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Rita Vanes

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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

Click on the camera icon on the right for more images



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Rita Selected To Carry Olympic Torch

Dudley Ladies' Group Leader Rita Vanes has been selected to be an Olympic Torch Bearer at the 2012 Olympics

Rita was among the 8,000 inspirational people selected to carry the Olympic flame as it makes its way through the region during its 70-day trip to London.

She was nominated for the honour by members of the club, which she founded in 2002 and will join with others to complete a section of the route between Birmingham and Coventry on Sunday July 1.

The 64-year-old special needs teacher at Halesowen’s Halesbury School said: “I’m really, really pleased as it will be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement and something I’ll always treasure.

The grandmother of three, from Wordsley, who didn't take up running until she was 35, went on to become one of the best runners in her age group in the country and quickly grew to love the sport. She has taken part in hundreds of races for several clubs in the area before deciding to help other women interested in running and keeping fit by starting up her own club nine years ago.

Since then Rita has helped literally thousands of women take their first steps on the running ladder through the Beginners Running Courses that she organises every April.

Now Dudley Ladies Running Club meets three times a week at Wombourne Leisure Centre, which she describes as “one big family”.

Everybody is agreed that the honour could not have gone to a more deserving person.


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Rita on the Radio

On Wednesday 18th April Rita was interviewed on The Joanne Malin Show at Radio WM.

Click on the Radio WM logo on the left to hear what she had to say



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Rita Vanes

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"


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The Club Founder and how she "done" it.......


Rita Vanes was born in Lower Gornal near Dudley in 1948, went to St Chads Primary School in Sedgley, Bishop Milner School in Dudley, Dudley Technical College and then Dudley Teachers Training College before becoming a Primary School Teacher and marrying her now husband Phil in 1972.

Up until her mid thirties, Rita had done no physical exercise whatsoever and like a lot of women at that age, she 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 and scorn, 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 was fit 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 Phil, who by this time had 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.

Her life was changed forever, her bottom and thighs were firmer, she was slimmer, she looked better, she felt better, she became more confident and was able to relax more, she slept better and made loads of friends from all walks of life around the midlands.

After several years of running as the only female with Phil and the men of Dudley Kingswinford Running Club, 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 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 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 someone takes 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 without stopping, coughing or wheezing.

The news and popularity of the course soon spread and after 5 or 6 years of continual snowballing, 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, 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. She called the 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 making a whole new set of friends and meeting a real need in the community.

Rita say’s, “ Until you are fit it’s hard work, there’s a lot of sweating, swearing and gritting of teeth but, because Dudley Ladies is an all women’s group, when you’re in the pack there’s also a lot of laughing, joking, support and a real sense of achievement. It has changed a lot of women’s lives forever.”

“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”

She goes on to say that, “ Running isn’t like aerobics or gym work, because running 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 follow the guide and 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”. Rita Vanes

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For More Information Contact:

Dudley Ladies Running Club
c/o Wombourne Leisure Centre
Tel 01902 898202 or
Email: rita@dudleyladies.co.uk

Site Last modified: January 29, 2016