Moila is running for the lives of others
THERE’S one thing you can be sure of when you catch up with Blanche Moila. There is always a friendly smile and an instant warmness awaiting you.
This year the Springbok “running machine”, always recognisable as she wears her distinctive white turban, is doubly excited.
This year will be her 14th Comrades Marathon and for the first time she will be competing as an ambassador for the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (Hact).
“I am hoping and praying that other runners will join with me in competing under the same banner,” she says. “When you see the incredible work staff and volunteers do to support families ravaged by this terrible disease, it is such an honour and privilege to be able to make even a small contribution.”
Moila, 61, has run more kilometres than she cares to remember.
“I just know it is something that gets into your blood. You have to run the Comrades to understand what draws you to run 89km. Every year you think: Shall I do it again?
“The answer is always yes. It’s not only about the race itself. The friendships you build up over the years are precious. BORN on January 31, 1957, in Pietersburg, Blanche Moila was the first black female runner to be awarded Springbok colours. She has represented South Africa internationally and has completed seven Comrades Marathons, securing silver That’s why I say togetherness and true caring is what we need to take this country forward.”
Among those ties were close friendships with running champions such as Sonja Laxton, Zola Budd, Colleen de Reuck and Grace de Oliveira,
The bug bit, she says, when she was a young nursing student competing for the first time in a sports day.
“I’d never done much running, but I soon realised that it was something I really wanted to do.”
She recalls that the first long-distance runs she attempted were painful.
“I was so stiff. My body was sore. A running colleague said it would get better. Thank goodness he was right.”
For Moila, a senior psychiatric nurse at Durban’s King George V Hospital, it’s always been a matter of juggling work and running commitments.
“If you are dedicated, you can do it,” she says with a winning smile.
“It’s about multi-tasking. I think women particularly are very good at that.”
At the height of her career, she was running an average of 120km a week. Now it is more like 90km a week, often starting at 4.30am to fit in with her nursing shifts.
These days Moila, a member in 2005.
She has competed in cross country, 1500m, 3 000m, 5000m 10 000m, marathons and ultra-marathons. She received the Presidential Sports Award for Lifetime Sports Achievement (2001) and the Shoprite Checkers Woman of the Year Award in 2002.
She has represented South of the Savages Athletic Club, devotes her time to the development and training of young female athletes.
“Unfortunately, there is a lot of prejudice still about young girls taking up running,” she says, “which is a shame because there is so much talent out there. What I am trying to do is change old perceptions.
“There is a belief still that running will slow the development of female reproductive organs. My mission is to chat to as many children as possible, to explain that running and sport are good for the body.
“It’s taking time, but I think we are getting somewhere.”
As a popular motivational speaker, she also supports an anti-drug awareness campaign. “I say to kids that if they want to experience a natural healthy high, they must try running. My dream in life is to see young people achieving a lot more than I have.”
Meanwhile, she says, she will continue running – “for as long as God lets me”.
Her greatest ambition is to see the creation of a sports academy for women, especially for girls from rural areas.
“How amazing would it be to see South African female road runners outrunning the Kenyans and the Ethiopians and Zimbabweans. Africa in the International Women’s Road Relay events in Japan and South Korea, and in 1993 she represented South Africa at the World Marathon Championships in Spain.
Moila serves on the interim board of Athletics South Africa and often acts as team manager accompanying athletics teams abroad.
Athlete Blanche Moila’s distinctive white turban makes her easy to recognise. She is representing the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust in this year’s Comrades Marathon.