The Diary: Running shop set to go the distance

Front Runner Shop, Sharrow Vale Road ,an independent Running Shop. Pictured are Steve Franklin (left), Owner/Joint Manager, with Mark Taylor, Joint Manager.
Front Runner Shop, Sharrow Vale Road ,an independent Running Shop. Pictured are Steve Franklin (left), Owner/Joint Manager, with Mark Taylor, Joint Manager.
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There is, says Mark Taylor, one fundamental problem with opening a running shop.

“Millions of people run but all you really need to do it is a good pair of shoes,” notes the 25-year-old. “Everything else can be a little...peripheral.”

It is a brave thing to admit.

Because Mark, along with best friend Steve Franklin, has just opened the first such independent store on the south side of the city.

Now, the duo reckon, despite that possible flaw, the shop - called Front Runner and in Sharrow Vale Road - should jog along nicely. Why? Because of the proliferation of, er, cycling shops.

“There are eight in this area,” says 26-year-old Steve of Abbey Lane. “I counted them. But there’s not a single place dedicated to running. That’s not right. Sheffield is an active city and lots of people run in the parks and the Peaks. There needs to be a running shop.”

It will join Accelerate UK in Attercliffe as one of just two independents in the city.

The idea came to being over that least healthy of activities: having a pint.

“I was sat in the beer garden of The Lescar (also in Sharrow Vale Road) telling friends my dream job would be owning a store,” remembers the keen ultra-runner. “And they were asking where. I pointed over the road and said: ‘there’.

“Then I walked past the next day and a sign had gone up saying it was available.”

So he did it.

He called Mark, who was then working for a ski patrol team in Canada. “I said: ‘Forget Canada, come to Sheffield’,” remembers Steve. “And he did. Well,what does Banff have on Yorkshire?”

“Plus,” adds Mark, who is originally from Stockport and now lives in Abbeydale Road, “my visa was running out.”

The pair roped in Steve’s brother John - a teacher in London - as a silent partner, then opened for Christmas.

Their stock includes lots of footwear, along with...well “peripheral” stuff: shirts and shorts, gloves and socks, flashlights, maps and books. There’s a treadmill you can have a bash on and a baby jogger which is loaned out free. Out back, there are three therapy rooms. On the wall are posters advertising a staff-led run every Monday and Thursday.

“We want to be more than a shop,” says Steve. “We want to be a hub. We want to share our passion for running.”


If the Franklin brothers run a running shop as well as they run a run, then they should have no problems with their store.

This pair - who have gone into business with Mark Taylor - aren’t happy doing the odd marathon. Twenty-seven miles just isn’t long enough for them.

While Steve is currently preparing for a 63-mile (and 47-peak) jog around Snowdonia, 28-year-old John has taken things to a whole other level.

He won the Sheffield Half Marathon in 2012 with a time of one hour 10 minutes before finishing an astonishing 37th in the 2013 London Marathon, knocking out the 27 miles in two hours 28 minutes. And he’s also completed an 87 mile coast to coast run along Hadrian’s Wall (time: 14 hours) and attempted a 184 mile dash along the Thames Path.

“He’d done 97 miles when he collapsed with hypothermia, though,” recounts Steve who was supporting him. “How did he feel? Put it this way, he’ll be having another crack at it.

“Why do we love running? It’s just enjoyable to set yourself a challenge and push yourself to do it.”