Changing Lives in Llynfi Valley

Early this year Run Wales secured a Changing for the Better grant, to work in partnership with Natural Resources Wales to develop a Walk to Run group in the Llynfi Valley. 

The group was initially targeted towards women in the Llynfi Valley, however that didn’t stop one man joining this amazing group of ladies to complete the challenge.

So in early July a large group of very nervous looking people gathered at the Sports Centre in Maesteg, to begin their journey from walking to running 5k in a period of 12 weeks – something that each and every one of them was convinced that they would not be able to do.

Led by the motivational James Thomas of Old Parish Runners (Maesteg’s social running group) and a Run Wales Activator, the group met 3 times a week, sometimes in the heaviest rain imaginable to reach their target!

Throughout the 12-week programme, the overwhelming atmosphere was one of motivation and determination.   All the runners supported and encouraged each other, especially when times were tough and people found it hard to carry on.  The Facebook group that was set up for the group was a constant avenue of inspiration and support with people posting solo runs, others asking if anyone fancied joining in on a run they had planned, and some members were so committed they even completed sessions on holidays.

At the end of the 12 weeks they all met up one Saturday morning at the new Maesteg parkrun and completed their 5k “graduation” run.  24 of the initial 35 people completed this programme, and as you can see from the picture they were all very proud of their achievements, grabbing a “I smashed Maesteg 0-5k” t-shirt when they crossed the finishing line.

“They are an amazing bunch who have come so far in a short time and I am incredibly proud of them all!”  James Thomas said of the group.

Since the completion of the project, members have gone on to run with the Old Parish social running group based in Maesteg, who have a transition group that is perfect for completers of the couch to 5k programme.  This project also supported women to be upskilled in Leadership in Running Fitness course, to ensure sustainability of the running opportunities offered in the area.


Sioned Jones, Run Wales Programme Manager said of the project;

“This project has just highlighted that given the right opportunity and the relevant support, we can get communities from all over Wales running. It’s about friendships, fun, and getting active with a supportive likeminded group of individuals makes it all a little bit easier.  Run Wales is a programme that wishes to support further project like this to ensure that we have sustainable, safe and supportive social running opportunities for everyone.”


Another achievement of this project was the creation of the Spirit of Llynfi Running Trails.  Run Wales worked closely with Natural Resource Wales to develop a series of marked 1k, 3k and 5k running trails in the area around the old Twmpath Mawr quarry and woodland paths. The trails also takes in the Sustrans bike path making it accessible to everyone. These trails will be officially launched in January 2018 where three panels will be placed on the trail heads which will contain information on the distance, difficulty and duration it should take to complete the particular trail.  The aim is to make it easy for people to walk, jog or run to a more active lifestyle and to do so in a safe environment.   Geminie Drinkwater of NRW said of the paths…

“Using the environment as the catalyst for improved wellbeing and a healthier, happier Wales is one of our key aims at Natural resources Wales – an aim which is being put into practice through this running project and the development of the running trails on the Spirit of Llynfi Woodland Site in Maesteg.  The three waymarked routes will provide the perfect opportunity for people from the local area and further afield to enjoy running in the countryside on their doorstep, taking in the fresh air and beautiful views of the Upper Llynfi Valley along the way!”


This opportunity would not have been possible without the support of James Thomas, Changing for the Better grant scheme, Natural Resources Wales and the members of the group and their hard work and determination to complete the challenge that couch to 5k poses for beginner runners.  This has been a true community project and a great achievement that has changed the lives of those taking part.

Da iawn pawb!
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