So you’re training for a spring marathon. As long as you’re following a sensible, progressive marathon training plan (please do that) then you’ve got a long road ahead, probably something in the order of above 350km over the next three months. You might as well use that opportunity to explore your locale and one of the best ways to do that is plugging your postcode into National Cycle Network’s website and trying out some of its traffic-free paths, circular trips and quiet on-road walking routes. It’ll sure beat crowded pavements or the same circuit round the same park.
UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans, the pioneer and custodian of the National Cycle Network, has done us a solid and picked out a selection of its favourite traffic-free running spots from across the UK. Fear not if you don’t live near any of its recommendations. It’s called a national network for a reason.
Distance 7.5-mile (12km) round trip Terrain Gravel and paved tracks
The Tamsin Trail provides a short circuit of Richmond Park, taking you away from the hustle and bustle of the city and through tranquil, open grassland. You’ll run past ancient trees, wildflowers and probably a grazing red deer or two.
Distance 3-mile (5K) round trip Terrain Traffic-free, mixed surface paths
Starting at Speirs Wharf in the historic Port Dundas area north of the city centre, this circular route takes you around some of Glasgow’s historic waterways including the Forth and Clyde Canal, the Glasgow City Branch Canal and the River Kelvin.
Distance 3-mile (5K) round trip Terrain A mixture of on-road and traffic-free paths
This route provides a unique perspective on the charming and historic Bristol docks and is a great starting point for anyone looking to break in their running shoes. It takes you from the bustling city centre to Cumberland Basin, with spectacular views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can see of the city in just a few miles.
Distance 14 miles (22.5km) Terrain Disused railway path, rolled stone surface
Save this more challenging distance along the traffic-free Brampton Valley Way near Northampton for the long runs later in your training plan. It follows one of the longest dismantled railway paths in the country from Kingsthorpe to Market Harborough, passing through tranquil countryside, lovely Chapel Brampton and, if you are feeling energetic, on to Brixworth country park (pictured). Here you can run on a traffic-free path all the way around the lake at Pitsford Water, nestled in rolling rural Northamptonshire.
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Distance 10-mile (16km) round trip Terrain Mix of private roads, and public roads and paths
This route starts in the delightful fishing port of Wells-next-the-Sea and passes through Holkham National Nature Reserve before returning you to the starting point. Heading out on Beach Road you’ll quickly join the Norfolk Coast Path which offers great views of Holkham Bay, one of the most unspoilt and beautiful stretches of sand in the country.
Distance 6 miles (10K) Terrain Traffic-free paved path
Following the wide, curved sweep of Swansea Bay, this route offers fantastic views across to the eastern extremity of the Gower Peninsula. Starting at Swansea Marina, the path follows the route of a former railway along the coastline to the Victorian seaside town of Mumbles.
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Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.