the body can start to shut down. It is feared and respected by every marathon runner. It’s the perfect storm of mental, emotional and physical trouble.

The medical term for the wall is glycogen depletion onset. It’s less sexy but gives a clear idea that it means business. Basically, when you hit the wall your body switches priorities from delivering oxygen and nutrients to your brain and directing them to your muscles. The brain also stops producing dopamine, which can bring on depression (bummer). Other possible side effects of the wall read like a legal disclaimer for a pharmaceutical product: dizziness, muscle fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, blurred vision and even hallucinations. If it could insult your mother, I’m sure it would do that as well.

There are precautions one can take to avoid hitting the wall, like starting off slow, taking in nutrition and not running marathons. But in the end, the wall calls the shots, and if a runner does hit the wall, the best they can do is try to keep their mind clear and their legs moving. This is the period where all the training is out the window and it comes down to survival. I imagine that it is a character-building experience, where we become a better person for surviving the pain (why can’t character just come easier, like out of a vending machine — but then that wouldn’t be character, that would be Funyuns).

In the end, however, I think the wall can develop more than character. I think it can develop faith, because when it comes down to it, that’s the only thing that can help us get through any walls we might face.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

National

Reddit boosts news capabilities in social media turf…

By Jennifer SabaNEW YORK (Reuters) - Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As,…

Local

New York joins accord to strengthen popular vote…

New York State joined a nationwide effort that would gives the state's 29 electoral votes for president to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

National

Missouri man charged with sexually torturing five women

A Missouri man has been charged with raping and torturing five women in a St. Louis-area apartment over several years, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Accomplice Tour: New York (Spoiler Alert)

When I signed up for the Accomplice show tour, I had no idea what I was in for. But every grimy job comes with a great reward.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

Television

'Orphan Black' is back with 'crazy clone shenanigans'

“Orphan Black” is the little show that could. It had a few things working against it: a sci-fi premise, attracting an audience who had never…

NBA

Nets miss chance to clinch No. 5 seed…

Nets head coach Jason Kidd expressed little concern after a 109-98 loss to the Knicks, but others seemed to disagree.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Personalize your massage at a private practice

CityTouch customizes spa treatments to meet client's needs.

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.