Starting pace, speed work and getting into sports management – One on one coaching call with Faheema Limbada

Starting pace, speed work and getting into sports management – One on one coaching call with Faheema Limbada

Today on RUN with Coach Parry we chat to one of our Coach Parry Online Training Club members, Faheema Limbada, about a range of topics and answer some of her questions.

Lindsey and Faheema discuss starting strategies and how to make sure you don't get overwhelmed and caught up in the pace of people running past you but to check your speed in the first couple km's and slow down if you're going too fast. Lindsey also offers his advice on getting into the sports management field as a career and the best ways to do so.

We also announce this week's #BiogenJourney winner and the coach catches up with James 'Hobbo' Hobson ahead of his next race in the buildup to Ironman 70.3 in Durban. 

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Brad Brown  

We head to Fairlands in Johannesburg now to catch up with our next guest; Faheema Limbada. Faheema welcome on to run with Coach Parry, thanks for joining us!

We've got the coach with us as well, Lindsey. How's it? Welcome back to you as well.

Lindsey Parry  

Yeah, always enjoy doing these


Faheema's running background


Brad Brown  

Faheemah, you've been around what we do here at Coach Parry for a while. Lindsey and I, obviously we've had lots of interactions with you, you’re very active in our forums. But for people who don't know you, let's dig into a little bit of your running background and history. Where did it all start? How long you been running for and what got you into running?

Faheemah Limbada  

Okay, so I've been running; I think when I line up for Comrades this year, it'll be 3 years exactly of running. I started in June of 2016. And my brother actually did Comrades and I think I was intrigued by why he was so crazy.

I went and did a park run in my old hometown in Lenasia and I ended up being the first woman that finished the park run. I had a very strong gym background, I used to spend like four times a week of purely gymming background. So I think my results at the park run sparked something, you know. I just kept on going back for the 5km park run every Saturday. Did my first 10 km at Soweto in 2016, November. Yeah, then just from there progressed distance wise.

Brad Brown  

I love that and so often we see people who start running just to run Comrades, but you obviously have a bit of a Comrades history in the family, but the park run progression I think is fantastic. What do you love about the sport? I mean, obviously moving from spinning and being full on into into gymming, running's now probably taken over a lot of that. What do you love about the sport?

Faheemah Limbada  

For me it's very personal, it's like a happy place. I think it's a de-stress. We all live busy lives, but on top of that, I think it's the personal interactions. I've met a lot of, I think my circle of people have become such quality. And I think just going to races and meeting people and I think the ultimate of running my first comrades last year. I think the human experiences and everybody has a story to tell.  I’ve made really good friends just from running that race. It's a very good human sport.

Brad Brown  

Yeah, it's funny we chat to a lot of people on this podcast who come from overseas to run Comrades, and I don't think they quite understand the South African psyche about Comrades. For you, what what makes Comrades so special?

Faheemah Limbada  

I think what makes it special is that I think we living in a country where everybody has got conflict issues, division, but I think everybody that lines up with a you in A seeding or H seeding everybody's there for the same purpose. And I think wherever you're an elite or just an ordinary back runner, everybody feels the same pain. No matter what time they finish, everybody feels the same the next day everybody crawls and limps the next day. I think that's what makes Comrades unique. That a businessman is no different from the ordinary guy that actually scraped his last cents to get to Pietermaritzburg or Durban. It's just like everybody is the same, I think that's what stands out about Comrades.

Brad Brown  

It definitely is a great leveller. And I think it's a great advert for what South Africa could be. I mean, we have to be honest, and there are major issues, various issues in South Africa. And on that day, it's just amazing. For me, it gives me hope of what South Africa can be if everybody worked together and had the same agenda. It's just, it's amazing. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Faheemah, I'm going to hand you over to Lindsey. Lindsey, you've got Faheemah's questionnaire that we normally send out when we do these one on one coaching calls. Your overall sort of thoughts, and then we'll get into it. I know Faheemah's got a whole bunch of questions for you and how to improve her training, and what to do in the in the last few weeks in the build up to Comrades. But your initial thoughts on that questionnaire?


Lindsey's initial thoughts


Lindsey Parry  

Yeah, so look, it is not the first Comrades, so there is an advantage in that. And I get from the questions - which we'll get into shortly - that there is a bit of nerves around finishing Comrades again and feeling a little bit behind compared to last year. But yeah, I think for me, the most important thing here is to put Faheemah at ease and say look at you're all right where you are now. I should have gone back into the forum and had a look, but I'm fairly sure that it was you that smashed out that your first ever 4 minute something kilometers at the JP Morgan.

So I think you can take a lot of positive out of that. I mean, you might feel a little bit underprepared. But you know, again, for the people who can't see what I'm reading, you self report that you really do feel like you're tough, and that you can hang in there when it gets longer. So, you know, the fact that you're now also starting to get this bit of speed, because I can tell you that JP Morgan 5km that you ran, certainly makes your 42 km PB look like you were not running at all. Just so that everyone out there can hear; that was a 4:47. Normally we'd go no you are crazy going for sub 11 finish based on a 4:47 marathon. But all the other metrics - you 5 and your 10 and 21, all point to a sub 11 being possible. Added to that you only missed that sub 11 by 12 minutes last year. And you're also talking there about having gone out way too fast. And again, I think we'll cover some of that in your questions.

So yeah, I think that the most important part about these calls is actually allowing you to ask the questions, and get answers for those because those are clearly the most pressing things. But yeah, I do think that you are fairly well on track for your bronze. So your first question, let's dive into that. Okay, you have put in here that you've done just short of 500 kilometers for the year.

Faheemah Limbada  

Correct, and then I'm planning on doing Two Oceans after this, and then the last 40 kilometer on the 13th of May.

Lindsey Parry  

Yeah, so you got close to 1000 k’s last time. And you feel like you're not going to get there, but actually going to get pretty close. Because as we sit now you're going to average, if we include the taper, you're going to average probably close to 50 k’s a week from here, and you've got discounting 10 weeks, until Comrades. So you're going to get very close to 1000 k’s by the time the race starts.

Now look, I don't normally like to chase a specific kilometers. I kind of like to see how we go. And we we progress to. And as I've just said there, take conference on the fact that the program that you following now has gotten you to a point where you probably never thought you would get to you know, running five minutes or under five minutes per km for a couple of kilometers in your race.

I don't think you should be worried. I think if you stick to the plan, you'll be okay. You'll be better than okay. I think you'll be much better off than last year, you'll have much more experience. And hopefully the one thing you will have learned is not to go out too fast. Which takes us into your second question. So you tell us here that you're running Comrades for CHOC so that it makes the race personal for you. And particularly with your dad battling with cancer. But that then means, on the other side, that you start in CC batch, and you were last year quite overwhelmed by the pace that everybody starts off there. And that is it's a real problem because it's so easy to get sucked into. Yeah. So look, the only real way to curb that, is to check on what you are doing.

And I think for that purpose, the first 1, 2, 3 kilometers are the most important. We've all got watches, even if they aren't Garmin's, everybody has a watch. But that you have a watch that tells you how fast you running. So you don't want to be checking that every single kilometer or step otherwise the race will feel like it's taking an eternity. But in the first 2-3 kilometers I think it's important that you do check your watch regularly. Because what will happen is you'll look, you'll see going too fast, you'll slow down. But because people are just coming past, coming past, coming past you, you just get sucked back into that pace.

So you really just have to for the first two to three kilometers, just keep pulling yourself back pulling yourself back. From about 3 k’s, you should start getting around the people that are more likely to be who you are going to be running with. So that's really the trick. Come and speak to us at the Comrades expo, we will be there. You can even come and speak to us, we're at the Two Oceans expo too. And then we can talk about exactly what is that pace. At the Comrades expo we'll obviously have pacing bands. And then I can talk you through how to use how to use that. But yes, you absolutely did start too fast last time out. And in reality, that probably, not probably almost definitely, did cost you being able to run under 11 hours.


Sticking to a side so you don't get caught up in a faster pace


Faheemah Limbada  

Okay, so my question is, I'm still a novice to the up run. So logistically, I'm not sure how Durban differs to Pietermaritzburg, I just remember it being extremely dark and trying to actually not fall and also not to be caught up in the pace of the runners in C batch. Do you think it's a better idea to actually stick to one side of the road, either left or right?

Lindsey Parry  

Yeah, it's definitely better to choose a side. It's hard for me to tell you specifically which side is better. What I will tell you is that in the up run, the lighting in the streets is much better, on the up run. Until you hit the highway, then it gets pretty dark again on the highway. And from there, your main thing is to just avoid cat eyes once you are on the highway.

It's not nearly as cold. But obviously it's just as dark, because it's a similar time of year, but yes the lighting in the streets is a lot better. Going down, you're running down some really main streets, it's a lot wider than 'Maritzburg, so it's a lot less congested. So people should also have a bit more space to kind of run around you. But if you are hugging one side of the road, it does make it much easier for the runners behind you and less intimidating for you with, you know, not having people swarming all around you.

Faheemah Limbada  

Ok great, thank you.


Reaching your potential


Lindsey Parry  

Then you say you know that you are strong when it comes to endurance, your body handles pain well, and so does your mind. But you feel like you are not reaching your full potential physically or in the races that you're doing. And so after June, you would like to stall on the long distance and focus on getting faster the short distances up to 21 k’s. That's largely also because you're running history is really only two and a half years of running. And in that two and a half years you packed in 2 ultras, one of which is Comrades. So by the time you've run this next Comrades, you're going to have packed in 4 ultras.

And you've done 5 marathons. And is this something I can help you with? And is it a good idea? It's a fantastic idea. And really for me, you know, Brad said earlier on that, that foreign athletes don't understand our obsession with Comrades. Even in your case, your brother running Comrades didn't inspire you to start running, it inspired you to run Comrades. And that's not unusual in South Africa. But it is a little bit crazy. So I would absolutely support that. And, you know, I often work with triathletes that are trying to make it on the international circuit. And when it's not quite working out over the shorter distance of the sprint and Olympic distance racing, they want to move longer, quite young. And I always tell them that, you know, the mistakes we make on the shorter distances tend to be exacerbated the longer we go. And by the same token in running, the better your short distance times are, the better your long distance will be.

In your case, you've so far really outperformed you're shorter distances, which means that perhaps you are a better long distance runner than you are a short distance runner. But it's only in exploring how fast you really can get yourself. If you can run an entire 5 km at under five minutes per km, just think of the positive implications that'll have if and when you decide to go back to marathon or ultra distance racing.

So yeah, I feel like that's a really positive way to go about it. Get your back to back under your belt, make sure that you really recover properly. Because that's the thing that a lot of people don't do. They might rest for 10 days to two weeks, maybe even three weeks. But even after three weeks of a race as punishing as Comrades, people come out of that. And they start training, and start training a little bit too quickly and they're quite tired. So they start trying to do some speed work. But then when they do the speed work they so slow, and they go ah! Comrades has made me so slow, and then they all but give up on the project.

So, after Comrades, you are going to take your two to three weeks of complete rest and then you're going to take another two to three weeks of just very easy running like some shorter jogs, not too much long running on the on the weekends and everything really easy. And that'll take you up to about six weeks and when you're recovered, six weeks you will be well recovered. And that's the point at which we go okay, let's pick some 10km, 15km, 21km races, let's plug them into a program and then let's specifically start working on those things and carry that project into next year. I would say if you can do that for the next 18 months, and then think about coming back to the marathon, it's going to make very positive results on your marathon and ultra, and it will see you getting much closer to that physical potential that you feel that you've got.

Brad Brown  

If I can just jump in there too, Lindsey. One thing you've got to be careful of by doing that after Comrades is, because there's such a big culture in South Africa around marathons and around Comrades, and because you've then done 2 Comrades it's easy to get sucked back into that. So if it is something you want to do, you've got to stay disciplined. The truth of the matter is Comrades is going to be there in 5 years time or 10 years time. So is Two Oceans, so will all the marathons. But - not saying that you shouldn't do it - but like Lindsey said that is a great goal to try and get faster. And if you get fast on the shorter stuff, it's going to translate to faster longer stuff later on when you decide to go back.

Faheemah Limbada  

Definitely. I think maybe just to explain the reason why I got to this decision is that was me being a novice last year, I was in a running club - my previous training club where we had a really rich Comrades history, there was a guy there that actually did his 50th last year. I was surrounded by a lot of gurus in the club. What I noticed was that when I was doing my marathon I never hit a sub 4:30 marathon, but my actual results  for my first Comrades was a bit better than a lot of those guys that were doing like, 4 hour to 4:30 marathons. That's what made me wonder what made me different. That I had a more comfortable run, but I was not hitting that time on the marathon. I can see there is a potential there. Or like Lindsey said maybe I'm just better at endurance than the shorter distance.

Lindsey Parry  

Yeah, but even if you bet on endurance, which is highly likely and not in it's really not uncommon for female athletes, you will still get much closer to reaching your absolute best if you at least explore your limitations on the shorter races.

Faheemah Limbada  

I think back to Brad's point. I'm quite happy to actually take a break without being judged or anything. Because I think also in terms of sacrifices in this Comrades, I'm a parent of a child who is going to start high school next year. So I think the timing of the break is ideal. Comrades is a big sacrifice on family. So I think I just need a break away from that, is why I want to focus on the shorter distances.

Brad Brown  

Absolutely. And you've ticked those boxes now. And we always laugh about it. I mean, I interviewed Ilana Mayor a couple of years ago, and we were talking about and I mean, she's an Olympic silver medalist in 10,000 meters. And we were talking about the culture of ultra running in South Africa. And she said she still feels like she's not a “real runner” because he hasn't run a Comrades. And I thought to myself, that's crazy. I mean, you're someone who's got an Olympic silver medal for for 10,000 meter. And because of where she lives, she's not considered a "real runner" because she hasn't done Comrades I mean, that's just crazy. But you've ticked that box now so you're a real runner Faheemah, that's all good.

Faheemah Limbada  

Thank you, I'm about to be a real runner for a second time.

Brad Brown  

And Comrades, the people at Comrades will tell you that once you've done 2 you're halfway to 10. That's how they suck you in, so you're teetering on the edge. You don't want to go back to three because then you're in no man's land.

But you've got a very interesting additional question that's not necessarily running related, but it's more about working in the industry. Give me a bit of background obviously you I think you work in IT, and you are thinking about making some changes?


Making a career change and going into the sports industry


Faheemah Limbada  

In my previous club, I was actually Secretary of the running club and and I kind of see that role as kind of running the club so I actually did a very good job of that. And I do realize that people are tending to come to me for advice: what to do, what to eat what to train on, and yet I'm signed up to Lindsey Parry as well because I look at him as my source. So I definitely see that this is something that I love doing. I don't mind speaking to someone late at night telling him he should be doing this and should be doing that. But I  also learn a lot from the forum and yeah.

I think in the economy we find ourselves in we all need to rely on a second income, and I'm kind of leaning towards studying something sports management related so that I could complement it with my normal day job. So I've actually researched this, I've seen a lot of sports management specific courses online. I'm just not sure what is reputable, what is accredited, what is the way to go in this, or if you're doing ordinary diploma does that suffice to actually work with runners.

Lindsey Parry  

So my advice on that, there are a couple of ones that have got quite good reputations in the marketplace. And probably the most well known of those, it's typical that as I wanted to say it I forgot what it is. ETA, so thank goodness I remembered that again, ETA. Then there's another crowd that are based more locally in Gauteng. Think they do massage courses and, like high intensity training courses. I'm just trying to remember the names, but there's two or three in the market that are...  Ace is another one. Ace accredited personal trainers and they also do like sports management little diplomas, the University of Pretoria has got some, has a pretty good sports management specific diploma and as part of that they do include, they have a nutritionist that comes in and speaks to them. I used to go in there and give them a lecture on coaching and sports science and setting up like a almost like a little high performance environment if you like.

So there are quite a few of those. And most of them I think have got a fairly good reputation, Damlin's got some sports management courses, but those then will focus heavily on the management side rather than the, you know, getting involved in the coaching and the nutrition side.

For me, the most important thing with all of these things is that, I sometimes feel like the qualification is what gives you a little bit more confidence, okay. And yes, there are people in the industry that want to see the qualification. But for me, the qualification will never trump the experience that you can gain. So the best thing to do is to really start getting involved. And as you did with the running club, when you were on that committee for that year and you were the secretary, that's the kind of thing that gets you experience. There's no degree or diploma that can give you that kind of experience. Being in our forums and reading all the answers and taking note of the things and seeing the different types of questions and the different level of runners and how those those questions are answered. Every time you read those things you are gaining experience. And you know, I still read books all the time about people that have done innovative things in sports and some coaching.

I go back to the past I love reading about people like Emil Zatopek who ran in the early 19's. So you've just got to keep on gathering more and more experience. And the more experienced that you gain from being in those type of things. And the more time you spend actually physically interacting with real runners and problem solving, the more confidence you'll get, the more other people notice what you're doing and the more likely you are to be able to start using it in a capacity to, you know, change careers or have it as a secondary income.

And I think most of those diplomas that you're talking about online will give you, they will give you the confidence as well as a bit of, a bit of knowledge. But hopefully what they'll do is give you just enough knowledge to stimulate you going out and finding out what is, what are the latest trends, and really what you got to teach yourself is to look at the latest trends and try and sort out for yourself what is nonsense or a fad or fashionable versus the principles that work and that provide change and help us to problem solve on a consistent basis.

Faheemah Limbada  

Okay, great. Thank you so much.


Faheemah's thoughts on the Coach Parry Training Club


Brad Brown  

Cool. Faheemah, we've unfortunately run out of time, but I think that was an amazing chat. Quite diverse. Best of luck in the build up to Two Oceans, not long to go now. And definitely pop by our stand at the expo can get some final advice from the coach and yeah, we look forward to following your build up into Comrades. You've been a member of our community for a while in the training club. Just your experience and what you love about it?

Faheemah Limbada  

And yeah, I think just to echo what Lindsey said, I think every day is a learning journey. And sometimes I don't always have stuff to post, but I still enjoy coming to the forums to read what other runners are going through, and I think sometimes you think you're going through something alone. And 9 out of 10 times you actually see that there's a lot of runners going through the same thing as you. I think it's reassuring having that community with them. As you know running Comrades can be quite nerve wracking. Sometimes I think I'm actually more scared than I was last year as a novice. I was more excited, now that I know that I'm in for I'm much more terrified. But yeah, it's actually my saving grace. So thank you guys for the forum, it's really helpful.

Brad Brown  

Thanks for being part of it, we love having you around. You ask such great questions in the forum. And yeah, we look forward to following your progress. Thanks for your time today.

Faheemah Limbada  

Thanks Brad, thanks Lindsey.


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