Manchester Road Runners is a thriving, completely not-for-profit and volunteer-organised club, affiliated to England Athletics. Formed just six years ago in 2013, they raise funds through putting on their own events, bake sales, and sponsorship, which they duly reinvest straight back into the club, as well as donating to charities.

The club has also inspired people to start up other clubs around the country, with clubs now set up in Edinburgh, Brighton and elsewhere with their help. We spoke to Chris Rider, MRR president, about the club and how they’ve achieved so much in such a short space of time.

KUDOS: Can you tell us a bit about how long the club has been in existence, how it got off the ground etc?

Chris: We started in 2013. A couple of friends decided to meet at the pub and go for a run, and I was invited along. After the run we sat outside the pub in the sun with a beer and decided we should do it every week. Posts were put out on Twitter and Facebook seeing if anybody else fancied it. And we’ve basically grown from there.

You have over 1900 members, which strikes us as pretty amazing. How many of those regularly turn up? And is there a limit to how big the club can get or do you aim to grow even further?

We have about 60 to 100 runners join us each week. Lots of new runners and regulars, with most people coming as regularly as they can. Of the near 2000 FB members, I’d estimate over 90% of them have run with us at some point over the 6 and a bit years we’ve been going. The club grows gradually mostly by word of mouth and through social media / event posts. The growth has always been at a manageable rate, so as the club grows we get more and more volunteers helping out. If we were to suddenly get massive numbers turning up, we’d have to rethink how we organise our runs, but I see us continuing the gradual growth, which shouldn’t be a problem. The bigger the club gets, the more options we’re able to offer our runners.

What is it, do you think, that’s made the club so popular? Do you have a particular ethos?

My ethos for the club has always been to be free for people to run with us, to allow any ability to come join us in a friendly relaxed atmosphere and to focus heavily on the social aspect of the runs. Feedback from runners is that they love what we’re about, plus the fact we start and finish at a pub! Added to that the fact there are regularly free baked goods, made by us, after the runs is a big draw and has been since day one.

A lot of other running clubs either charge to run or have strict rules in place about pace and ability, which puts off a lot of people who are new to running. We want people to feel they can join us and not have to worry about how far or fast they can run.

We passionately believe in the notion that being a member of a sports club can help in ways exponentially above and beyond just improving one’s physical fitness. Do you see examples of that being the case?

Definitely. Being part of the running club and the running community as a whole is great for making new friends and improving mental health. I know a large majority of our runners join because they’re new to the area or new to running and want to meet new people. I see lots of runners who have joined us not knowing anybody, but very quickly making new friend groups in the club and getting a whole new social life from it.

As a club we focus a lot on mental health. I know from personal experience that running and being part of a club is very effective for improving mental health. Many of our runners have chatted to us about this and how much it helps them. This is another reason why we want to keep the club free for all, to remove anything that might deter someone from joining us who needs the help.

How would you sell the prospect of joining Manchester Road Runners to someone who might be thinking about joining?

To me it’s an easy sell. It costs you nothing to run with us. All abilities are welcome, just turn up, run with us, stay for a chat and drink afterwards with friendly like-minded people. A great way to meet people, get to know Manchester a bit better and get fit at the same time.

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And who could argue with that?!

Manchester Road Runners is a club that very much shares our belief that sport can greatly change lives for the better, and we’re delighted to be affiliated with them. It’s fabulous to see a club with such a simple but powerful message – that sport should be as inclusive as possible – and thriving.

We’d like to thank Chris for taking the time to talk to us and wish the club all the very best for the future. If you’d like to join Manchester Road Runners, contact Chris on 07984 425452, check out their Facebook page, or simply turn up at The Wharf pub at 6.30pm on a Wednesday and get involved!

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