Nyth Brân was the name of his parents' farm where he worked as a shepherd. Local folklore said he could run fast enough to catch hares and foxes and birds in flight and as stories of his speed spread he was challenged to competitive races, on which substantial bets were placed!
His first race, organised by his sweetheart Sian saw him take on an unbeaten English runner over a 4 mile course on Hirwaun Common. He won the race easily as well as £400 prize money! He continued to race and win large sums of money until he was 30.
When he was 37 his girlfriend persuaded him to come out of retirement to take on a new runner called the Prince of Bedwas. This was for a prize of 1000 guineas and it was a gruelling 12 mile race between Newport and Bedwas. Guto won, but after Sian slapped him on the back in celebration Guto collapsed and died. He was buried at St. Gwynno's Church in Llanwynno.
Bernard Baldwyn, former commonwealth GB athletics team manager started the Nos Galan races in 1958 to commemorate the achievements of Guto. Held on New Year’s Eve in Mountain Ash, participants come from around the world to run in the races. Every year there is a mystery runner, representing the spirit of Guto. A Memorial Service is held at St Gwynno’s Church and the mystery runner lays a wreath on Guto’s grave. Then, carrying a flaming beacon, they run down the steep hillside to Mountain Ash where the Nos Galan Beacon is lit to signal the start of the races. Mystery runners have included Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Linford Christie and Welsh rugby international Shane Williams.
Where to Visit?
Pay your respect to this sporting hero at his grave on the hillside above Llanwonno in St Gwynno's churchyard.
Statue in Mountain Ash commemorated with Nos Galon races mystery runner – the spirit of Guto runs from his grave to Mountain Ash carrying a flare
Cwm Hafod Audio Trail
A walk from Rhondda Heritage Park with audio to bring the stories to life