THE future of a network which looks after women runners across South Devon has been thrown into confusion.
Uncertainty hangs over the Women's Running Network after its founder confirmed the business was no longer operating.
The all-female running movement, founded in 1998 in Devon by Pauline Beare and Peggy Wiseman, has an estimated 4,000 members in groups all over England and Wales.
It has six groups operating in Torbay and Teignbridge.
Ms Beare confirmed the business had ceased trading.
The news has shocked some local members and South Devon groups that form part of the network say they plan to carry on but under new auspices.
It is understood a network committee meeting was held to discuss the situation and members were advised what may happen.
It is believed the network ceased operating the following day.
Ms Beare confirmed Women's Running Network Ltd had ceased operating but said the club aspect will continue.
She said: "I can't say anything to you because negotiations are going on.
"The club side will carry on in some form but it is the business side which has gone."
Marika Dowse runs the Newton Abbot group which meets at 7pm on Tuesday and Thursdays at Newton Abbot Squash and Tennis Club in Marsh Road.
She said: "Pauline and Peggy are the reason why a lot of women became interested in running. A lot of people are very fond of them because they have been inspirational. But there are a lot of people who are frustrated because nothing official has been said about what is happening.
"In terms of the Newton Abbot group, we are still going so our women should carry on coming to our evening meets as usual.
"It may be that, when I know what is happening, I run the group as a subsidiary from my own gym business, Pink Gym."
Sherrie Watson, the group leader for the Torquay branch which meets in Chelston on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, said she was unaware of the situation, adding: "We will carry on. Our insurance comes through Run in England which is England Athletics so there is absolutely no reason why we could not continue."
One of the first all-women groups to be established as part of the network was in Torquay and ran from the Runner's Guide specialist running shop in Chelston. The group later broke free from the network and is now run as its own enterprise.
Adam and Luke Carswell run the shop. Adam said: "I had heard the business had possibly gone, but nothing official has been said."
Last year it was announced the network had teamed up with a project called 'Run in England' with the aim of getting 50,000 people active by 2013, as part of the Olympic legacy.
An announcement was recently posted on the internet which said the Women's Running Network was no longer delivering the Run in England programme for England Athletics.