Forget fancy gyms and expensive memberships. Sydney’s hottest workouts right now are run clubs. And one of the biggest run clubs is right on our doorstep.

Every Friday morning at 6am sharp, thousands of runners meet at Bradfield Park to tackle a 6.5km run over the Harbour bridge that ends not just with a sense of accomplishment, but with a pastry high.

What started as a few mates who could barely run the length of the Harbour Bridge without stopping for a breather has turned into a movement. Initially the co-founders Chad Cohen, Sam Dreyfus, Sander Dalhuisen, Sarah Gellatly and Josh Wainstein each invited a friend to met weekly for a friendly jog followed by a well-deserved treat. Soon five turned to a core group of 10, and the Unofficial Run Club was born.

The founders only started posting on the ‘Unofficial Run Club’ Instagram account in September of last year, and it’s exploded to over 44,000 followers.

“The biggest change for us five founders is that we initially knew everyone we invited, and now we maybe know 40-50 people but still try to remember everyone’s names we meet!” Says Sam Dreyfus, one of the co-founders.

“We try to encourage a shirts-on, no headphones policy for inclusivity and connection, and get hundreds of DM’s after each weekly run thanking us for how warm and inviting the community is, which is honestly the most comforting thing about Unofficial.”

“We create a ‘first-timers’ group every week to encourage new and long-lasting connections, and even have a meet up spot for newcomers. Each week the group gets between 150-200 members chatting to make new friends and it really warms our hearts,” says Sam.

When asked if he thinks the name had anything to do with their success, Sam reveals, “Unofficial was kind of a joke because none of the founders were great runners, and there really wasn’t anything official about it at the beginning.”

“The growth couldn’t have been more organic,” says Sam. “We just invited one friend each, and they enjoyed it and the word spread. It’s also comical putting ‘Unofficial’ in front of other words like ‘athlete’ or ‘support crew’ but this wasn’t planned early on!”

Aside from the croissant component, it’s clear to see the beauty of the group lies in its inclusivity. Whether you’re a seasoned runner with a sub-4:30 minute per km pace or a casual walker enjoying the scenery, there’s a place for you. There’s a dedicated walking group. The atmosphere is friendly and supportive, and there motto is “no one gets left behind.”

The club has runners as young as 12 and as old as 70 walking or running. One of the most fulfilling aspects of beginning the club has been the community connections and seeing their individual progress.

“Personally, I’ve met three people running as a group a few times with Congenital Movement Disorders, such as Cerebral Palsy, who enjoy a slower bridge run. This almost brought me to tears,” says Sam.

“When we started we had a core-walking group of maybe 20 people, and they now all run the entire length of the loop,” says Sam. “I know of two groups of 8-10 women who ALL met at run club, and now go away together on weekends and holidays as a new friend group. Theres nothing cooler than hearing from members that they’ve made a lifelong friend here and now are joining soccer teams or doing other activities together after meeting at Unofficial – it really is rad.”

The route itself is a scenic 6.5km loop, with shorter options available. For those feeling ambitious, the full run takes you south over the Harbour Bridge, up and over the Cahill Expressway, past the Sydney Opera House through Circular Quay, and up The Rocks, before returning across the bridge. For those wanting a shorter distance, several runners choose to run just the bridge itself, walk back to the starting point, and join the group for coffee and conversation, and of course a croissant.

It’s been so popular that LouLou Bistro at Milsons Point has opened their night-time bistro next door to cater for the 600 to 700 people that order coffees and pastries post-run. The manager, Carolina is a close friend of the founders (and a fellow runner) rostered extra chefs to cope with the demand.

“LouLou’s bakes more than 200 additional pastries now, as we’ve had over 1000 runners most weeks over the past few months,” says Sam.

The Unofficial Run Club actively manage the group’s size to ensure a smooth experience for everyone and minimise impact on public areas. Newcomers are always welcome, and there’s no pressure to participate in every run.

The success of this club isn’t solely based on camaraderie and stunning scenery. Let’s be honest, there’s a certain allure to a delicious pastry waiting at the finish line. The social aspect combined with the post-run reward creates a powerful incentive to lace up your shoes on Friday mornings.

So, how do you join the fun? It’s simple: lace up, show up, and prepare for a fist bump (the official greeting!). Every Friday at 6:00 am sharp, meet at Bradfield Park under the Harbour Bridge. Don’t be late – the pack of 3,554 runners (and counting!) awaits!

Unofficial Run Club

When: Friday 6am.

Where: Bradfield Park, Milsons Point

Cost: Free

Website: Unofficial Run Club website

Insta:@unofficialrunclub 

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