How to punch through that final barrier when the end is nigh
Marathon runners dread “the wall”, a point when glycogen stores are nearly drained and runners are overwhelmed by fatigue and the desire to slow down, walk, or quit. A new paper by the University of Florida has catalogued coping mechanisms, which could be used in any endurance event when your will is breaking, says study author Dr Matthew Buman.
If you’re thinking: “I’m out of gas and have to stop…”
… try dissociative thinking: distract yourself from the task at hand. Count backwards from 100, sing a song, pray, or focus on the spectators. “But distraction can fail because it’s a lot of mental work to block the pain,” says Buman.
… try mental reframing: this means changing your outlook. Don’t think, “So much effort, and still six miles to go!” think, “I’ve completed 20 miles, only six to go!” If the wall wrecks your chances of hitting a goal time, don’t quit – set a new, realistic goal. Buman says some runners have success repeating a positive mantra, or visualising finishing strong.
… try managing emotions: anxiety, shame, frustration and depression are common upon hitting the wall. Runners cope with this by ignoring pace, relaxing and enjoying non-competitive aspects of the race. For some, a partner or group helped meet the emotional challenges. Telling a partner how they were feeling, Buman says “helped them process or mentally reframe the race, and keep going with a positive attitude”.
Source: Journal of Applied Sport Psychology