The Marathon “Wall” and how to avoid it!
The bad news is that “the wall” is a very real thing. The good news is that you can avoid “hitting the wall” if you follow this advice. This article takes only about 3 minutes to read, so read to the end … on race day you’ll be happy you did!
Before we start …
Obviously anyone attempting to run a marathon needs to properly train. We like to say that if you don’t put in the training miles you won’t even make it TO the wall! That said, marathon courses are full of runners that have followed a training program and yet they still hit the wall (read on).
What is the wall?
Your glycogen stores (stored in your muscles and liver) are your primary source of energy when running a marathon (or any endurance event). When you properly carbo load prior to your event your glycogen stores will have approximately 2,000 calories, regardless of your body shape and size. Think of your glycogen stores as your “on-board fuel tank”. When your tank runs out you’ll have to rely primarily on body fat as fuel. One pound of body fat contains enough energy to run approximately 40 miles, so we all have plenty of fat to finish a marathon. The problem is that fat is a “survival fuel” … it’s designed to keep you alive. Fat is not a good source of fuel for high performance. So if fat is all you have left, you’ll still be able to move but you’ll feel like garbage. You’ve just hit the wall!
Why is the wall around mile 20?
When you run you burn approximately 100 calories per mile, give or take about 10% depending on body type, running pace, conditions (wind, hills), etc. So if you do the math at 100 calories per mile, after 20 miles you will have burned about 2,000 calories and your tank will be empty.
What’s the solution?
To avoid hitting the wall you’ll need to take in a minimum of 600 to 700 calories during the event. It’s vital that the calories you consume while running are rapidly absorbable, meaning that you’ll want liquid calories from sports drinks or energy gels. Solid foods with fats, fiber and/or protein can cause all kinds of problems while running and detract from performance (watch this video to learn why)
Energy Gels are the Best Choice
Most marathon courses provide Gatorade or some other high sugar drink and solid foods protein bars, chews, fruit). Energy gels can provide the right cabs without the problems associated with solid foods. Watch these short videos for more info:
why complex carbs instead of sugars
don’t eat solid foods during a marathon
What Energy Gel Should You Use?
The problem with most gels is that they are either high in sugar (see video above), or they don’t have the electrolytes you need. Electrolytes are critical to help maintain hydration and avoid muscle cramps and injuries. Only e-Gel Electrolyte Energy Gel gives you everything you need right in the gel!
Need a reason to try e-Gel? We’ll give you 12!
12 reasons to try e-Gel
How Do You Use Them?
With Water! The biggest mistake that athletes make with energy gels is that they take them with a sports drink or other food. Bad idea. One of the advantages of an energy gel is that it is absorbed through osmosis with no digestive requirements. But for that to all happen the way it’s supposed to you have to drink water. Taking other drinks and food can slow the absorption and cause stomach distress, not what you want while you’re running. So just take your energy gel and water, it’s that easy.
GUGU RoctanePowerGelHammer GelClif SHOT GelClif SHOT BloksEFS GelHuma GelHuma Plus GelGatorade GelGLUKOS GelMaurten GelMuir Energy GelVFuelHoney StingerSport Beans
We’re so confident that e-Gel will help you run your fastest marathon ever (or finish if it’s your first) that we’ll guarantee it! No other energy gel will do that!! Interested?
Marathon PR Guarantee
More helpful info …
Marathon race day strategy
Learn more about e-Gel
"I broke the golden rule and tried e-Gel for the first time on race day. I ran the Houston Marathon and it was a great experience - no stomach issues and no muscle cramping. Water in my bottle and an e-Gel every hour got me through the race. I'm not the fastest runner, but I set a PR!" ... continue reading
Houston, TexasSport: Running
"Figuring out how to stay hydrated, not get upset stomach and prevent muscle cramps during long runs and races has been one of my biggest challenges. In the past my muscles would ache and twitch and cause me a lot of pain after long runs. I came across e-Gel energy gels this summer used them during the Top Of Utah Marathon, took 17 minutes off my previous marathon PR and easily qualified for Boston." ... continue reading
Maricopa, ArizonaSport: Running
"I recently completed a half-iron distance triathlon with a brutal bike course. At the end of the ride my quads started to cramp. I nursed an e-Gel over the first mile of the run and the cramps abated. I thought it may have been coincidence, but when the cramps resurfaced at mile 7 only to resolve with another e-Gel I was sold. I only drank water on the run and took e-Gel, so I feel confident that this product made the difference. " ... continue reading
Waynesboro, VirginiaSport: Triathlon
"This is by far the best energy gel product on the market, and I have been through them all. I have had nothing but positive training and racing experiences with this product. I trained on and used e-Gel in a half half marathon and busted a 1:32.44! My personal best of 5 half marathons. The sustained energy is incredible! I absolutely love this product." ... continue reading
Houma, LouisianaSport: Running and Triathlon
"I used e-Gels exclusively and exactly as directed in training for the Lakefront Marathon. This was my fourth marathon and I did not expect to PR, but just to complete it well. With the help of e-Gels taken at miles 2, 7, 13, 18, and 23, I took 10 minutes off of my marathon time and never hit the 'wall' or cramped as I had done in previous events. Some guy laughed at me at the start asking why I had so many energy gels. I told him I had a plan and I was sticking to it. I'm pretty sure I passed him somewhere around mile 22." ... continue reading
Springfield, IllinoisSport: Running
"40 miles into a 56 mile ride in the desert with two big hills I started cramping, and had to stop several times. The next week I did the same ride with e-Gel and had no cramping despite it being over 100 degrees. My hydration was the same, so I have little doubt the e-Gel played a big part in keeping me going that day." ... continue reading
Big Bear City, CaliforniaSport: Triathlon
"I've been using e-Gel for 2 years exclusively and will not go with anything else....I qualified for Boston with a 3:18:16 and felt great. One e-Gel 15 minutes before the race and one at miles 6, 12, 18, and 23 mile marks and then the last three miles were my fasted splits" ... continue reading
Oklahoma City, OklahomaSport: Running, Triathlon
"I looked for a gel that had less sugar and more potassium/sodium than some of the other energy gels. I came across e-Gel and used them is the US 50K Championships in Caumsett Park, New York. I finished 2nd in 3:04.22, so I guess they worked pretty good!" ... continue reading
Marietta, GeorgiaSport: Ultra Running
"I was running my best marathon ever in Detroit, had five miles to go and I took my e-Gel 100 yards before a water station. I got to the station and it was a bunch of guys handing out beer! GU and other energy gels are so thick that I would have needed water right away, but the e-Gel was so thin and easy to digest, I got through it just fine when I hit a water station about a mile later. Not only did I finally hit my sub-three hour dream, I hit 2:57!" ... continue reading
Battle Creek, MichiganSport: Running
"I am one of those people who is funny about taste and texture, not to add a weak stomach. I tried e-Gel as a recommendation from one of my friends ... I have been a loyal customer for over 2 years. It is true when they say you don't hit that brick wall and they don't upset your stomach. I am not drained at the end of a 15 mile training run and recovery is nothing like it used to be prior to using e-Gels." ... continue reading
Dunwoody, GeorgiaSport: Running
"I am an on-ice official in the AHL and I want to share my story about e-Gel ... My job as linesman requires me to sprint repeatedly and physically separate anyone who fights throughout the game. We get no breaks, no downtime, no relaxing...I need my energy level to remain constant. I had yet to find any product that satisfied my requirement. I tried GU, Clif Shots and other energy gels, but found that I was still needing something to get me thru the last half of the game. With e-Gel, I found it." ... continue reading
Cleveland, OhioSport: Hockey
"I am an Ultra-Runner and a proficient sweater and I need to take in large quantities of salt to keep from shutting down during training and races. I was relying on salt caps along with other Gel's like GU to try an maintain my metabolism but it was easy to get the mixture wrong and bonk....I plan on using e-Gel as my main electrolyte / energy gel at Western States 100 mile this June, bypassing the aid station's GU which made me so nauseous by mile 80, I almost did not finish the race." ... continue reading
Livermore, CaliforniaSport: Ultra Running