About Us

Meet the FFA’s World of Running Coaching Team

Marcél Viljoen – Founder

Marcél founded FFA almost twenty years ago. He began running in the early 1980s and has achieved podium finishes in races on three continents. Marcél attributes his own impressive running achievements to determination and hard work, and these qualities have served him well as a running coach.

Marcél has a passion for helping runners bring out the best in themselves and a knack for motivating runners and identifying areas where they are falling short – and helping to correct these. His coaching experience ranges from primary and high school athletes, through beginners and experienced runners, to age group performers and elite athletes.

Fitness From Africa was born when runners of all abilities started knocking on Marcél’s door, looking to benefit from his experience and expertise and improve their running performance. Over the last twenty years, Marcél has been able to help many of them go beyond what they ever thought possible.

Brendan McBirnie

Brendan is a honours sports scientist with an eye for detail and a winning attitude on track, road and trails. After excelling at high school track and cross country, he shifted his focus to trails and the road less travelled.

Brendan has helped numerous runners achieve results and has a special interest in strength training, rehab and injury prevention.

Nicole Fuller

Nicole is a very experienced runner and boasts some impressive track and road PB’s. She has achieved national colours for track, road and cross country and represented South Africa at numerous global races and meets.

Nicole describes herself as a life-long learner and loves to study new running and coaching strategies, new techniques and philosophies.

Marielle Muller

Marielle has been a runner for as long as she can remember.  She has vast experience, with her running career having started at an early age when she broke records at Primary School.

Marielle’s dream was always to run Comrades, South Africa’s legendary ultra-marathon. Despite claiming she would only ever run it once, she received her back-to-back medal in 2017. This achievement illustrates Marielle’s passion for anything running-related. She has a special interest in assisting beginners, female runners or anyone that shares her passion for running.

Anne Bester

Having represented South Africa at ice hockey, Anne hung up her skates and achieved even more on the road. She has completed 11 Comrades marathons, including a top-30 finish. Anne credits her first marathon with changing her whole approach to life’s challenges.

Anne’s love for running has brought numerous expats into the FFA training program during her 18 years living overseas, but her proudest achievement is organising a sports day in Uganda for home-schooled children.

Gary Dunn

Gary is a qualified personal trainer on a mission. He is quick to share his love for running, and he has an expansive understanding of the body’s strength and conditioning needs. He tests every theory he studies, using himself as a guinea pig as he runs the roads and trails around Johannesburg.

Gary is an educator at heart, with a degree in sport science. He particularly enjoys helping runners overcome their obstacles.


Every runner in the human race is different!

We are all individuals in terms of our background, genetics, motivation, lifestyle and time constraints. What works for your friends won’t necessarily work for you. Elite runners take years of conditioning to get where they are and trying to simply ‘copy and paste’ their training programmes is risky – too much too soon, or training without proper direction, will increase your risk of injury.

If you’re training hard, but not achieving the results you want, then you probably have a few questions:

  • Why am I not seeing the improvements I want and deserve?
  • Why can’t I find the right tools and resources to help me reach my true potential?
  • Why do I always feel like there is something missing?
  • What do the runners at the next level know that I don’t?

There’s a difference between doing the right thing, and thinking you’re doing the right thing. There are basic principles that will help most people to get off the couch, build basic fitness levels, and achieve reasonable success at distances up to a standard marathon.

If that sounds like you, then one of our standard training programmes would work very well for you. They’re powered by the same training principles, tips and guidelines as our bespoke coaching options.

If you want to push yourself further, and know just how fast you can be 10, 21 and 42km then you need one of our customised online training programmes. Benefit from having your personal coach on call to help you make the most of your training time. A coach who understands your training history, level of fitness, lifestyle, preferences and goals.

A personal coach is more than an advisor. He or she knows how a runner’s body works and what it responds to. Based on your assessments or tune-up events your coach will know which parts of your program to adjust. Your coach will help you learn from the really tough runs, taper before your goal event, and celebrate your success!

What are you waiting for?

Our Online Coaching Packages


Every runner has a story to tell

Over the past two and a half decades we’ve had the privilege of helping runner improve their fitness and results, and write their own running stories. Every race, for every runner, becomes a story. Here are just a few of them to inspire you in your own running.

Lee Hollington

Marcél’s response was: “I can help you to improve, I can help you achieve your goals, but just how dedicated are you, because if you don’t commit to what’s ahead, we won’t achieve anything”. I was committed, prepared to put in all my effort. Read Lee’s full story

Marielle Muller

Quitting was not an option, I looked at my pace chart and realised I won’t make my expected time of 9.5 hours, but I will finish, even if I walk the rest of the way.  Read Marielle’s full story

Philip Lidgey

It takes perfect preparation for me to run 87km within 11 hours. 100% focus is the bare-necessity. Read Philip’s full story

Stanley Du Pont

Set realistic goals, believe in them and work towards them. Be flexible – there will be “detours”. Read Stanley’s full story

Hetty Johnson

Coming in at the end with family and friends cheering was quite something!  Read Hetty’s full story

Fiona Coward

Enter Marcél from Fitness from Africa. Once we had confirmed our entry in January, we went in search of some help and Marcél provided it in spades. Read Fiona’s full story

Gigi Young

Throughout the week while in South Africa I was overwhelmed with the support and warmness shown by other South African runners and supporters. Read Gigi’s full story

John Neale

The preparation was nearly as agonising as those final few days before the race not knowing if I would be able to run. What happened on race day was just completely unexpected though!! Read John’s full story