This is Dudley Ladies
Dudley Ladies Running Club's growing fame
again led to a big feature being written about them in the Black
Country, Dudley, Stourbridge and Halesowen group of newspapers.
Mark Butt, who is the groups Sports Editor, visited the club just
before Christmas and interviewed Rita, Mary, Pat, and Louise
together with several other girls and below is an abridged version
of the resulting article that appeared under the title "Fitness and
Fitness and friendship
"The fame of the successful Dudley Ladies Running Club is
spreading far and wide - along with members from across the
Midlands, they can now count a New Zealander among their ranks.
But it is not surprising for a group which in under four years
has grown to include 650 willing female runners of all ages,
abilities, shapes and sizes.
It is the brainchild of Rita Vanes with the help of husband Phil
who believe women can thrive and achieve their goals in a
female-only environment away from the competitive males of the
Since it was set up in 2002 it has become the largest women-only
road running club in the Midlands.
Rita said: "It's not a club for poseurs, there's no little
cliques or cattiness, they don't have to fit in to a size eight
leotard, they aren't pressurised and once committed nobody ever
"When they see how we organise the group, the girls understand
how simple and effective it is.
"No one is ever left on their own or feels as if they're holding
everybody up or finishing last.
"No one loses confidence and they always have someone to run with
and progress at their own rate.
"People in the club will say that they don't have to be world
beaters, there is no stress and no pressure to compete or race if
they don't want to and there are no men around to make any of the
less confident women feel self conscious or run faster or further
than they want to.
"Women use the club to meet, make friends, socialise and run in
the dark or countryside together, surrounded by the safety and
security of like minded people."
The social aspect to the club is not played down: members enjoy a
drink at the pub after club nights on Tuesdays or Thursdays among
other organised events, making DLRC `much more than just a running
club' according to Rita.
The ladies also hit the headlines in eye-catching fashion last
year when they stripped off for their own Calendar Girls-style
photo-shoot in aid of a breast cancer charity.
But it is the club's main aim of promoting health and fitness
which first attracts most members to come along and have a go at
Mary Lavender used to run for the county as a teenager but then
did nothing until she was 50.
She joined the club with her daughter who was trying to improve
her fitness ahead of joining the police force.
Mary said: "There is no pressure, there are no males in the club
and we are not pressured into competing.
"My most challenging run was in Wolverhampton - I had not been
with the club long and it was very rewarding to complete it in what
was apparently quite a good time.
"To people interested in joining I would say come and see the
club and feel the atmosphere.
"It is something that you cannot explain, they have to see how we
gel as a team.
"It's surprising what the ladies achieve without knowing. They
say they cannot keep up but when we finish I can tell them they have
just run six miles."
All abilities are catered for and beginners normally start on the
appropriately titled beginners' course, which builds up fitness over
a tailored 12-week programme.
The target at the end is to run three miles, an aim which Pat
Powell said almost made her `keel over' when she first heard it.
But she added: "I've struggled on and it's the enjoyment and
friendship which keeps you coming and keeps you fit."
Sue Pearson also completed the course in April this year.
She said: "We started off running round a football pitch. First
you run one side, then walk the next and we gradually built up to
running all the way round.
"Then we ventured out on to the Wombourne to Kingswinford railway
track - I thought I would never complete the target, but I managed
and since then I have improved further."
Sue Freeman and Louise Hipkiss have both been involved for more
than three years during which time Sue has progressed from the
beginners' course up to running the Edinburgh marathon in just over
She said: "Everybody is so friendly. You can all start off
together at night, you are never on your own and there is always
someone at your level.
"A group of us got together for Edinburgh and it makes it so much
easier when there are several of you."
Louise added: "I was overweight and in my 40s and not a very good
candidate for running
Now I have been running for three or four years and it is Rita
and Phil's positivity which keeps you coming."
Anyone interested in joining the ladies can email Rita on firstname.lastname@example.org
or come along to one of the club nights.
They set off from Wombourne Leisure Centre at 7pm on Tuesdays and