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The psychology of hitting 'The Wall'
‘The Wall’ is the term used to describe the point (usually after 20 miles) in a marathon when an athlete experiences a severe drop in pace. Usually, this is thought to coincide with an athlete running out of fuel in the form of glycogen. However, it is quite possible that there is also a psychological component to the Wall.
This has been most evident in recent years, where we have witnessed a massive improvement in marathon times, with four male athletes going under the former world record time of 2:03:59 in 2011.
One reason for this improvement in marathon times is the ‘no fear’ attitude that was first displayed by the late Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya, who won the marathon gold in Beijing. Despite hot and humid conditions, Wanjiru led that race from gun to tape displaying a blatant disregard for the marathon distance and adverse conditions.
This one race seemed to alter the mind-set of other top marathon runners, who were now willing to attack the race without fear. So expect to see a fast and furious marathon in London, where a world record pace from the outset is not out of the question.
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