South Africa’s running legend Blanche Moila would like to see more girls and elderly women participate in sport.
She has appealed to young girls to concentrate on achieving more sporting goals before they even start thinking of making babies.
The 62-year-old roadrunner, who is also a motivational speaker who uses her sporting achievements to encourage young people to chase their dreams, insists on the importance of avoiding social ills, such as drug abuse and teenage pregnancy.
“With a high level of teenage pregnancy in our schools, I’ve been speaking about young women achieving their goals before they think of making babies,” she said. “That is my campaign. I call it Achieve Before you Conceive.”
Moila is also a full-time psychiatric nurse.
“I try to motivate more women to participate in sport. I have done a lot of motivational talks in and around Durban. I visit schools and speak to pupils and teachers,” she says.
With help from her colleagues, she has reached out to young people and says this helps keep her motivated to continue running at her age.
“It motivates me because a lot of people do look up to me and I use sport as a vehicle to make a difference in their lives.”
Her love for running started in the early 1980s. In 1984, she was awarded Springbok colours (which were then South African national colours).
These colours were historically awarded to teams and individuals representing South Africa in international competition of any sport.
She won more than 50 KwaZulu-Natal road, cross-country and track races in the 1 500m, 3 000m, 5 000m and 10 000m distances.
She has held national titles and records over various distances, and has received many awards for her achievements as an athlete.
Her remarkable journey started when Dr Shorty Moolla was preparing for the Comrades Marathon and needed a training partner.
This year, Moila completed her 14th Comrades Marathon, running to raise money for NGO charities such as the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust.
A few years ago, she ran for the Starfish Greathearts Foundation.
She has participated in more than 60 Spar Women’s 10km races and she came second in the over-60 age category this year, behind Margie Saunders.
Moila, now Durban-based, was born in Sengatane in Limpopo.
“From there, I matriculated at the Cape Town Good Hope College of Education and, after completing my nursing qualification, I moved to Durban, where I started working,” she says.
She says physical exercise is just as important as education.
“Most illnesses are caused by inactivity. That’s why we keep telling even adults to keep on exercising.
"This is one of the reasons that, today, you find even elderly women playing football and exercising as they have realised that they need to keep fit to avoid illnesses.”