The Breast Running Club in The Midlands

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 money.

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 come last.

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 ran.

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 runners.

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 know.

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 etc.

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 Club.”

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 the community.

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”. 

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For More Information Contact:

Dudley Ladies Running Club
c/o Wombourne Leisure Centre
Tel 01902 898202 or

Site Last modified: October 19, 2017