Running is a global sport that transcends country borders and language barriers. However, this doesn’t change the fact that many view running as an isolated activity. Your Friendly Runners (YFR), a collective that focuses on the togetherness and shared joy of running, is showing why this couldn't be further from the truth.
Growing exponentially, they’re much more than your everyday run club, as co-founder Matt puts it, “We’re not a running crew, we’re a crew that runs.” Through community building, they’re forging an expansive, incredibly tight-knit crew that brings all levels of runners together. This unbidden passion is also putting the group in front of key team sponsorships. This year, with PUMA being the official sportswear partner of the Manchester Half Marathon, the brand has teamed up with YFR to support their journey to the finish line in NITRO footwear as they take on one of the UK’s favorite running events.
The two initially joined forces for their “Crews to the Coast” relay race from London to Margate in August this year which featured eight teams, 40 runners and 130 km. “Behind the running, we have an incredible pool of creative talent, with a broad skill set, so to dream up crazy ideas and get the backing to make it happen is amazing,” Matt shares. It’s another aspect that sets YFR apart from other running crews, as these partnerships allow “us to go above and beyond for our members and create unique experiences outside of the weekly program.”
No matter which YFR members you’re with and what challenge you’re taking on, it always feels like a group destined to be “Forever Faster” as Matty shares, “There’s some insane talent in the group and the best way to get faster/stronger/fitter is running with people that are faster than you.”
YFR founders Oliver (Oli) Hooson and Matt Horrocks met back in 2018 after the latter bought a pair of running shoes on Oli’s Depop. After chatting for some time, they both felt there was something missing in East London. “A place for like-minded people to get together, run, share ideas – but ultimately just hang out,” Matt shares. They decided to set up their own and started out as “about four of us outside E5 Bakehouse. Cold, rainy, hungover, but having loads of fun,” and now, their Saturday mornings see over 150 attendees.
Five years on, it’s tricky to gauge how many members there are but Matt says, “There’s about 1,000 people in the WhatsApp group, and now we have over 16k followers on Instagram. So it’s definitely alive and kicking.” The crew has certainly leveled things up, sharing monthly programs where everyone is welcome to any of four runs per week including Track Tuesdays, Trails Thursdays, Early 5k Fridays, and Social 10k Saturdays, and this growth can be ascribed to the group’s purpose; to connect people, offer shared experiences and create new friendships.
As the name suggests, YFR is built on friendship and support for one another. “From members competing in their first bibbed events to those achieving new PBs, and some who are even winning races and getting a podium finish,” as YFR member Alex puts it. The collective embodies the truest sense of a togetherness where every achievement matters. It is this uplifting relationship that has allowed YFR to become more than just a sports group, where community forms the foundation of its movement in the running scene and beyond.
Whilst being based in East London, YFR places a big focus on “taking the experience beyond London,” says Matt. “Hosting parties everywhere from Copenhagen to Manchester, and soon Valencia, is another string to the bow. There’s no doubt we’ll be taking YFR to more cities next year.”
Despite this continuous growth, its core mission remains as strong as ever, and runner Fey couldn't agree more. “It really feels like a family. It was born out of a mutual love for running, with really lovely people,” she says. “As the group grows, I think it's the same principles that keep us coming back.” YFR is even soon offering a membership-based coaching service, TEAM©, headed by UK Athletics Coach Lloyd Kempson, but the crew will still always remember to make time for more important things. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re very passionate runners, but always bring in food, drink, design, travel, having fun – and connecting through real life,” says Matt.
Together with Oli and YFR members Alex, Matt, Fey, and Eddie, Solly gives Hypebeast an intimate look behind what went down at the Manchester Half Marathon.
Beginning at Euston station on a Sunday morning, the team comes together for a valuable breakfast porridge. Some members know each other well and for others, it's a first-time hello. In typical “group leader” fashion, Oli is nowhere to be seen and misses the train. Even before the trip has even started, it’s already an accurate depiction of what being in a running group is like. It’s about a group of friends, new or old, coming together with the high probability of something logistically going wrong. But it’s why we do it.
A long train ride is the perfect opportunity to talk race tactics and projected finishing times. As runners, these conversations tend to move through a typical cycle of overthinking and undulating confidence. From “Oh, I think I’m just gonna take it easy” to arriving in Manchester, “Well, I’ll see how I feel” and then quickly to, “A PB could be on here!” as that nervous excitement kicks in.
As race day dawned – and the wet and gray Manchester weather we arrived to had cleared up – we were walking into what looked like perfect running conditions. A brisk six degrees at 7 am, but the sun was already shining without a cloud in the sky. “People in Manchester properly turn out for each other and it feels like the running scene is properly taking off there,” Eddie shares, so anticipation for the day was high. With a quick stop off at the exclusive RunPUMA House pop-up in Deansgate for some last-minute essentials, it was time to head to the start line.
Things usually seem quite calm on an early race day morning. A certain stillness that makes it seem as if you have all the time in the world. But as many runners know, this doesn’t last long. The true frantic nature of race day is undeniable as emotions quickly change. Passing the endless portaloo lines, butterflies start to kick in when looking for the correct wave of runners whilst trying not to lose your teammates in the process. All of a sudden you’re surrounded by thousands of people, looking up at the start clock counting down. “There’s so often a point during a run or a race where you question why you do it”, says Fey and this is one of those moments. However disciplined or successful your training plan was, you’re hit with a rising feeling of unpreparedness and worry. And within a split second that vanishes as the starting horn sounds.
Having crossed the finish line, the post running high is a feeling unlike anything else and is a high the YFR team “100% recommend.” There’s a quote from the book Running with the Kenyans that describes this feeling perfectly, “Running is like getting drunk in reverse.” As Matty shares, “You can question why you’ve laced up your shoes and dragged one foot in front of the other until it’s hard to walk, you’re out of breath and your legs are wobbly but the second you finish, stretch out, and sit down -- the feeling is incredible.”
The shared joy is only spurred on when you realize the time you and your teammates have just put down. PUMA’s Deviate NITRO Elite 2 and Fast-R NITRO Elite shoe description certainly wasn't lying when it said “Calling all PB-chasers.” With not much training and expectations exceeded, it was a day of pleasant surprises as PBs rolled in for team YFR and there’s no doubt that the footwear had a huge part to play. A weekend of new friendships and new achievements, the Manchester Half Marathon 2023 solidified itself as another classic in the YFR history books.
Despite a hugely successful race, not everyone got a PB. It's vital to remember that adopting PUMA’s “Forever Faster” mindset is about “celebrating every incremental gain, no matter how big or small”, says Fey. “It’s about accepting that not every race is going to deliver a PB, but instead having a long-term goal as a runner, to keep moving and improving.” And with YFR, there’s no better team to do that with.
Having attended my very first YFR session in February 2022, alongside many others, I never thought I’d be someone who could call myself a marathoner. Now, having completed both the Copenhagen Marathon and Manchester Half with YFR this year, it's safe to say I couldn’t have done it, or even gained the same level of satisfaction, without the crew.
That’s what makes YFR so special. This extensive collection of team members has created a community where celebrating someone else’s achievements is as rewarding as celebrating your own. An unparalleled togetherness. A crew like no other.