Guto Nyth Brān Born Griffith Morgan in 1700 at Llwyncelyn (=Hollybush), Rhondda, south Wales, UK, and simply known as Guto for much of his life, Guto Nyth Brān ("Nyth Brān" being the name of his parents' farm) is perhaps one of the most legendary athletes of his time.
It was said that his talent first came to prominence as he was helping his father herd sheep -- he managed to chase and catch a wild hare. Once locals heard of this there were new rumours every day of him catching hares, foxes and birds. One such legend has his running from his home to the local town (Pontypridd) and back, a total distance of some seven miles, before his mother's kettle had boiled.
Seeing his talent a local shopkeeper called Siān decided to take him under her wing by becoming his trainer and manager.
The very first race organised by Siān-O'-Shop (Siān of the Shop) saw Guto taking on an unbeaten English Captain for a distance of 4 miles over an area known as the Hirwaun Common. Guto took the victory easily and the £400 prize money, the first of many prizes he and Siān would win.
During this time Guto and Siān became sweethearts and while he kept winning his races they began to come few and far between as many runners shied away from testing themselves against a man who was quickly becoming a legend. He and Siān decided to retire to a quiet life before Guto turned 30.
Years later though a new runner had come to the fore, his name was Prince and he was affectionately known as the "Prince of Bedwas". Siān convinced Guto to come out of retirement for one race with the prize being 1000 guineas.
The race itself was over 12 miles between Newport and Bedwas, Guto's effort looked in vain as Prince took an early lead but a devastating uphill sprint from Guto saw his surge past Prince near the end and beat his challenger, taking the prize and honour of being named the fastest man of his time.
Unfortunately for Guto and Siān the race took a fatal toll on Guto's body. During the post-race celebrations he collapsed and died in his lover's arms after a congratulatory back-slap.
His body was taken away and he was left to rest at St. Gwynno's Church in the Llanwynno forestry. A statue of Guto Nyth Brān stands in the village of Mountain Ash and a memorial race is run every year (called the Nos Galan race) over the original course of his first competitive race. Each year a mystery runner competes and over recent years this has included such celebrities as Garin Jenkins and Iwan Thomas. His gravestone has become an attraction for tourists from around the world.
Guto Nyth Bran The story of Welsh Legend Guto Nyth Bran, as depicted by Courtney Ellis Owen, Age 11, for a school History Project.
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