Rant ahead. You’ve been warned.
I’ve gained a certain distaste for the phrase “hitting the wall.” Maybe I missed the memo on the new definition of “the wall,” and that’s my problem. I’m still of the belief that hitting the wall refers to the point where your body runs out of glycogen, and everything shuts down. Somewhere along the way, some people seemed to have started using the phrase to refer to a particularly difficult spot in a race, where they are mentally and physically exhausted and have to “dig deep” to finish.
If you don’t come upon a tough spot in a marathon, or ultra, or Ironman, where you are in pain and you question whether or not you can finish at the pace you’re going (or finish at all, for some), it’s my opinion that you’re probably not pushing yourself as hard as you could be. Feeling pain and doubt is part of a race, at least it always has been for me. Overcoming the overwhelming desire to quit a marathon at mile 21 isn’t overcoming the proverbial wall.
If you “hit the wall” you will know it. So will everybody around you, as they watch you fall to the ground. And no, you won’t overcome it with your mental prowess. No matter how hard you try, your mind cannot summon glycogen that no longer exists in your body. If you hit the wall, you are essentially done until you get some sort of food/calories into your body.
This, this is what it looks like to hit the wall, and it isn’t pretty: