SA Running Icon Blanche Moila Reflects on her Journey in Sport

Hi South Africa! With so much excitement currently in Mzansi about women’s sport on the up and up all across all codes of Sports, I am taking a moment to reflect briefly on my journey in sport.

We have come a long way

A few decades ago, there were few women from diverse communities participating in running as a sport. Patriarchy and obsolete myths that surrounded women in competitive sports inhibited most from participating. I did not choose running as a sport, running chose me. 

It was by sheer chance that I joined the running fraternity in 1981. At my school there was very little encouragement for girls to excel at sports.

During my Psychiatric Nursing block, l participated in sports day for Patients and staff members. Dr Shorty Moolla noticed my economical running style and invited me to join him on some training runs. He was preparing for Comrades. 

Well that is when my journey began

Needless to say, initially l found the increased distance and regime a huge challenge, but with patience and consistency, l started really enjoying the running scene. l felt good about myself, my confidence increased, and I had a healthy concept of who l was and what l could achieve.

I ran my 1st 10km in 39min, and progressively improved to 33m58. My forte was cross country. I just loved the different terrains. 

Awarded my 1st Springbok colours in 1984

Sheer joy. I used this platform with responsibility to motivate more women from diverse communities to take up running regularly to enhance a healthy lifestyle.

I held a few national road titles and records at some stage in the 80’s, several provincial records and titles on track, cross country and road. 

Running is a microcosm of life one experiences – the drama of every day existence so evident in modern society. Yes, my journey had its own challenges because of the societal norms that prevailed in the 80’s and early 90’s.

To use an old cliche: “When given lemons, make lemonade!” 

In a few instances l used my legs to make tasty lemonade when verbal lemons were thrown at me, but granted, those were few and far between. 

To date, l have made great lasting friendships with so many, from all communities. Humbled to say the least by the support I received from many. 

I did not realize the impact my running competitively had on the leadership in Robben Island until I met Minister Jeff Radebe, at the launch of Durban’s bid to host the Olympics. 

He told me how they were all were rooting for me, and gave them hope that change was imminent.

These sentiments were also reiterated by former democratic presidents, Mr Thabo Mbeki and Mr Nelson Mandela, in 2004 when l was awarded the State President’s award, which was humbling indeed!

Currently, I am still enjoying my running as a grand-master 

I love the distance running. l have been in this space so long and have made it my responsibility to mentor youth especially the girl child – driving the “Achieve before you Conceive” campaign encouraging youth to play sport.

Running has a plethora of physical and mental benefits. Keep pushing through the glass ceiling!

Eternally grateful to Nike who came on board as my Apparel sponsors when others said l did not “fit the profile”, even when I was breaking records.


Photo 1 caption: Blanche Moila en route to finishing second in the 1981 21-km half-marathon behind Colleen Colleen de Reuck in her first year of running, one year before winning the title. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 caption: In 2018, Blanche Moila was honoured with the bestowal of a Ministerial Recognition Award by South Africa’s first woman Minister of Sports, Tokozile Xasa, on Saturday, 31 August, 2018. Photo: Supplied

Photo 3 caption: Blanche Moila captured smiling proudly as she receives the State Presidents’ Award for Lifetime Achievements from President Thabo Mbeki, with Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour in attendance, in 2001. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 caption: The Springbok colours awarded to Moila in 1984 made her a first among black South African woman to achieve the distinction of representing the country. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 caption: A youthful Blance Moila pictured participating in her favourite event – running in Springbok colours at the 1985 Cross-Country Championships. Photo: Supplied


With editing by gsport


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Launched in 2006, gsport exists to enhance the commercial prospects of our women athletes, and other women in sport, by telling the inspiring story of SA women in sport. Thank you for your contribution!

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