Today we welcome Nabila Mulla, another member of the Coach Parry Online Training Club, onto the podcast and talk about how you can approach training during Ramadan and how to ensure you train safely and stay healthy while you fast.

Lindsey helps Nabila put a plan together for her training schedule and advises her on how she should be training during Ramadan in preparation for Comrades.


BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of ran with Coach Parry, we had to Middleburg in Mpumalanga now to catch up with a member of the Coach Parry online training club Nabila Mulla. Nabila welcome onto the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

NABILA MULLA:  Thank you, Brad for having me. I’m very excited to be here. I’m often very jealous of these people who get invited for these kinds of things. And I’m just like, when is it ever going to be my turn ? So it was, it was a nice pleasant surprise.

BRAD BROWN:  Well, we’re excited to have you on. We’ve got Lindsey as well. Lindsey how’s it?

LINDSEY PARRY:  How’s it Brad, how you doing?

BRAD BROWN:  Yeah, very good. Man, I’m excited for this call. Because obviously we going to help Nabila as much as we can. But I think a lot of Nabila’s questions are going to help a lot of other people as well, which is pretty exciting, particularly around Comrades. But we’ll get to those in just a moment. Nabila, tell me a little bit about yourself, your background running-wise, how long have you been running? And how did you get started?

Nabila’s running background

NABILA MULLA:  Um, I think I started in about 2015. But that was just the occasional park run, and I think I did my first 21km in 2015. My dad’s a runner, he’s done five Comrades. And he’s done quite a few ultra marathons. So it’s always been, I think, in the family, the culture of running marathons and running long. And I think the reason that it actually started was just because it was looking for something fitness related to do when I was living in Durban. And just to do something after work to keep fit and to keep busy. That’s how my running just journey began.

I’ve done one Comrades, I know everyone needs to say how many Comrades they’ve done. So I’m sorry for that,  I’m going to say it. I’ve done one Comrades and one Two Oceans. And I’m hoping to do my second Comrades this year, but I’m struggling a bit, so I’m trying to qualify at Loskop Marathon. So that’s where we are at the moment. Last year I didn’t manage to do any running, I did a bit of cycling. So I feel like my base was a bit lacking starting this year.

BRAD BROWN:  Nabila that’s so funny. Every time I hear someone say they have a parent or an uncle or an aunt who ran Comrades, and I think all of us, Lindsey’s dad obviously has run Comrades and was it was a pretty good runner in his day – he’s still a very good runner, but in his day was was a fantastic runner. My dad’s done 11 Comrades. If anybody’s listening to this and they thinking of running Comrades and you’ve got kids, know that you’re going to be condemning your children to run this crazy race as well, because it’s just the way it works I guess.

Nabila, let’s let’s jump into some of your questions. Obviously, you saying you’re a bit stressed about the qualification and that sort of thing. Lindsey, let’s bring you in here with regards to looking at Nabila’s questionnaire and where she is right now and then let’s jump into some of those questions. Particularly around the the fast and Ramadan. Nabila, you are Muslim, and there’s huge challenges for the Muslim runners or, the Muslim community that are running Comrades in 2019. And I think it’s going to be for a few years to come as well, because of way the fast for Ramadan falls. But Lindsey, before we get to that, I’m jumping ahead of myself, give us some insight as to what you see on a Nabila’s questionnaire that we send out for these calls.

Lindsey’s initial insights

LINDSEY PARRY:  Nabila is one of the very active members in the forum, so I have been, essentially talking her through this for a couple of months now. And when she actually joined the forum, and there was an injury and the thoughts of actually throwing in the towel. So really what we’ve been doing is managing, she has a chronic injury – it’s a gluteal tendinosis – which the physio is treating and we got the go ahead to train and have got to train within certain limitations, and it’s been going fairly well. But the concern was always are we going to run out of time, and because of the nature of the injury, there really wasn’t or isn’t any way of rushing this, we really just had to give it the most amount of time that we can.

And then you know, Loskop was essentially chosen also because of Ramadan, you know, we could have tried to leave qualifying a little bit later. And, there will be one – sorry we’re getting a little bit into Nabila’s questions now –  the will be one more bite at the cherry, so to speak after this. But essentially, what we’ve done is we’ve built this up so that we can give Nabila the best chance of not making that injury worse, or getting reinjured, or getting a different injury. And then also taking into account you’ve got to get the qualifier in before Ramadan, otherwise she just won’t be able to do it.

So up until now, she has managed to run a marathon in the old qualifying time. But that’s nine minutes short of qualifying. And that was a couple of weeks ago. And the next bite of cherry will be on the 13th of April, which is coming up soon. And that would be to try and run the 50km in 5:49. And I think we’ve got a pretty good chance of doing that. And then of course, if that doesn’t work out, there will be one last chance on the 1st of May, which is just before Ramadan starts. Then the marathon, the ultra and a marathon will also have served as really good training for Comrades. And it is my view that she will qualify now, in the 50, and then hopefully that marathon on the first of May will then be used as that last really long training run because after that, there won’t be much opportunity.

So you know, this is one that the Coach Parry community is invested in, we are pulling for Nabila and hoping that the advice and everything that we’ve given and the work that she has put in will pay off, and we will get across – or firstly get her to the start line of Comrades and then from there get her over the finish line. So this is a little bit of a borderline case. But I’m pretty confident that we we can pull this off.

BRAD BROWN:  Nabila, how does that make you feel like hearing hearing the coach actually say that? Obviously you’ve interacted in the forums with us, but hearing it from the horse’s mouth so to speak?

NABILA MULLA:  Yeah, it just puts more pressure on me to get it. Because now Lindsey says it he thinks it’s achievable so now it has to be achievable. And now there’s no two ways about it. But yeah, I mean, I’ve really interacted with Lindsey a lot on the forum. And I appreciate all the time. I know every time I write a post I apologize at the end. But it’s just that he gives such good insights, knowing the full story so you’d rather give the full picture. And so then there’s less questions and things, he can just give one answer and you happy and yeah, I really appreciate all the help that I’m getting from the forum.

Training during Ramadan

BRAD BROWN:  No, there’s definitely no need to apologize. The more context Lindsey has and the rest of the coaches, like you say the easier it is for them to give you answers that are more specific to you. So never apologize, more info is better than no info. So that’s where we’re at. But let’s get into some of your questions and particularly your major concerns around training around Ramadan, which I mean for our listeners who aren’t Muslim, it starts I think you said on the 6h of May, and the fast will end on the 4th of June. And it essentially means no eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, which does pose serious challenges as a runner training for Comrades in this part of your training. So let’s talk a little bit about some of your concerns about Ramadan. And I’m sure you’re not the only person who is struggling with this and and let’s see if we can get those questions answered.


BRAD BROWN:  You were asking about the minimum amount of training?,

NABILA MULLA:  Okay, so I just I just want to put it out there that I was hoping to get these questions answered after I qualified. And now I’ve like put it in the universe so I hope it actually materializes. But, yeah, my primary concern was the time that there is available to train so usually while fast I can do a park run. I have done a park run, and I’ve done it 10km previously when I’m fasting, so I don’t need to drink while I’m fasting. If it’s that short of a run, up to an hour.

Where I’m concerned is that if I’m going to be running two hours in the morning, I don’t have anything to drink during that run. Even if it’s a long run, I mean, you still are sipping on something occasionally. And also just there’s nothing to eat afterwards as a recovery after the run. So how do we go about managing that? And the problem that I have is, if I was in a city like Durban there’s a very big community of Muslim runners. And so what we’d do is at night, after prayers, they all go to the beach and there’s a group run, but in Middleburg, I don’t have that kind of community to go out. So I’m not obviously going to be running outside by myself in the dark at 8pm at night. That would be great, that would be ideal, but it’s not, practical.

LINDSEY PARRY:  So I’ve got a couple of pieces of advice for you. Bearing in mind that, you know, I’m never going to be able to completely experience what you are experiencing. So, you know, a lot of it is imagining what it would be like. But there is also on the latest webinar that we did, and that got posted up on to YouTube this week, we had a dietitian on and she does give some tips how to or when this time of day is to train. Which essentially is the morning, and a few hints. Also go and have a listen to that. But for me, the key thing here, is that you can’t do the long runs, because nevermind not been able to take in any fluids during the long run. You can’t take any fluids for the rest of the day. You can’t take any food for the rest of the day. So you really can’t replenish. And a month is quite a long time. If we were talking a week, you know, yes, maybe you can really suffer for a week but over a month, I think you’d start to really get sick or injured for sure.

So the idea for me then is during that month, and it’s not the worst timing in the world in terms of Comrades, but if you do qualify now at Loskop that also gives us another added advantage if we don’t need to do the marathon on the first of May. Because then what we would do is on the 5th of May literally just before Ramadan starts, is we would do another long run of around 50 kilometers. Then when you go into it, it’s too early for the taper but, and we won’t taper, but what we’ll do is we’ll just do much shorter and more regular runs.

So we don’t even try and get to the same sort of level of kilometers. That’s also not necessary but really what we want to just try and do is maintain all of hard work that you’ve done up until that point and so for me 45 minutes to an hour so I’d alternate so that, I think in hour is the upper limit. And if we had to do an hour every day I think that will also start to become problematic, but if we do like; and I’m just giving an example: if we did an hour Monday and 45 minutes on Tuesday, rest Wednesday, an hour on Thursday, 45 minutes on Friday, one hour on Saturday and rest Sunday. You just keep that consistency. There is no single day that places too much strain. There’s three times an hour, or maybe we do it three times 45 minutes. Those are the kind of things you’ll have to feel out and just, you know, how thirsty it makes you and how difficult it makes.

But if we look at that sort of routine where we looking at four to five days each week just getting in that little bit of exercise then you should be able to maintain pretty decent level all the way through there and not not lose much. And then of course they wouldn’t be a taper, we would literally do that routine almost all the way through to the Wednesday before Comrades. Then really freshen you up. But that’s really how I would tackle it. You would have broken fast with a good meal in the evening, and then in the morning and you can fuel your exercise by having eaten before that exercise.

Obviously, do your exercise and, you know, again moderate easy 45 to 60 minutes and then we can we can carry on discussing depending on just how much it does or doesn’t take out of you as we go into Comrades. But that’s the most sensible way of doing it. And I think the guys in Durban are really lucky is probably also a strong Muslim community in Cape Town that can do a very similar thing where they can break, they can have a small breaking of the fast, head down and do a good bit of exercise, come back and break fast properly and then that will actually mean that they can train fairly normally. Obviously there’s some time constraints now training at night and how long you can train. But yeah, they will be able to train a little bit more normally, than you can.

NABILA MULLA:  Okay, good. And I know that sounds achievable. But we going to be just running; just correct me if I’m wrong; at that same long run pace. So the 45 minutes runs will be all treated as long runs? That easy kind of just time on the legs.

LINDSEY PARRY:  I think so because I think anything more than that is just gonna burn too much fuel and make rest of the day really tough, and your biggest risk really, there is not your willpower. It’s whether you can stay healthy. So yeah, I would say that you are going to be on, maybe on the faster end of the slower run paces. But you just want to keep your aerobic conditioning and not lose a much of that aerobic conditioning and not get sick. So those are the things that you’re trying to balance off.

Related: Training During Ramadan: 10 Tips For Safe Running Training

What types of food should you be eating when you break fast while training?

NABILA MULLA:  Okay, cool. Just a follow up question to that, I know you spoke about it a bit, but maybe closer to the time if we could get your dietitian I don’t know, I can’t remember what’s her name, the nutrition specialist?


NABILA MULLA:  To maybe tell us what we should be eating in the evenings. Because I mean, that’s primarily, that’s your meal that’s supposed to take you through the day. So I’m not a very good breakfast eater. So I normally would just have like a slice of toast, but that’s not going to be enough to keep me going if I’m going to be running. And maybe if she can recommend like must I do a protein shake rather in the mornings or something like that.

LINDSEY PARRY:  There are some very good suggestions in that webinar that went live now but also jump into the forum and post that as a question, Nicki will definitely get back to you.


BRAD BROWN: Nabila, you were also asking just with regards to when you break the fast as well and the the food that you’re eating from a nutrition point of view? And is it enough to sustain you in this training, because you had concerns, obviously, with regards to fatty and fried sort of foods. Tell me more about that and what your concerns are around it.

NABILA MULLA:  So in Ramadan, we have a problem. I can tell you most of the people who fast will tell you that, that we break fast with very unhealthy food. So like it will be samosas and like chicken pastries and mini subs, and there’s a lot of finger food but a lot of fatty, oily stuff.  I just want you to know how, I mean, I think that that would obviously need to change especially since we’re going to be running in the fast. And obviously I can ask Nikki closer to the time if I qualify and that, how to amend that appropriately, it’s very difficult. When you fast you just want to eat, like if you’ve been craving samosas the whole day, then that’s what you want to eat. It’s going to take discipline.  

LINDSEY PARRY:  I think high protein and high fat foods are actually, will be good through this period. So again, you know we can ask Nikki and get her opinion but, because of the fasting you are going to go, definitely going to go into ketosis during Ramadan. And I think if you try and focus too much on high carb or carb rich meals, and especially high carb rich meals that don’t have enough protein and fat, then you will, you won’t go into or you’ll keep coming out of ketosis. And then it will be much harder for you every day’s fast you’ll go through that same very hungry period. Whereas you know, if you fast continuously, your body is quite good at pushing you into ketosis and eating protein, and high fat foods will help you stay in ketosis which will make your daily routine of not eating much easier.

So I think it’s possibly, you might want to look at exactly what types of proteins and what types of fats that you do break fast with. And then that might make your task a little harder in terms of what the rest of the family is going to be eating. But with that sort of focus on rather saying ‘ok I’m going to focus on more healthier proteins and healthier fats’, and that doesn’t necessarily mean vegetable fats, but it does mean less oils and that sort of thing. Actual animal fats, and butter type fats and those sort of things. Those are actually going to provide good energy and good sustainable energy. And so yeah, I don’t really have too much of a problem with the high protein fat content of your diet here. And then, obviously, some carbohydrates to compliment your training stuff. But if there isn’t enough fat and protein then those carbohydrates are actually just going to end up making you hungry.

BRAD BROWN:  Nabila, does that allay some of your fears around the fast and Ramadan and training for Comrades? I hope that helps?

NABILA MULLA:  It does, particularly about the running. I was just worried that because we not getting to the long runs that it would be a big problem. But the way Lindsey’s explained it, and it was my intention to do one long run the 4th/5th of May. So that has made me feel a bit better. Obviously the [inaudible] I’m gonna have to just work on a bit but as I said, closer to the time and if I managed to qualify at Loskop, then I will pose that question to Nicki.

Implementing and altering the run-walk strategy

BRAD BROWN:  Perfect. Let’s talk about the qualification at Loskop. You had a question about the run walk strategy that you wanted to ask as well. Tell me a little bit about the thinking there and what you want to know.

NABILA MULLA:  Okay, so I’m Lindsey knows this. But when I did the Standardton marathon, I mean, I was very hesitant, but the physio had recommended that I do nine minutes of walking, one minute running. And I literally implemented this from the very first nine minutes. I mean, everyone around you is like, off. And after nine minutes, I decided to take my walk. And people are like looking at you as if you’re crazy. But it really worked. And I mean, the second half of the race, I was lapping people just because my legs felt so fresh. I told Lindsey this, and it felt awesome.

So I wanted to try the same kind of strategy for Loskop. But I just felt that the one minute long walk was a bit too long, especially since my average case needs to be able to quicker at Loskop. So my question essentially is that if I have to take a walk break, say every nine minutes or every 10 minutes – how short can that walk break be, but without losing the effectiveness of having the run/walk break? If that makes, does that make sense?

LINDSEY PARRY:  Yeah, so I think because you are walking so often, every nine minutes essentially, 30 seconds will be absolutely fine. So I think, I’m fairly certain 30 seconds will give you enough of a break. But I also just wanted to allay your fears ever so slightly that you don’t, you don’t have to run at a faster pace over the 55 k’s, than you did on the marathon. You can actually afford to be slightly slower per kilometer, but that’s just an aside to put your mind at ease. But definitely a nine minute 30 second ratio will work really well. And that in itself will actually improve your pace quite a lot anyway.

And in the second half of Loskop, except for that the two nasty little climbs right near the end, the second half of last hope is much easier than the first half. So when you get to that period, it’s not a question of pushing yourself. So I mean, you don’t want to be tearing down those hills to put time in the bank. But you do want to use those sections, and you will run faster because you’re going down hill. And that will, using this nine minute 30 second or nine minute one ratio will also then allow you to save your legs enough so that if you are quite tight on qualifying, you will be able to dig deep and push and run most of those hills. That’s kind of the overall principle, but yes, I think 10 seconds is too short – in your in your question. But I think 30 and uncertainty 40 seconds will definitely be enough. So start out with 30 seconds, 9 minutes 30 seconds. And you know, you’ll feel if that’s too short, and you can just tweak it up and make it a bit longer.

NABILA MULLA:  That would help a lot. I mean, also it’s like, psychologically, I think it put me in a good place. And now that you know that something has worked. I want to just try it out again. And hopefully it will have the same result.

BRAD BROWN:  When my dad was running it, and I’m sure it was the same with your dad as well, back in the day, walking was a sign of weakness. Like, you don’t walk because like, why do people walk, it’s because you’re tired. But like Lindsey said, it saves your legs for longer. And it’s almost to get out of that way of thinking once it works for you – you can’t go back. It’s like this works, you get you get the timing strategy that works for you. And all of a sudden you’re A for away.

And it’s the same thing with training aerobically as opposed to anaerobically. Once the penny drops, and you figured out that it works, it’s so hard to go back, because it just works. And that’s exactly what it is. So I’m glad that you’ve sort of got the full buy-in for yourself. And now it’s a case of just finding that timing that works for you. And that’s the easy bit, once your mind has figured out that this works, the rest just falls into place. So I’m sure you’re going to hit it out of the park at Loskop. Have you got any other questions that you want to bounce off Lindsey while we’ve got you?

Related: Comrades Marathon: Run/Walk Strategies for Bronze, Silver, & Vic Clapham Medals

What to do if you get very hungry when running

NABILA MULLA:  I had two other questions. But for me the most, the most relevant to myself, I just want to pitch this one, is that I get very hungry, when I run. And I’m not a big person and not a person with a very healthy appetite but, on my runs, I don’t know what it is. Even if I eat something in the morning, and I know people who run without a good breakfast and are still fine. But I mean, even if I’m just going for an hour and a half run, I have an energy bar with me. I just wanted to know, is there something that you can do to help this? I’m scared of having high fiber foods because I don’t want to upset my stomach. I’m out of options basically. Over the years, I’ve tried so many different things, and I’m always hungry.

LINDSEY PARRY:  In the shorter races that’s not too much of a problem, because it’s quite, it’s not easy to satisfy that because you’re not satisfying it. But it’s easy to ensure that that hunger isn’t going to mean you’re going to run out of energy because there’s always stuff on the tables and energy drinking and you can keep going. But on the longer stuff, it can become problematic because you know, to sustain that level of eating for that length of time can be quite difficult.

So what you can try and do is to have a high protein meal replacement. Those are often you can, you can, not often: they are in a liquid formats, so they actually quite easy to consume, especially for you doesn’t really like to have a breakfast; a slice of toast is all that you normally go for. Maybe a slice of toast with a high protein meal replacement will definitely help.

Then on the longer, you know, if we do end up going to Comrades, I would have somebody on the side of the road and at about 30 k’s and then again at about 60 k’s with that same high protein meal replacement. So that it does just give you that much more feeling of fullness, and just can curb that constant need for food all the time on the side of the road. Especially because the craving itself, it might be irritating, but the craving itself isn’t a major hassle. The hassle will come if you get to 60 k’s, and you’re hungry but also just really can’t stand putting another gel or another jelly bean or another sweet or another banana in your mouth. That’s where the problem will come. But like I said the high protein meal replacement should be able to help that ,and and should be quite easy on your stomach.

NABILA MULLA:  Good, I will try that out in my long runs.

BRAD BROWN:  Nabila. It’s been amazing. I want to wish you luck for Loskop, fingers crossed. We are sending tons of positive vibes. And if the coach is confident, then I’m confident. So you’re going to do it. We just got to speak it into existence. You’ve done the hard work, and it’s going to happen.

NABILA MULLA:  Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I’ll let you guys know what happens. And yeah, I’m also holding fingers and hoping that it goes well.

Nabila’s thoughts on the Coach Parry Training Club

BRAD BROWN:  Nabila, we love having you around in the forums. You are one of the most active people in there. Your experience on the Coach Parry training club, what do you love about it? What do you get out of it?

NABILA MULLA:  So, if I’m bored at work, I literally can sit on the forum and just read people’s questions and Lindsey’s answers. I mean, my family makes so much fun of me because they say I am Coach Parry because I’m always telling my Coach Parry has to say. So yeah, I just love reading the forums, and I try to limit my questions to things that haven’t been asked before. So I like, I always like searching for, so that’s why I’ve never asked nutrition question before because I just like to read responses to other people’s questions. You try and avoid the common questions. You don’t want to trouble Lindsey all the time with all of these things. But that’s what I love the most, and it’s just a nice community of runners. I saw another girl posting about Ramadan. And we sort of contacted via private messaging, and we’ve been chatting on WhatsApp also. So it’s just a nice platform to meet other people and share with bodies.

BRAD BROWN:  I love it. That is amazing. We love having you part of the community. We were joking last week. It was last week or the week before where my wife always says we need to get T-shirts made that is ‘Lindsey says’ and I think you might be one of the people who are first in line to get one.

NABILA MULLA:  Yeah, no, definitely I would. Thank you I really appreciate it.

BRAD BROWN:  I love it.  No, we love having you around. Thank you, Nabila. Awesome, best of luck and we’ll chat in the forums.

NABILA MULLA:  Thanks, guys. Thank you very much.

LINDSEY PARRY:  Cheers Nabila


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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