For our money, the Manchester Road Runners are the city’s biggest running club by any measure – maybe even in the Greater Manchester full stop – and is just as much about socialising as it is fitness, if not more.
Founded back in 2013, the club started out as nothing more than a few mates meeting every week for a jog and has since grown to be a nearly decade-old institution with more than 3.7K members on Facebook.
Based out of The Wharf in Castlefield, the group gathers at their adopted home and resident watering hole before each run to catch up and welcome new faces before setting off on a group run every Wednesday.
The best part is after the run is done, runners take over an entire floor of the pub (club flag hanging out the window, the works) before rewarding themselves with a cold pint or a well-deserved glass of wine. Or several, because why the hell not?
Offering everything from the 3k starter route to the 5k, 7.5k and 10k distances which stretch along the canal and take you as far as Media City in Salford Quays and back, scores of people turn up every week to meet new people, keep fit and have a drink.
Of course, if you’re a head-down, headphones-in kind of person, you can always just get in the zone and save your riveting conversation for afterwards. Alternatively, if you’re new to running, fancy a slower pace and are seeking out something more social, this club is made for you.
How it started vs how it’s going
We spoke to MRR’s chairman and founding member Chris Rider, who gave us a rundown on the club’s history, ethos and some of the inspirational stories that have seen it become the fitness family it is today.
“It started out with me and two friends: we went out for a run and finished back here for a pint and a burger and then started doing that every week. Then one of the guys put something on Twitter and Facebook asking if anyone wanted to join and it just began growing from there.
“For quite a while there was only about six of us, occasionally getting into double-figures, then gradually it built and built just through word of mouth. The last time we did a headcount there were more than 120 people”. There’s been more than that since – we’ve seen it.
In Chris’ eyes, the difference between MRR and other groups is that not only is this one free of charge (you just turn, drop your bags and run), but they prioritise the social aspect above all else.
In addition to providing an outlet for people that are new to Manchester or just looking to meet new people in general, he believes “the mental health aspect is massive… people don’t feel like they have to turn up every week as opposed to at other clubs, but they want to”.
Club secretary Will Robinson, who helps organise various ambassador roles and regularly delivers the intro speech on Wednesday evenings, echoed a similar sentiment, insisting that it is the sense of “community” is the reason he has stuck around for more than seven years.
In fact, the group is so close-knit that many people who can’t run that week still turn up to eat and drink, or even to just have a chinwag. Even people stopping over in Greater Manchester for work or for prolonged family visits turn up to give it a try and will still return the next time they’re in the area.
Crucially, Will says that feedback is a massive part of the running club’s success and regularly reminds newcomers that progress is “subjective” and the main goal is to participate, enjoy yourself and “come home feeling good”.
Enjoyment comes first. These lot aren’t just runners, they’re friends that look after each other. People find flatmates, gym buddies, people to go travelling with; many even meet their life partners and end up getting engaged – all through simply meeting at this unique running club.
Straight from the racehorses’ mouth
The group is really diverse and a great mix of ages, genders and running abilities. Anyone who joins will find their level and keep improving. I ended up training with a friend for the Great Manchester Run half marathon, which we both started and finished together in great time.
The running club helped me build a great social circle and support group. I moved to Manchester during lockdown and it was pretty difficult to meet new people, so having mates I can see for a drink on a Wednesday night is a highlight during my week.
Will (right) – 10 months
The best part is being able to share an interest with people who inspire you to run better and are a good laugh. As well as zip lining in Wales, my favourite memory is our Halloween night out to Mojos where me and my partner Will got together.
We’re not a serious group so don’t let that put you off. We’reall about socialising and just getting a run in. That said there are always people training for races so the group is good in that way too. Everyone is super friendly so talk to anyone and you’ll easily make friends.
Sam (right) – 3 years
As an ambassador, the role is partly about volunteering but it’s also recognising the values of the club and just trying to be a good egg — turning up as the best version of yourself you can be
My advice would be just turn up; don’t talk yourself out of it or assume everyone will be faster than you. It’s a running social, just run and have a chat with a complete stranger.
John – 6 years
Non-stop socials and away days
When we say the social aspect is essential to what has made this running club so popular and enjoyable, it doesn’t start and end at The Wharf.
Helping organise travel down to each location, the group do parkrun every single weekend at the various different green spaces across the Greater Manchester area and further afield.
They have also recently started the MRR Trail Division, offering hikes and trail runs in the North West and various peaks across the UK.
Moreover, they do more than their fair share of taking the group on the road and outside of 0161 too, with away days to the likes of London, Alton Towers, Edinburgh, Dublin and more.
Believe it or not, they’ve even done mini-tours across the north of France and many members travel across the world doing their bit to represent the club at events such as the San Francisco, Porto and Oslo Marathon’s
Running aside, MRR seems to have some kind of social on every other week, whether it be a trip down to the Altrincham Markets, doing the Didsbury Dozen, Halloween parties, the annual Christmas meal or a 1am trip to Bunny Jacksons.
Did we mention they like a drink?
Fundraising and life-saving
Ran by its dedicated committee members and ambassadors who make everything possible, one of the most touching stories from the club is their journey to installing a life-saving defibrillator at The Wharf itself.
She went on to take over the initiative the following year, helping encourage more people to get into running whilst showing support for numerous different causes.
Not only did she run to raise awareness for cardiomyopathy, but she also helped pioneer the club’s part in #RunAndTalk, a national scheme which runs for a full week every year aimed at improving mental health and openness through exercise.
But her legacy will always be the defib that is now installed at the side of the pub. Emma and her fellow committee members started campaigning for the live-saving equipment long before she sadly passed and while it may be a painful chapter for the club, her incredible efforts could now save countless lives.
Even Mayor Andy Burnham turned up for its unveiling on the day, which included a plaque honouring her memory and contribution to the local community.
Since then, the club has held multiple CPR training sessions with the help of certified professionals and regularly invites guest speakers, sports specialists, physios and even independent sports brands along to help everyone keep in good nick.
More importantly, fundraising remains a huge part of what makes this club tick, not just to help pay for things like the various pieces of official kit, but to keep the positive, communal and generous spirit at the core of the organisation.
Whether it be joining various races across the country, holding their own charity 10k every year and running the 24 Hour Run for Manchester’s homeless, or raising money for cancer research, the Red Cross and other worthwhile causes through things like bake sales, they’re always doing their bit.
Come rain or shine
You can’t write about a running club in Manchester without addressing the weather one of the club’s greatest charms: the dedication of its loyal members to continue turning up in wind, sleet, rain and snow.
Their fortitude goes beyond just whatever the weather conditions are that week, though. As alluded to, the running club was a vital support system for so many during lockdown.
While there were long stretches when they weren’t allowed to meet at all, members kept in touch and shared their fitness updates on social media and when they were allowed to return socially distanced, they picked up right where they left off. There’s no stopping a runner.
The club celebrates its 10th anniversary next year and it has to be said, it’s quite the thing they’ve built and the Manchester Road Runners show no signs of stopping.
Last but not least, as a member since November 2021 myself, I can honestly say this club has changed my life in so many ways.
As a person who already loved running, it was a no-brainer when I stumbled across a horde of people in their gear all getting ready to set off. Seeing them gathering at a pub didn’t hurt either.
I now have a whole new affection for exercise since the running club became a regular staple of my social life, to the point where I’m genuinely gutted if I have to miss a week. I dare say you’ll feel the same once you catch the bug.
If you’re interested in trying Manchester Road Runners, just turn up to The Wharf pub at 6:30pm on Wednesdays. Bag storage is available upstairs and the various distance groups set off from 6:45.
After all, what more incentive to run do you need than a well-earned drink to help get through the week?
All the best Joshua Brooks gigs and events on this February-April
Now the January slump is finally behind us, we’re raring to get stuck into a new season of live music, club nights and more. Thanks to Joshua Brooks’ line-up, we’ve already got a fair few in our diary.
Since its revamp back in 2021, JBs has gone from strength to strength, not only welcoming back returning customers who’ve frequented the much-loved Princess Street venue for years but ushering in a whole new crowd. With plenty of food, booze, music and live events, it never disappoints.
With that in mind, Joshua Brooks has an absolutely jam-packed schedule of live music, club nights and more this month and leading right up until April, not to mention plenty more to come this year.
With the likes of Pola & Bryson, Monrroe, GLXY, DUSKEE and Kira headlining, legendary drum, bass and jungle label Shogun Audio is returning to Joshua Brooks this February. Expect a thumping sound system, cutting-edge visuals and a room packed full of ravers. Grab your tickets HERE.
2. Super Bowl LVII – 12 Feb
Although the majority of dates on the list are music-related, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, so of course these lot are showing the game. With sharing platters and £2 pints on offer, not to mention table packages, it’s going to be one of the best places to watch the Bowl.
3. Whippin Label Paty with Melé – 17 Feb
Whipping Records are bringing two of their most popular artists back to the Brooks with Mele and Toby Simpson set to rock up and play a mix of world music-influenced house, transatlantic hip hop, UK techno, classic Chicago grooves and more. There’s something for everyone. Find out more HERE.
Treating the basement to what’s bound to be a banging DJ set, Joshua Brooks is one of the next stops on TS7’s massive headline tour, kicking off hours of house beats and basslines from 10pm onwards. You’ll want to grab a ticket for this one.
5. Luuk Van Dijk – 24 Feb
Amsterdam DJ Luuk Van Dijk is one of the most diverse we’ve come across in recent years and he’ll be greeting this beloved Princess Street venue with his unique sound once again just before the end of the month. Secure your tickets now and you’ll get to listen to him all night long.
6. Yousef – 25 Feb
Yousef is one of our absolute favourites, playing a variety of deep and tech house to all-round floor-filling dance music and everything in between. With support from Powda and the Dunmore Brothers, he’ll be playing for three whole hours — what a way to close out February. Get your ticket HERE.
Heading into March, we all know how great Thursday nights at Joshua Brooks are, even more so when they tea up with Tribal to bring you resident trick label DJ Ammara, as well as Nick Spencer, Max Rottier and Mcminn. Now that’s value for money. You can book in for any phase or all of them (why not?) HERE.
8. Moxy Muzik with Darius Syrossian – 3 March
The following day, you have JBs second night of Moxy Muzik for 2023 with Iranian DJ Darius Syrossian, who’s set to put on a three-hour set of house, UK garage and minimal techno. Moxy is one of the best up-and-coming local labels and definitely know how to put on a hometown show. Don’t miss it.
A pioneer of modern progressive house, London-based producer Ilan Bluestone has shot to fame on the international dance music scene. With some big singles and remixes over the past few years, not to mention his sophomore album Impulse, this master of synths is a good reason to stay up. Tickets HERE.
10. Horse Meat Disco – 10 March
Not just one of the best-named dance nights: it’s simply one of the best dance nights full stop. The London stallions are bringing the likes of Supernature, Scott Forrest and Rhod Parry to set the night off on a four-horse race to fill the floor and take the roof of 106 Princess Street. We’ll see you there.
That’s right, Mason Maynard is making a special appearance at Joshua Brooks along with guests Calvin Clarke and Ervs. The set will run from 10pm until 4am and tickets are bound to go quickly. Grab yours now while you still can.
12. What Hannah Wants – 17 March
Let’s. Effin. Go. What Hannah Wants is to be heard and with a dedicated fan base already behind after some unforgettable nights at Warehouse Project, she certainly will be. Give us that hard-hitting house or give us death. Tickets will go on sale soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
A true raver born on the underground scene, Seb Zito sets are legendary. The owner of Seven Dials Records and Fuse London, not to mention a resident at Infuse Ibiza, the Joshua Brooks crowd will be treated to a full night of techno and deep house until 4am. Say no more — tickets HERE.
14. Hannah Laing – 24 March
Dundee’s Queen of House, Hannah Laing is making her way down to Manchester as part of her North Headline Tour and we can’t wait — her ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ edit alone is worth coming along for. Tickets aren’t yet live but you can join the waiting list now.
Next up is Max Dean, who after absolutely killing it at JBs back in December has been invited back to the basement once again. The house and minimal tech DJ is only 21 but is already making a splash on the electronic scene. He’s also got a few unreleased tracks just raring to go — maybe you’ll get to hear them.
16. Toman – 31 March
To close out Joshua Brook’s March offerings, Manchester is being treated to another rising Dutch DJ in Toman, as well as support from Pirate Copy. He’ll be playing what’s sure to be a lively three-hour set from 10pm and the student discount tickets have already sold out, so grab yours while you still can.
Joshua Brooks is kicking off April in style with a throwback for the ages. It’s been seven whole years since the last Just Skank event anywhere in Manchester and it just so happens that JBs has been selected for the night garage, D&B, dub and bassline. You simply cannot miss this one.
18. Fleur Shore – 14 April
As we hit the middle of the month, Birmingham’s very own Fleur Shore is back at JBs and playing all night long, from start to finish — this girl doesn’t need support. After a huge year playing all over the globe, she’ll be making the basement her own. Tickets HERE.
With festival season on the horizon, JBM Music and Retro Events are doing their bit to get you in the mood by hosting a warm-up party for this year’s Retro In The Park. The massive weekend line-up of DJs, worldwide acts and local artists might be over in Burnley but you can get in the mood a month in advance right here in 0161. Might as well get started early.
20. Full Circle – 21 April
Last but not least, our final pick from Joshua Brooks’ events this April is their Full Circle night which will take you back to what they call ‘the golden era of deep house’. With the likes of Route 94, Infinity Ink, No Artificial Colours, Brian Murphy and more on the playlist, we tend to agree. Get in booked in HERE.
I tried the Manchester roast with a dedicated cauliflower cheese menu named the ‘UK’s best’
Right, let’s talk cauliflower cheese for a moment. A non-negotiable on a roast dinner, I like mine steaming hot and encased in cheesy bechamel, slightly charred on top and oozing in the middle.
Truth be told, I’m more attached to cauliflower cheese than Yorkshire puddings (blasphemy up north, I know). Miss a Yorkshire off my roast and – as long as I’ve not ordered beef – we’ll be absolutely fine. But forget the cauliflower cheese? Well, I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive you.
Mentally prepared to eat my body weight in cheese, I’d already familiarised myself with the menu. Ok, technically two menus. Ducie Street Warehouse has a separate one just for its cauliflower cheeses: with eight different styles to choose from.
We’re talking cauliflower cheese with vintage cheddar, freshly shaved black truffle, bacon frazzles, garlic and herb crumble, four kinds of cheese, blue cheese, macaroni, plus a cheezy option for the vegans.
According to the team, it’s ‘the ultimate Sunday side that deserves a place of its own.’ I couldn’t agree more.
As for the rest, its separate ‘Sunday with Sides’ menu also seemingly has it all. Dry-aged local shorthorn beef sirloin, W.H. Frost premium chicken breast, rosemary roasted leg of lamb and a weekly-changing vegan roast ‘with all the trimmings’.
Add to that its promising-sounding ‘Slice Of ‘SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE’ – a carvery-style mixed-meat plate priced at £27.50 – and it does seem like they’ve really thought of it all.
I opt for a pink leg of lamb, whilst my cheese-eating partner in crime goes for the beef (which also comes out beautifully pink). Both are served with crispy roasties on a mountain of seasonal veg, topped with the biggest singular Yorkshire puddings I think I’ve ever seen.
Gravy is generous, but there’s an extra jug plopped onto our table too – just in case. Being a gravy glutton, I pile it on. It comes out a bit thick for my liking, but still tastes delicious nonetheless.
As for the cauliflower cheese? It’s worth every bit of hype it gets. We try the umami-rich black truffle, blue cheese, macaroni and Frazzles options, filling our tiny table for two with an absolute mountain of cauliflower.
As ever, my eyes are bigger than my belly, but I give it a good go: packing up the rest to take home and eat in bed later.
I won’t beat around the bush. This is a deceptively BIG roast. Granted, we did order four portions of cauliflower cheese on the side, but still. Some roasts look good but lack substance. Not this one. This is the roast that keeps on giving.
Further add-ons include Tuscan pork stuffing, honey-roasted heirloom rainbow carrots, maple roasted parsnips, lemon and garlic broccoli gratin, macaroni cheese, plus extra Yorkshire puddings and gravy, not that we can manage it.
I’d definitely go back with a group, though, and see if we can get through it all. I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday.