Inspirational Trails 18: Taff Trail
Written By: SportsShoes
Here, in part 18 of our Inspirational Trails series, ultra-runner, Matthew Siggins, describes the Taff Trail and explains how running can have a positive impact on mental health.
“Alright butt” and an accompanying nod. There is a mutual pact between runners on the Taff that, particularly early in the morning, you cannot pass someone else without a pleasant greeting of this ilk. If you’re not from South Wales or you’ve never spent much time there, it might be important to state that “butt” is actually a term of endearment. I promise.
For runners, the Taff Trail provides the ideal mixture between road and trail running. The 55-mile length of pathway offers a combination of paved riverside paths and forest roads. Stretching from Cardiff to Brecon, the trail meanders alongside the river Taff taking in a backdrop of mountains and passing iconic castles on its way. It really is an idyllic running route.
Popular with cyclists, runners and walkers, the Taff Trail has been a welcome relief to many during the ins and outs of lockdown restrictions over the past year or so. On a sunny day (they do actually come around here and there in Wales, believe it or not) the path is well-used and well-loved, particularly in and around Cardiff as it enters into Bute Park and runs down towards the iconic Cardiff Castle and beyond.
If you choose to follow the trail from north to south, you’re actually going downhill. This might feel like cheating, but there’s enough uphill sections to ensure you’ll soon enough forget this is the case. Don’t be surprised if you’re passed by horses when the trail meets the bridleway and you’re almost certain to nearly step on a squirrel or two if you’ve not got your wits about you. With the surrounding rolling hills in the background as you cruise through the valleys, the Taff Trail really does showcase the best of the Welsh landscape in all its glory.
Earlier this year I completed my first ultra, running 50km along this trail from Merthyr Tydfil down into Cardiff and then around Cardiff Bay. Like many others, I’ve found the release of running to be hugely impactful on my mental health during a challenging time. For me, the focus on training for this event managed to alleviate a lot of the anxieties and stresses that the pandemic has magnified and brought about a welcome distraction.
There is more evidence than ever that physical activity can have a positive impact on mental health. In a time when, as a society, we are experiencing growing strain on our mental health, getting out there and running is proving to be an escape that people need.
It’s been fantastic to see an increasing number of people getting out there and giving running a go. When the gyms have been shut, the roads and trails remain open. You don’t need to be an experienced trail runner or complete an ultra-marathon to reap the rewards. Give it a go, you might just love it.
Physical activity can help with mental health problems. If you need help and support, please contact the charity Mind. You can also join the charity Sport in Mind, by getting active every day, to beat the blues away.
Photos: Credit to Matthew Siggins