Marathon Running….Hitting the Wall

June 9, 2022

MARATHON RUNNING….Hitting the Wall

“Hitting the Wall” (or “bonking” as it is often referred) is a phenomenon synonymous with running and is described as an “iconic” feature of marathon distance events occurring around the 20mile (30Km) mark. Did you know that approximately 40% of marathon runners experience Hitting the Wall in any given race…that is high!! So, to help you understand this phenomenon a little more and hopefully prevent it occurring on YOUR marathon events we:

  1. Outline what “Hitting the Wall” is and why it may occur
  2. Discuss the impact on a runner of “Hitting the Wall”
  3. Focus on training and nutrition to help avoid experiencing “Hitting the Wall”

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MARATHON RUNNING….Hitting the Wall


Defining what Hitting the Wall is and establishing the relationship between glycogen status, fatigue and the onset of this phenomenon.


Considering some of the Risk Factors for Hitting the Wall occurring during a marathon event including:

  • Poor glycogen stores
  • Poor pacing
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Being a novice/first time marathon runner



See Below


Outlining the signs and symptoms of Hitting the Wall including:

  • An abrupt slowing of pace
  • An overwhelming feeling of fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • An overwhelming desire to walk

And discussing potential recovery strategies from Hitting the Wall


Thinking about approaches to training to help minimise the risk of Hitting the Wall occurring during a marathon


Focussing on nutrition strategies pre and during the marathon to help prevent Hitting the Wall

Female Factors


  1. Females are less likely to Hit the Wall than males
  2. Females are better at pacing the marathon than males therefore less likely to Hit the Wall
  3. Some research has suggested that females are physiologically better suited to distance running than males. For example: they have a greater utilisation of stored glycogen and are able to run aerobically at a higher percentage of maximum O2 uptake than their male counterparts
  4. Some research has noted that females take marathon distance more seriously therefore train appropriately whereas males tend to be more “bullish” and have an abundance of “bravado” in their approach to a marathon…even in the face of limited training
  5. If a female Hits the Wall it tends to be with less intensity than in males
  6. If a female Hits the Wall she is more likely to recover than a male



  1. Hitting the Wall is a familiar experience for many runners during a marathon event and is characterized by a sudden and dramatic slowing of pace around the 20 mile (30Km) mark
  2. Runners tend to hit the wall due to a combination of factors including: inadequate fuelling and poor pacing decisions
  3. Research suggests that Hitting the Wall has both a physiological and a psychological element to it
  4. So, a marathon runner needs to be both physically and emotionally prepared ahead of race day
  5. Carbohydrate intake pre and during the race is fundamental in limiting the chances of a marathon runner Hitting the Wall
  6. BUT….if all else fails and you do HTW, remember as physically and psychologically challenging as it may be…it is only temporary!! Having this knowledge alone may be enough to get you through it and to the finish line!!

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The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

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