Sunday, 11 March 2018

Best Running Routes in Manchester?

I'm so excited to say that I'm working with the team behind the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run to bring you running content, inspiration and motivation in the lead up to the big event on Sunday 20th May.

The Great Run team are putting on a 10k and half marathon. I'm going to be running the half marathon distance - those of you who follow me on social might remember the Manchester half I ran in October, PBing at 1:49:46 (whoooo), so I'm excited to see if I can meet (or beat) this time, this time round!
Manchester Half Marathon Oct 2017 - PB!
As part of this collaboration, I'm going to be creating a few pieces of content on running over the next few months, and I'm really excited to share the first piece with you...

This post comprises of some of my favourite running routes in Manchester. These running courses are the pavements, parks, riverside routes, muddy walk ways (and more) that sparked my love of running, and the routes that keep me coming back for more each week. I really hope that if you're thinking of running the Great Manchester Run, or are looking for new running routes, that this post inspires you to get out and get running.

In no particular order, here are a few of my faves.

1) Chorlton Water Park

One of the reasons I love this place is because it's pretty much a 1 mile loop round the park, so it's great for speed training and for breaking the miles down clearly. Want to run three miles? Jog round three times. Etc. There's loads to see so it doesn't get boring.

It's also really pretty and very easy to get to, especially if you live in South Manc or near the city centre.

2) The River Mersey

Having lived in various areas in South Manchester for the past six years or so, the River Mersey has been one of my go-to running routes, especially on weekends. Obviously, it's huge, so the routes I tend to run along either start around Sale, Chorlton or Didsbury (Chorlton Water Park and Fletcher Moss Gardens (see number 6)) are also just off the River Mersey route).

Map of River Mersey
I love it because it feels like you're in the depths of the countryside. There are always lots of other runners, cyclists and dog walkers making it a very friendly place to get your miles in.

I tend to use these routes for my long runs, running six/seven miles on one side of the river before crossing back over one of the bridges and running back along the other side.

When it's sunny, this is hands down my favourite place to run in Manchester.

Sunny, podcast, running = happy place (greasy hair not optional at 6 miles in)

3) Manchester Ship Canal

If however, it's not sunny (this is Manchester after all), but I want to be able to get some long miles done, I'll head out on to the canal path.

I tend to run from Stretford, turning right along the canal past Sale, Timperley and Altrincham. It's a lovely route (flat and tarmac for most), passing canal boats, marinas and plenty of dog walkers and cyclists (and also some pretty nice looking waterside pubs, should you need a pit-stop or a place to end up!). This route takes you right out to Dunham Massey too.

If you go the other way it will take you to MediaCity, which is exactly what James and I did one summer afternoon. It was around 5 miles, and we had a pint of Ting in the sunshine outside Dockyard as our post-workout fuel (wild).

4) Salford Quays
Speaking of MediaCity, I also frequently run around the quays.

There's no strict route that I follow as such here, just in and out of the quay peninsulas, over the bridges and up and round MediaCity.

There's also a great local running group - Great Run Local Salford Quays - who meet at the Helly Hanson centre at 6.45pm each Thursday. If you're not familiar with the area, this group would be great to join.

Red bridges in Salford Quays
There's something quite soothing about running near water (all these routes have featured some sort of water landmark so far!), but I also love running in parks, too.

5) Local Running Groups

I mentioned the Great Run Local above, and I'm also a huge fan of Park Run. I love the atmosphere and spirit embedded into large group running, as much as I love plugging in my headphones and having an hour of running as 'me' time, too.

I find these timed runs a great way to focus on speed training, and find the communal 'race' environment really motivating and fun. Don't worry though, they're not in any way intimidating. There are (obviously) keen athletes at the front, but this ranges all the way to your light joggers, parents with prams, dogs, groups of friends and people who do a mix of running and walking the course.

If you live near the city centre, Lululemon Manchester do a group run on a Thursday at 6pm and SweatShop do one on at 6.45pm Tuesday (I've been to both - both are great). I also did a quick Google and found this article from TimeOut on other running clubs in Manc. It's from 2015 though so might be worth checking if any have changed.

6) Parks

Some of my favourite parks to run around in South Manchester are: Longford Park, Chorlton Park, Fog Lane Park, Fletcher Moss Gardens and Plattfields Park. All offer really nice routes and loops for you to clock up miles.

Longford Park in the beautiful golden autumn light

I used to do a fair bit of running with SweatShop around Peel Park in Salford, too. It's a lovely green space and great to practise speed drills.

Circuits with Lululemon 

Heaton Park is also lusssh to run around. It's in North Manchester and really easy to get to by car or tram. It's huge. I've run a 10k race there before, but there are plenty of shorter routes you could do, too.

Heaton Park Movember 10k race

7) Ladybower Reservoir

Ok, so not technically Manchester but if you live on the Eastern fringes of the city, Ladybower isn't too far in the car and makes for an absolutely stunning run. It's relatively flat compared to other routes in the Peak District, and is just beautiful. I think the circumference of the reservoir is around 13 miles(?) - could be wrong there - but you could easily pick one quarter of it and do a lovely four mile route along the water.

As well as running, it's a great place to get out on a bike, so if you're looking for a cross-training route, I'd highly recommend!

These are my current favourite routes. I really hope they inspire you to put your trainers on and get clocking those miles up...

If you know of any other routes you think I should check out, let me know!

Franks x


Saturday, 24 February 2018

The Botanist's Vegan Menu

Last night, I was invited to check out the latest additions to the The Botanist's menu - their vegan options. With Veganuary done and dusted, they're keeping on a selection of vegan dishes 'veganually' so there's plant based options all year round.

Before I get on with the post, I just want to say sorry the photo quality isn't amazing - the lighting was quite dark!

I think it's great that restaurant chains are taking this food 'movement' (cringe) seriously. I truly think that plant-based options will become more and more mainstream and accessible and the norm as the environmental impacts of meat and poor factory farming ethics for animal products are more widely discussed. Anyway. Preaching over.

It's also nice to be able to go somewhere that's not exclusively vegan - I get that full on vegan only places can be off-putting, especially if you're trying to get your meat-loving boyfriend to go with you.

So, on to the food.

We got the truffle mushoom ciabatta and falafel to share. The truffle mushrooms were delicious. Meaty mushrooms, tasty onions and a lightly toasted ciabatta. Would make an ideal brunch dish! The sesame coated falafel were an absolute winner too - with whole chickpeas in, and an almost crunchy outer shell, they were so tasty. The peri peri dip was right up my street too, really spicy and tomato-ey.

James and I both said that they didn't taste 'vegan' - I think a common misconception of vegan / veggie food is that it's lacking something, second best, not quite 'right'. It tends to focus on what's 'missing' (so say), rather than the dish in its own merit. These dishes definitely did not taste like they were lacking in anything.

I went for the Malaysian vegetable curry with coriander rice for my main. It was fragrant, fresh and full of flavour. One of those comfort dishes that feels wholesome and tasty at the same time. The veg included baby new potatoes, peppers and courgette with chilli and beansprouts. I love spice, and this did not disappoint - if you're not a fan of spice maybe ask them to hold back on the chilli here!

James went rogue and got the chicken burger with sweet potato fries. Classic vegan dish. The sweet potato fries were delicious, and he got cheese and jalapenos and said it was great, so you can't argue with that!

We also got a side of their tenderstem broccoli to share which was delicious - would recommend this!

We had a smooth pinot noir to wash it all down, before choosing dessert. James got (non vegan) sticky toffee pudding (I don't like sticky toffee pudding, so I was fine with that...), and I opted for the banana, peanut butter and chocolate icecream.

This was the only thing that tasted a little 'vegan' and like it was lacking some cream - still really tasty and exactly the type of treat I'd make at home but with the other courses, I'd not felt remotely like I was being served a 'special' menu, whereas this did (only a little bit, I'd like to add. It certainly didn't stop me eating it all!).

I thought the menu was great and I was really impressed with each course. I'll definitely be back and hats off to The Botanist for making vegan dishes accessible all year round.

I'd also like to say that, perhaps quite naively, my previous thoughts on The Botanist were that it was a little bit 'chainy' - however, the MediaCity branch was LUSH. Live music, a load of plants and really bustling atmosphere - shout out to our waitress Jas who was an absolute babe too. I'm definitely a convert and will be back very soon!

Also full disclosure - as you might have guessed The Botanist invited me to try this new menu so it was complimentary, however, you know me by now, all opinions are my real honest truth.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Ultimate podcast list

I am always looking for new podcast recommendations. I'm constantly scribbling down recommended listens and trying to remember the names of my favourites when people ask me for them.

I've never listed all my favourites out. When people ask what my favourite podcasts are, I can generally reel off a few (Serial (series one), MDWAP, TED Radio Hour), but often the more niche, or smaller / obscure gems go amiss, unless I happen to be listening to that particular one at the time.

As you all know I'm a #WalkToWorkW@nker so I get through them pretty quickly, and I also go through phases of listening to podcasts when I'm running, instead of music.

I've included a sentence or two about the key themes and what I liked (or disliked).

If there are any podcasts you think I need to listen to, give me a shout, I'm always looking for more!

And so, without further ado (and by no means in order of favourite - in fact this is probably more likely to be a chronological list as I add more as time goes on....), here is my current all time podcast listen list:

Ultimate faves

I couldn't write a post on podcasts and leave this bad boy out - TED talks adapted for audio. Inspirational, thought-provoking, fascinating.. each episode brings a new idea to life. I'm always uplifted and inspired when I've listened to these, so perfect whilst out on a run or making your way to work on a Monday.

My Dad Wrote A Porno
Started to listen to this on a run and had to stop multiple times from laughing so much. I'm an absolute hardcore raving fan now, and even went to see My Dad Wrote A Porno live. It's one of the funniest things I've ever heard - I challenge you to listen on public transport and not piss yourself with laughter. In essence, man finds dad has written awful porn novel and reads it aloud. It's so, so much more than that though. I also absolutely adore Alice Levine. Yaas.


I find crime / thriller / true crime stuff absolutely fascinating... although terrifying whilst out on a run when it's getting dark and you're paranoid someone is behind you....

My Favourite Murder
Ok, caveat, the downside with this one is that they legitimately talk about nothing for 45 mins. I know a lot of people like that as they're getting to know the presenters (it does feel a bit like you're all sharing a car), but I personally think there's too much waffling. Nevertheless, the morbid curiosity theme throughout is gripping, and each episode, they both choose a true murder case and talk through it - it's fascinating, terrifying and weirdly... funny?! You'll know what I mean if you've listened!

Serial - Series 1 
I absolutely loveeeed Serial. I think it's investigative journalism at its best, and really makes you question your beliefs. Adnan Syed is accused of murdering his girlfriend in high school and is currently serving a life sentence in prison for it. But each episode you're presented with new / contradictory evidence and anecdotes that make you question everything.

They Walk Among Us
Each ep discusses a true UK crime story, from the sinister to the surreal. Some eps are good, others are average. The host's voice is really irritating (sounds like the IT guy from The Office?!), but if you can get past that you're good.

Another true crime podcast but this time covers stories from all over the world. I've listened to a few really scary Australian episodes (the narrator is an Aussie guy), and an interesting few episodes on the Moors Murders.

Listened to this after Serial series one, and was bitterly disappointed. Friends have loved it though, I just found that in comparison to Serial, it was slow and underwhelming. It's an interesting investigative journalism listen though, but don't expect amazing things.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt - 5 live
This historical murder / death story is also known as the Staircase murder and there have been documentaries and books released about it. Another one of those 'did he / didn't he' cases, and the episodes are quite short.

Health / Wellbeing

Don't Salt my Game - Laura Thomas, PHd
If you don't follow Laura on  Instagram, you should. She's helping lead the body positivity / anti-diet culture and is spot on with her thoughts.

Scott Baptie - The Food for Fitness podcast
One of the first fitness podcasts I found. I really love Scott's mantra: "consistently good, not occasionally perfect" - it absolutely sums up what I believe in in regards to diet and exercise. He's got some great interviews on there, and really helpful tips too. One of my faves.

No Meat Athlete
This is a really good podcast to listen to if you've just started to eat less meat. Talks about all things food and fitness and muscle and basically everything about vegetarian diets and exercising. V interesting.

3 Dumbells
Fun, no-nonsense chat about the gym / diet culture. Basically three mates having a laugh. Good gues interviews. Can be a bit wheeey lads lads lads at times (lol).

Fit and Fearless - 5 live
My fave gals Zanna, Tally and Vicki talking body confidence, fitness etc with great interviews, hosted by 5 live.

The Reluctant Vegan
Aussie couple go vegan. Their 'journey'.

Ben Coomber Radio
Ben is a really science driven, evidence based PT and chats all things health and fitness - he talks a lot about performance and is a good person to listen to if you're in need of some motivation.

#EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias

The Model Health Show
I first found out about this podcast by accident as I searched for a podcast on sleep:
Why sleep is the ultimate fat burner and Sleep Smarter are good episodes.
Shawn's got a really interesting background - he was diagnosed with an incurable spine condition at 20, changed his diet up totally and started exercising and managed to alleviate all pain. It can be very 'American' at times but some good eps.

The Vegan Body Revolution
Very very very 'bro' but a great podcast to listen to if you're eating less meat / going a bit more plant based and want reassurance that you don't need meat and animal products to look lean or build lean muscle. Often gives simple recipe ideas / protein sources / low carb high protein vegan inspo.

Business / motivation

Kat Horrocks - Put Yourself First
My friend Kat, a life coach, has just started a podcast on self-care, business and motivation and it's really inspiring. Topics include self-love, freelance life, body confidence and it's just an all round great podcast that supports women in business.

Hashtag Authentic
Was recommended to listen to this podcast at a blogging event and need to listen to more episodes but it's a greeeat one to listen to if you use social media to market your business.


The Inquiry - BBC World Service
I lovee this podcast. Each episode is around 20 mins long and is centered on one topic (all current affairs based, so great if you want to feel like you're learning and bettering your general political knowledge!). The topic in question is then debated by four different people, from completely different stand points, who are able to offer their opinion on the subject. It's fascinating. Examples include 'What are IS doing in the Philippines?', 'How did we get hooked on plastic?', 'How powerful is Facebook's algorithm?' etc etc etc.

Coffee Break French
Some of the episodes date back over 11 years and so quite often the two hosts talk about listening on your MP3 player (loool), but it's comprehensive and really really useful. The series are split into units, and each episode is clearly labelled so you know what you're going to be covering. There are hundreds of episodes though, so when I'm done, Coffee Break Spanish is next!

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson
Another investigative journalism piece. This one looks at the porn industry and the global effect 'free porn' sites have had, from lots of different perspectives.

I will no doubt be adding to this as time goes on so please, send me your recommendations!


Sunday, 28 January 2018

A private dining experience with La Belle Assiette

I know the phrase is often over used, but I can't believe how quickly this month has gone! It only seems like yesterday that Holly was trying to organise a date for Pam, Vicki, Kat, Georgie, Fiona and I to have dinner at hers. We'd settled on a date in mid-January and received a very exciting message from Holly to say that La Belle Assiette had got in touch with her to ask if she'd like to try their private dining experience; having a chef to your house to cook you a four course meal.


This was last Sunday, and could not have come at a better time. I'd broken my dry January streak, and was hungover and in need of a lot of food. Cue, La Belle Assiette who'd sent an Italian chef to cook us four courses of pure deliciousness.

I've only had one private chef experience before, and that was a sushi making experience so very interactive. This was pure indulgence, very very decadent. It's definitely a great way to have people over and not worry about timings and cooking and plating up etc. An ideal way to celebrate a special birthday. We could just chill out and let Giorgio do his thing.

Of course, the whole evening was made so much more glamorous as it took place in Holly's incredible house, and I couldn't wait to catch up with everyone.

Whilst we were chatting away, Giorgio brought over some warm focaccia and encouraged us to help ourselves. Well, I didn’t need telling twice. Three hunks in and a glass of prosecco later, I was feeling a lot less hungover and even more excited about the four courses to come...

As you all know by now I’ve been trying to reduce my meat consumption for environmental reasons (bla bla), so I was really intrigued to taste the menu. Italian food is up there for me and an absolute favourite (I blogged waaay back about Rome being one of the best places I’ve been to). The veggie options on the menu did not disappoint. It was amazing. So tasty - I didn’t feel like I missed out at all, contrary to other veggie options I’ve experienced, where you feel like you’ve been given the second best option.

Giorgio explained this food was from Veneto region, and I started with:

Wild mushrooms on a soft polenta bramata
Dried broad-bean croquettes (amazing).

The non-veggie started looked amazing too, with cuttlefish and sardines (I might have had a cheeky mouthful or two...).

Primo Piatto

I’d forgotten it was four courses and so presumed this MASSIVE risotto was our main course. Wow. This was incredible. I had risotto vialone nano with radicchio de treviso and carnia mezzano stravecchio cheese. The non-veggie was garlic chilli, crab and clams, which sounded amazing.

As I say, I thought this was the main (probably due to chatting away and not paying full attention- sorry Giorgio!) - the portion sizes were absolutely admirable. I would have this again in a heartbeat, it was so full of flavour, which I think can often be hard with cheesy dishes. It was rich, but not so rich that I felt too full.

Palette cleanser

Sgroppino: lemon sorbet and prosecco

This was fresh, light and nicely whipped.

Secondo piatto

I then had a fennel gratin for main. Now, this was interesting as I would never ever have chosen this, but it’s opened my eyes for sure. The best I can describe this is like a 'lighter' version of a veggie lasagne? The fennel was layered with a cheesy sauce and baked, with crispy breadcrumbs on top. The runner bean side and tomato stew was lovely, too. The non-veggie option was salted cod- and again looked very good.


Now. I need to be honest here. I really dislike sponge based desserts. The thought of sticky toffee pudding makes me feel queasy and so when I found out that tiramisu was the dish of the day for us, I was like ‘ah’.

WELL. Let me say how sorry I am I even doubted this. It was one of the nicest desserts I’ve ever had. Ever. A huge wafer basket with super thin spongy layers and a generous dollop of a sweet, cream sauce- it was divine. Despite being so full, I managed to work fit in somewhere - and I am so glad I did.

Holly - thank you so much for an amazing evening, it was so nice to catch up with the girls and wow, La Belle Assiette, thank you for providing the most decadent Sunday evening I’ll have in a long, long while - I would highly recommend.

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