It is very much two for the price of one when Molly Bryan’s video flickers to life as the lively eyes of her fifteen-week-old puppy, Winnie, fill the screen. Winnie’s energy is very much of the scene-stealing variety as she bounces around, barks mischievously, and, finally, signs her eviction notice by taunting Molly with a stolen sock.

Molly has clearly had her hands full, but I hazard asking whether she has been for a run yet today as an ice breaker.

 “I haven’t yet. I’m going tonight. I’m normally a morning runner, but I run with a club called Peckham Pacers on a Wednesday night, so I just save my Wednesdays until the evening.” 

We’ve started in the place that perhaps embodies much of what fires Molly: the way in which running can bring people together and build communities.

“Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always tried to find a running group. I think it just feels safer and it’s sociable.”

It strikes me that, for Molly, running is a way of finding home, something that is written in her DNA as an instinctive method of connecting with a place and the people that live there. The genetic element is certainly true: she’s been running since she was twelve, born into a family of runners and encouraged by a PE teacher at school to join the local cross-country club. Running was something that simply felt right to her and at which she was naturally talented.

The early, sunny years of this easy relationship with running were dealt something of a curve ball, however, when Molly started university in Falmouth and became ill with an eating disorder that took the thing that she loved away from her in the cruel way that only the cold isolation of an eating disorder can. Nevertheless, Molly is idiosyncratically positive about what must have felt like an incredibly bleak year for her.

“I think, when I returned to running, it actually helped me with my mental health issues because it was this focus and a way of venting my feelings." 

In a way, the eating disorder was a way of pressing pause, of reevaluating what purpose running served in her life and rebuilding a more balanced relationship with it that nourished her body and mind and was less about fixating on particular outcomes.

“When I first started running at school, I think it was just because I was kind of good at it and when you’re a kid, you find something you’re good at and then you stick with it. Then I had that slight shift in my teenage years and early 20s when I was doing it to change my appearance. Now I do it because I love it and it makes me feel good.”

The joy in her voice is contagious as she acknowledges this shift in perspective, and she speaks with fondness of her “mecca” of early morning runs in Victoria Park, where community is built through movement.

“You see the same faces and you start to build relationships with these people that you’re running past because you see each other every day. London can be quite lonely so finding like-minded people doing the same crazy thing at 7am on a weekday is really nice!”

That is not to say that running competitively is now completely off the cards for Molly, quite the contrary. She describes herself as “small but determined” and it is that mental grit that, despite the year-on-year infuriating pursuit of chasing marginal gains, makes the marathon her favourite distance.

“I think it’s because it’s so challenging and unpredictable; like, it’s a really long way and you can put all the training in and then on the day something can happen, and it just changes it. I put loads of work into Valencia, which I ran last December, and then I felt a bit unwell on the day and it turned out I had Covid. Also, the payoff of just finishing a marathon is amazing – no matter what time you get, it still feels like such a momentous achievement. Obviously, it’s all relative and a 5 or 10km is amazing, but, for me, the marathon just feels like a huge win, whatever time I run.”

Despite the buzz of the crowds on race day, marathon training is certainly a pursuit where accountability is a largely solitary business. I’m curious therefore as to Molly’s experience with running as part of a six-person relay team, from Santa Monica to Las Vegas, for the notorious 340-mile Speed Project in 2023. The team not only completed the relentless, no rules, no regulations, race, which includes running through Death Valley, but also smashed the European and British records. It’s another moment where Molly’s eyes light up at the mention of her time in America.

“It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done; it almost feels like such a blur.”

Once again, it’s not so much the route planning (there isn’t a set one) or the record itself that she finds the most fulfilling aspect, but the relationships built along the way.

“We had this time together in the lead up where, bar one (her RunLimited partner, Jonty), I didn’t know the people that I was running with. You build this friendship with everyone in the planning phase and then suddenly you’re in America and you’re getting up at 4am and you’re going to do this amazing thing together. The feeling that you get when you’re tagging in and out in this relay is like nothing else; you just have this incredible connection because it’s so intense for that amount of time together.”

I suggest that it sounds less like a team, more like a family.

“Absolutely. If someone was injured or sick, it was a balance of people putting in massive stints just to help other people; you weren’t thinking about yourself, you were thinking about everyone else because every kilometre that you ran, someone else didn’t have to run it. At the end, when we reached the Vegas sign, we stood in a circle and we said one thing that we were like grateful for, and I was just a mess; I couldn’t get out.”

What would she say now if she could turn back the clock?

“I think it was the kindness of everyone. Like our team that drove us the whole time; we wouldn’t have done it without them. There were these terrifying stretches of road where the car was tilting up on its side and they just got it done to get us there safely. I’m so grateful for that.”

This reoccurring theme of meeting others through running brings us to RunLimited, Molly’s latest project with fellow runner Jonty Brown: a hub to connect runners, brands and clubs through the power of movement. It’s a concept born of conversations had while running and Molly explains how the initiative has evolved.

“I met Jonty a few years ago and started going to his ‘Chasing Change’ run club at 7am on a Thursday. We’d meet at Mare Street Market, run to Victoria Park and do a track session. We’re both really silly and found that we got on really well; we both went through breakups at the same time, and then I moved to Hackney and we started going on runs together every morning.”

By the time that Molly had started her own running club when she was living in Walthamstow, they were also able to share the similar questions they kept encountering from club members: “What kind of trainers do I need?”, “What gear should I have?”. The questions prompted them to ask their own: “Wait, what if we build this?”

It’s been a long journey of working out how to logistically start a business; the prospect of a bricks and mortar reality being as much a source of terror as excitement, but, thanks to a new partner with relevant expertise, Run Limited is close to opening its doors later this year. What will eager runners be able to expect?

“The idea is for it to be run hub that’s also a multi-brand running retailer with a coffee space: a place for people to hang out and for any club in London to come and use. We’ll have useful things like lockers so people can use it as a bag drop too; people want to run before and after work and you’ve always got stuff with you and places aren’t open. We want this space to be really accessible and to create a community.”

It’s an inclusive energy that is consistent with Molly’s experience of leading group runs, a responsibility that she says still fills her with imposter syndrome but speaks to the great care and consideration that she channels into the role.

“It’s hard; I have so much experience with running, but then I feel like everyone’s different, and I can get anxious because I don’t want to offer someone advice if it doesn’t work for them.”

Nevertheless, she loves sharing miles in this way. 

“When I started the club in Walthamstow everyone was so grateful because it brought people together in lockdown; even when only six people were allowed to meet up, we used to do tiny little group runs and it had a real family feel. It was nice knowing that I had created something that attracted people who were genuinely lovely and who kept coming; I’d done something good.”

Molly’s consideration extends to the longer-term footprints that consumption in the running industries can create, and I wonder whether striking the balance between living a sustainable lifestyle and working with brands is a source of conflict for her. For her, it’s very much about modelling the change she wants to see in the world and acknowledging that making a difference is about being pro-active, not perfect.

“I think we’re just trying our utmost to be conscious rather than shutting our eyes to it. Both Jonty and I are vegan and, where I can, I will buy sustainable things like hylo, who are incredible.

As for RunLimited, last month we went and did a run with Refugee Run Club where we got everyone to bring all their old running gear and we donated it to the club. If we can make sure that, even if the products we’re stocking are not all totally sustainable, we can find a way of giving back to people that are to increase their life span, that’s probably the best we can do in this current climate.”

It’s the media-saturation of that climate that is seeing another shift in Molly’s purpose for running: switching off and slowing down.

“When I went to university in Falmouth, I felt very lucky because everyone there was creative and thinking about the planet; I studied graphic design, and they talked about sustainability and ways that in design you can help like reducing waste. Being out in Nature is all a process of slowing time; I think, if I run in the morning, I make better life decisions in the day.”

It’s a mindset that she will be pursuing in 2024 as she steps back from marathons and focuses on running with people more.

“I think last year I did a lot more solo running, and I had a lot of injuries, so I want to kind of connect with people more through running ... and try and get faster!”

I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Speed Project, after all.