Club Founder, Rita Vanes who is now over 70 years old and still running, was born in Lower Gornal near Dudley in 1948 and up until her mid-thirties had done no physical exercise whatsoever.
She had a very stressful full time teaching job, a house to look after, meals to cook, washing to do, ironing to do, children and a husband to mother and felt that she needed some time for herself, some way of losing weight, some way to de-stress and some way to meet new friends that wouldn’t cost too much money. It was at this point in 1983 that Rita started running around her local park.
She didn’t do too much to begin with, just walking and jogging until eventually she felt fit enough to enter a local fun run, called The Handsworth 10k, where to everyone’s amazement she finished 3rd Lady.
After that she was well and truly hooked and went on to become one of the best female roadrunners for her age group in the Midlands, winning races and prizes whenever she ran.
Her life was changed forever, her bottom and thighs were firmer, she was slimmer, she looked better, she felt better, she became more confident, was able to relax more, sleep better and she made loads of new friends.
Then after several years of running as the only female amongst the men of Dudley Kingswinford Running Club, Rita decided that she’d got to do something to encourage other women in to the sport.
She realised that there must be other women in the same position that she used to be in when she first started, so she devised her now infamous 10 week beginners running courses, based upon her own experiences and designed it to take women who were absolute beginners from nothing, up to and over 3 miles.
She spread the word amongst all her friends and work colleagues, put up posters in local libraries etc and on the first night about 15 people turned up.
Rita then taught them how to warm-up, how to warm down, how to stretch, what kind of shoes to wear, what kind of bra and clothes to buy, what foods to eat, when to eat it and how to avoid injury etc, while gradually building them up to run the three miles.
The news and popularity of the courses soon spread and Rita was inundated with requests from women all over the country to set up clubs in their area and she was regularly getting over 300 people turn up.
Hardly anyone dropped out and most of them went on to become full members of the running club, 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 time consuming hassle of committee meetings and political manoeuvrings within the rugby club where she was based.
So in July 2002, Rita established her own running club at Wombourne Leisure Centre and called it Dudley Ladies Running Club to carry on the good work in a completely stress-free environment.
So from those humble beginnings, Rita has introduced literally thousands of women into running and is something of a living legend in the Black Country running community.
Rita Presented with Civic Award
On Monday 22nd March 2010, club founder Rita Vanes, then aged 63, was invited to the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in order to meet the Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Pat Martin, to receive a Civic Award.
She was presented with a handcrafted engraved glass trophy and framed certificate for winning The Duncan Edwards award for sport, which is named after Dudley’s most famous footballing son who tragically died aged 21, in the 1958 Munich air disaster.
This award is given once a year for those who have achieved in any sport. They may have represented a group, borough or even the country or overcome adversity such as illness or disability to achieve a personal goal. It is also to celebrate and thank those who give their time to working behind the scenes at our local sporting clubs and groups and Rita won hands down on all those counts.
The award was the recognition for over 25 year’s participating, organising and actively encouraging women into running but as usual, Rita never told anyone about it until it appeared in the papers.
It was said during the evening that throughout the entire history of the Mayor's Civic Awards, no one had ever received so many nominations.
Rita told the Express & Star, "It feels absolutely fantastic to receive this award. I just feel very humble and am over the moon. I have been running for over 25 years and have got so much out of it that I wanted to help other women enjoy running to and I would just like to thank all those hundreds of people that voted for me"
Rita on TV and Radio
In 2012 Rita appeared on both Midlands Today and Radio WM to talk about carrying the Olympic Torch and visiting the factory where they were being made.
See her on the right or listen to her Radio interview below.
A Once In a Lifetime Day For Proud Torchbearer Rita
On Sunday 1st July 2012, Rita Vanes fulfilled nearly 40 years of involvement with running by carrying the Olympic Torch through Redditch. The then 64 year old, who has inspired literally thousands of women to take up running, said that being torchbearer was the "best moment" of her life.
She added "It was absolutely fantastic. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there and everybody was hooting and cheering. I couldn't believe that I was part of such a wonderful thing. I feel so proud and humble to have been chosen."
"I would just like to thank everyone that nominated me, I'll never be able to repay them" she said
Rita Wins Black Country Partnership Award
On Thursday 4th October 2018, Rita was presented with the prestigious “Unsung Hero” Award at the Black Country Sports & Physical Activity Awards evening which was held at Himley Hall, Dudley as a reward for all the years of hard work and dedication that she has put in encouraging literally thousands of women into running.
“It was a wonderful night with such inspiring stories, I felt very humbled to be there.
Thank you to everyone who nominated me for the award, I was so shocked, I didn’t expect that at all, there were so many more deserving people there than me.
I want to thank everyone in Dudley Ladies Running Club for making the club what it is today”.