Marathon Running...Hitting the Wall - She Runs Eats Performs

Episode 100

Published on:

9th Jun 2022

Marathon Running...Hitting the Wall

Don't be the runner who "bonks"!! "Bonking" (or hitting the wall) 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” 



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 to Hitting the Wall occurring during a marathon event including:

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



  1. Females being less likely to HTW than males
  2. Females being better at pacing the marathon than males (therefore less likely to HTW) as I mentioned earlier, but also:
  3. Some research has suggested that females are physiologically better suited to distance running than males e.g. 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 HTW, it tends to be with less intensity than in males
  6. If a female HTW, she is more likely to recover than a male 


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



  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!!


Fuelling Marathon Running

Your Marathon: Run Refuel Recover

Nutrition for Half Marathon Plus


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.

Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell host RUNNERS HEALTH HUB. A place for like-minded female runners who are looking for simple ways to support running performance, energy, endurance, and general great health.

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Happy Running!

Aileen and Karen 


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About the Podcast

She Runs Eats Performs
for mid-life female runners of all abilities
Are you confused about the science around nutrition for runners? Listen in to learn about the WHY, HOW, WHAT, and WHEN of eating to fuel your running performance.

We are here to help you translate sports nutritional science, into easy to apply tips and plans, helping you enjoy peak running performance. We focus on the FEMALE FACTORS every mid-life woman needs to know to be a healthy runner.

About your host

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Aileen Smith

Nutritionists, Educators, Podcasters, Runners and Friends

We have a love of running and a passion for nutrition, delicious food and healthy living. She Runs Eats Performs for female runners of all abilities who are looking for simple ways to improve their running performance and their health with nutrition and lifestyle.
We enjoy sharing our nutritional expertise, reviewing the latest sports science and most of all helping you to take easy action so you can enjoy your running life to the full.
We are here to help you achieve great health and good shape whilst staying injury-free with easy-to-understand sports nutritional concepts and easy-to-implement tips and plans.

Aileen and Karen are BANT and CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapists.