by Guest Contributor Paula, originally published at Heart, Mind, and Seoul
You simply cannot train for a marathon without hearing about hitting the dreaded “wall”. The marathon wall is a commonly used term to describe the ultimate running fatigue that typically happens around the 20th mile of an endurance run such as the marathon (26.2 miles). Muscles grow heavy with fatigue and one’s pace slows down considerably. The body literally hits the wall and it can feel almost impossible to keep moving forward.
The first marathon I ever ran was in New York City. I was lucky enough to connect with the New York Road Runners Club and I had some amazing coaches, not to mention a host of running partners to keep me motivated. I remember attending a running clinic that was geared specifically towards first time marathoners and the panel talked about the wall. I left that auditorium determined that I would not be another one of its victims.
I gave myself a full year to train for the marathon. Single and ready to conquer the world, I had nothing but time and excess energy to invest into my overall training. Marathon wall be damned! Maybe I was too young or inexperienced to believe that I could train enough to avoid any pitfalls during the race, but it was the fear of that cursed wall that pushed me to train above and beyond what my already rigorous training program required.
I hope this doesn’t across as too arrogant, but I honestly found the marathon to be one long, fun and dare I say, easy run. Mile 20 came and went. Same with mile 21. Mile 22 came around and I felt stronger than ever with random bursts of extra energy. The last four miles of the race ended up being my fastest mile splits ever. I was high on the intensity and enthusiasm of the crowd as well as buoyed by the many, many hours of training I had put in over the past year (oh and I’m sure that little thing called adrenaline didn’t hurt, either). Granted, my time of 4 hours and 20 minutes was nothing to write home about, but I had accomplished a personal goal and had a blast doing it in the best city in the world (my .02!) – all while avoiding that cursed wall.
There are no shortages of examples written by those who believe that the marathon is a metaphor for life. Certainly I can reflect back on the 3 different marathons that I’ve completed and draw parallels to how my own life has played out. My last marathon was run with minimal training, an attitude that bordered on sheer apathy and a lack of respect that a marathon calls for and rightfully deserves. Not only did I hit the wall, but I incurred a rather serious injury that forced me to walk almost the last 5 miles of the race. I contend that the biggest difference between my first marathon (enjoyable and fun) and my third marathon (miserable at best) was all in the training and preparation.
As a person of color, I think of how many times I have hit the wall in my life as I navigate through this racially charged world in which we live. Read the Post Preparing My Kids To Be Able To Run Through Walls