Marathon Runners: HITTING the WALL.

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Running the Distance

Many moons ago when I ran a marathon, one of the dreaded conditions one might encounter when running any kind of endurance race is hitting the “Wall.” For trained marathon runners it tends to happen between the 22nd to 24th mile of the 26.2 mile long run. The Wall manifests as sudden fatigue and loss of energy while you are running. Moreover, it also decreases your production of dopamine which generates the feeling of excitement, reward, motivation and pleasure. No excitement, no reward, no motivation. It’s a hopeless feeling. In effect, your brain starts telling you a discouraging thought, “you can’t do it!” 

I was thoroughly enjoying my personal record run as I moved through the streets of Manhattan during the 2011 New York City Marathon. With the energy of the crowd cheering me on and the thousands of fellow marathon runners around me, I felt confident that I would be home in no time. As I glided through the streets, I thought about what I would do when I returned to my home in Jersey City. My biggest cheerleaders were there waiting for me, my two year old son and my 10 month old baby. Thoughts of my beautiful children floated in my head as a kept running, feeling energized and encouraged.

Hitting the Wall

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Without warning, around the 22nd mile of my race, I found myself unable to take another step. I had been figuratively hit by a ton of bricks weighing me down. It felt as if I were running against a wall and every time I attempted another step and my foot moved forward, I couldn’t imagine doing it again. My feet felt like cement. I was aiming for a sub four and a half hour run originally and was making great time, until this very moment. Sheer panic set in as I thought of the months of training under the heat, rain and cold that I now thought were futile. Finishing the race at my desired time was no longer an option for me. I had to change my mindset and come up with a new goal: finish the race injury free. I still wanted to finish the race in under 5 hours and be injury free to take care of my young family and my patients the next day. This was my renewed goal and my new focus. I changed my thinking but did not compromise my bigger goal: finishing the New York City Marathon.

Marathon Runner Maria Aguila at the 2011 New York City Marathon

Life is not a Race

Life should be a walk, a run, a stroll, anything you are comfortable with, but not a race. If our initial goal doesn’t quite work out, we cannot reset the clock but we can always reset our goals. 

The greatest feeling when you cross your own finish line is having a heart that is full as if you just started the run. It also means being able to go back to rest and recuperate where your heart belongs, which for me is home in Jersey City, New Jersey!

Right in our own neighborhood of Jersey City, there are five races coming up between October 31st and December 1st. Most of these races are open to all ages and varies in distances so there’s something for each member of the family. For the list of the races in Jersey City, please check out the running section at 


Dr. Maria Aguila

Life in Motion Physical Therapy & Wellness

391 Danforth Ave, Jersey City