Philani Buthalezi
Photographs Courtesy of Tobias Ginsberg and Murray & Roberts

In what feels like a very long time, we have some real races to give feedback on!

While the formats are a little different and numbers are restricted, we finally have accurately measured courses, competition and results that we measure our progress against.

We like to put the focus on one athlete per week, however, with the recent South African Half Marathon Champs producing 3 lifetime Personal Records, it was too hard for me to choose who I should write about.

So we’re combing this week’s Fast Friday to include Kate Rees, Simone Verster and Philani Buthelezi’s amazing PB’s

Ladies first…

Neither Kate or Simone are known for their exploits of the shorter distances, however, they become more and more competitive as the road gets longer. 

As a result, we were very excited for the Comrades Ultra Marathon in both 2020 and 2021 as both were able to secure sub 3hr Marathon finishes and Kate had already dipped under the 7hr30 Mark for the Comrades. 

Covid put paid to those Comrades dreams, and both athletes having recently pinned 40+ age tags to their vests, I was not keen on losing the outstanding progress they had made over the previous 24 months.

The project became to make them both better all-round runners and work on their weaknesses while there were no races, really see where we could go focusing on the shorter distances.

Their paths split slightly here, with Simone discovering a real love for the speed and in particular intervals on the track.

So much so that we saw her competing on the local track scene in Natal and running some very large PRs over 5km (18:17) and 10km (37:43).

Kate, however, did not love the very high-intensity sessions and in fact, we needed to modify as we were digging her a deep hole as she didn’t respond well.

The reduced volume and change of focus did however illicit positive responses and we did see good runs over 10km (39:17) and then a very big PB over 21km (1:25:50).

Bring on a Race Day (finally!)

Onto the race and looking at Simone’s improvement over 5 and 10km prompted me to set her the goal of going sub 83min with a plan A of 82:38, plan B of 83:20 and Plan C of ensuring a PB at 83:59. 

Kate was a little different in that she had already run a wonderful 21km PB, yet was still off what I knew she was capable of.

So taking into account her recent PB, the expected advantage of dropping to Sea Level and where I believed she could run; we set out the plan to go out at sub 85min pace but to let the other ladies drag her along a bit faster – essentially I wanted an 84min pace but not to put any doubt in her mind. 

After some recent pacing, (read coaching) issues related to relying on GPS we set both plans to run on feel, with some general guidelines on pacing and I sent through various scenarios so they could use the kilometre markers to track where they were at. 

At 16km the instruction was to go full tilt and empty the tank towards the line.

The results were brilliant, both ran very mature races and nailed close to what I felt was their best times on the day:

Simone: 1:22:18 cruising in a full 20sec ahead of plan A

Kate: 1:23:48 coming in 12sec ahead of plan A

I asked both to give me their thoughts on training through the pandemic:

This is what Simone had to say…

“I saw South Africa’s strict lockdown period as an ideal opportunity to try something different.

My coach, Lindsey Parry, introduced more cross-training like cycling and weight training, and when restrictions were eased he set short-distance, virtual races to work towards while there were no actual road races in sight.”

At first, this was incredibly daunting, as I had never focussed on shorter distances before, but with targeted training, the speed gains came within a few months.

I achieved personal bests (PB’s) starting in the 5km, then working up to the 10km and 21km. I entered my first ever track race (which I loved!) and earned a place in my provincial team for the 10,000m event.

Simone Verster

Simone went not to say “Focussing on running shorter distances faster, along with consistent training had a knock-on effect whereby I shaved over 4 minutes off my 21km time to achieve a recent PB of 82:18 at SA Champs!

Lockdown forced myself and Lindsey to rethink my training and change my short-term goals – and I am a faster, happier runner for it.”

Kate had this to say:

“You never know unless you really try – it’s the first time I have really focused on faster shorter distances and it’s great for me to achieve a time like this and participate in an event like SA Champs.”

Kate Rees

Now lets chat about Philani Buthelezi…

No stranger to the Fast Friday, having won the 10000m National Championships 2 years ago, running a 62:48 PR at the National Half Marathon Championships and Marathon PR in a special event for the Sanlam CT Marathon in 2020 (2:17), there has been a lot to write about.

The training was not ideal and it’s better put in Philani’s own words:

“The training was not as good as usual because of covid19, having to do all my training on the road until recently and my body didn’t adjust as well.

I think it’s because we only had a short period of training. But I am happy because despite never feeling like I am moving well, I ran my PRs. With the training, we got the results”

While we were both happy to run PRs for 5000m (13:52), 10000m (28:48), in both races he really struggled through the closing 1.5km and it got worse at SA Champs where, as defending Champion he faded badly in the final 2000m to finish 4th in 29:46, well outside his winning time in 2019. 

Its good to be flexible in the planning

We made some changes to the plan, focused a little more on endurance and speed endurance and went to the National Half Marathon Championships with only a PR in mind.  

It was a good day, despite not feeling completely in tune with his body, he was steady and although he couldn’t go with the winning move at 18km, didn’t fade and came home with a PR of 1:02:24 a full 24sec off his previous best over the distance.

Well done to Kate, Simone and Philani! You did us proud under uncharted circumstances


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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