The Breast Running Club in The
The club was
formed by Rita Vanes in July 2002 and has now become the largest
ladies-only road running club in the area. It accommodates women from
absolute beginners up to seasoned marathon runners and ages range from 16
to over 60.
The clubs success is
founded upon the attraction and nurturing of absolute beginners by
building their confidence and developing them into knowledgeable,
confident and proficient runners.
Every April, Rita runs a
beginners course for women who have either never run before or else
haven't run for some time and within 12 weeks, they are taught all they
need to know about running safely, what shoes to buy, what clothes to wear
and what foods to eat etc while getting them to run a minimum of 3 miles.
Although many go on to do much more.
Women are joining the club
all the time and not a week goes by without someone new coming along. The
way the group is organized guarantees that whatever their standard, they
will fit in somewhere.
The women don't have to be
world beaters, there is no stress and no pressure to compete or race and
no men around to make them run faster or further than they want to. They
graduate to their own level, in their own time and make the move to go
faster or further when they’re ready
As the attached photographs
show, women use the club to meet, make friends and socialise as well as
and run in the dark or countryside, surrounded by the safety and security
of like minded people.
Rita was born in Lower Gornal near Dudley and up until her mid
thirties had done no physical exercise whatsoever and like a lot of women
at that age was a bit over weight. She had a very stressful full time
teaching job to hold down, a house to look after, meals to cook, washing
to do, children to ferry around and cats to feed etc.
She felt that she needed some time for
herself, some way of losing weight, some time to think through her
problems, to de-stress, to meet new friends and wouldn’t cost too much
It was at this point, much to her athletic
coach husband Phil’s disbelief that Rita started running even though she
had never done any sport or physical activity in her life other than carry
his sports bag.
She didn’t do too much to begin with, just
walking and jogging until eventually the walking got less and less and the
running became more and more until she felt confident enough to enter a
local fun run, which to her surprise, she thoroughly enjoyed and didn’t
After that she was well and truly hooked
and with the help of her husband Phil, who eventually accepted that she
was serious, she went on to become one of the best female roadrunners for
her age group in the Midlands, winning races and prizes whenever she
After several years of running on her own
with Phil and the men of Dudley Kingswinford Running Club where she was a
member, Rita decided that she’d got to do something to encourage other
women in to the sport. At that time, there were only about 2 or 3 other
women runners at the club.
She realised that there must be other
women in the same position that she used to be in when she first wanted to
start running but they hadn’t got the confidence or knowledge to take the
first step, let alone run with an established group of experienced male
So Rita devised her now infamous 12 week
beginners running courses, based upon her own experience.
She spread the word about what she was
going to do amongst all her friends and work colleagues, put up posters in
local libraries etc and waited to see what response she’d get and on the
first night about 15 people turned up.
From talking to the new recruits and other
women runners in general, she very quickly realised that unless she took
the time to tell beginners all the things that experienced runners take
for granted and physically show them what to do, they’d never
So Rita taught the
women how to warm-up, how to stretch, how to warm-down, what kind of shoes
to wear, what kind of bra and clothes to buy, what food to eat and when to
eat it, how to avoid injury and what to do if you get one
Throughout the course she arranged for a
physio to give a talk on sports injuries, a podiatrist to talk on
foot-care, a team of sports masseurs to have an evening of rubbing legs
and a local sports shop to sell sportswear at discount prices.
At the end of the course all the women put
on a posh frock and went out to a presentation evening where they were
presented with a medal, a certificate and a commemorative Tee-shirt
proving that they ran a minimum of 3 miles.
The news and popularity of the course soon
spread and after 5 or 6 years, Rita was regularly getting over 300 people
turn up to her courses.
Hardly anyone dropped out of the courses
and most of them went on to become full members of the running club at the
end of them; making Dudley Kingswinford’s ladies section one of the
largest in the country with over 450 members.
All this success however had a price
and what started out as a de-stressing bit of fun, eventually became a
hassle of committee meetings and political manoeuvrings within the rugby
club where she was based, so she decided to form her own ladies-only
running club and relocate to Wombourne in South Staffs in July 2002,
calling the new club “Dudley Ladies Running
Since that day, Rita has never been
happier, the club has continued to grow from strength to strength, the
Beginners Courses are as popular as ever and she is meeting a real need in
Rita say’s, “ Until you are fit it can be
hard work but because Dudley Ladies is an all women’s group, when you’re
in the crowd you can relax and just be yourself, there’s a lot of
laughing, joking, support and a real sense of achievement.”
“It has changed a lot of women’s lives
forever and when we did the “Calendar Girls” photo shoot that
brought everybody even closer together. To begin with everybody was very
enthusiastic but as the actual time of the photo shoot got closer some of
the girls got cold feet – the rest of us that saw it through got other
things even colder! – but it was great fun and it really bonded us all a
lot closer together as a group and nobody will ever forget it”
Rita goes on to say that, “ Running isn’t
like aerobics or gym work, because it allows you to spend time outdoors in
the fresh air and socialise, as well as allowing you to actually see and
measure the progress you’re making. You are mixing and talking to people
all the time, either to the person you’re running with, the person you’ve
just run past or the person running past you and when people start seeing
improvement then that spurs them on even further. In fact many of my
beginners have gone on to do the London Marathon.”
“ Running isn’t a magic off the shelf
solution to everybody’s problems but if you are prepared to put in just a
little bit of work, then the rewards are enormous and Phil will tell you,
that if I can do it then anybody can”.
information, you can see our web-site on www.dudleyladies.co.uk