Each year a famous sports personality, whose identity is kept secret until the night, lays a wreath on Guto’s grave. They then run to Mountain Ash carrying a flaming torch. Over the years many famous sporting personalities have had this honour - Ann Packer (Brightwell), Ron Jones, Lillian Board, David Hemery, David Bedford, Steve Jones, Kirsty Wade and Linford Christie OBE.
In the town, the torch is used to light the Nos Galan Beacon, signalling the start of the senior races.
Mystery runners of the past few years
Dame Tanni Grey Thompson
Welsh Paralympic champion Dame Tanni Grey Thompson delivered a message of support to all those who completed Nos Galan: The Virtual Challenge in 2021. For the second year running, the event was held as a virtual race due to the global Coronavirus Pandemic and she joined the Nos Galan committee in thanking and commending those who continued to show their support for the event during difficult times.
As a young athlete, Dame Tanni competed in wheelchair basketball, but went on to win a total of 16 medals in her sporting career in racing, including two Gold medals at her last Paralympics in Athens in 2004. Her last appearance for Great Britain was at the 2007 Paralympic World Cup in Manchester. She has also continued to be a leading force in sport, sitting on a range of boards and panels to drive forward sporting opportunities and access.
Nigel Owens MBE
The world-acclaimed Rugby Union referee was born and raised in the village of Mynyddcerrig in Carmarthenshire. Having been ref at his first rugby match at the age of 15, Nigel has gone on to carve a remarkable career as a rugby referee, officiating at matches all over the world.
At the time of him being the Nos Galan Mystery Runner, Nigel was the World record-holder for the most Test matches refereed and was one of just four professional Welsh Rugby Union referees. Earlier the same year, he had officiated at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and was also the main match official of the Wales v Barbarians autumn series rugby match.
David Bedford OBE, Sam Warburton OBE & Rhys Jones
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Nos Galan Road Races, not one but three sporting superstars were revealed as the Mystery Runners 2018.
Record crowds cheered as champion athlete and former 10,000m world record holder David Bedford OBE, Wales rugby star Sam Warburton OBE and Tonypandy's Rhys Jones who has competed in two Paralympic games and plans to represent Team GB at more, made their way into town with the iconic Nos Galan torch.
They represented the past, present and future of not only Nos Galan but of the sporting talent we are proud to have in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Nathan Cleverly & Colin Charvis
Former world boxing champion Nathan Cleverly and Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby player were the 2017 Nos Galan Mystery Runners.
Nathan made his professional debut in July 2005 at the age of 18 and retired from the sport in 2017 after losing his WBA light-heavyweight crown to Badou Jack in Las Vegas, having been stopped in the fifth round on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather's victory over Conor McGregor. It was only his fourth career defeat in 34 fights.
Colin made 94 appearances for Wales and scored 22 tries for his country, making him the leading try scorer among all Welsh forwards. He captained Wales during the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia and also played for the British and Irish Lions during the 2001 Test Series in Australia.
Chris Coleman OBE
Wales football manager Chris Coleman OBE was the 2016 Nos Galan Mystery Runner - the man behind the nation’s momentous 2016 Euro campaign. Swansea-born Chris said he was delighted to be in Mountain Ash on New Year’s Eve - the hometown of his grandmother.
He made 32 appearances as a player for Wales. At club level, he also played for Manchester City, Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers and Fulham before going on to manage Fulham, Real Sociedad, Coventry City and Larissa.
Ending a special year on the streets of Mountain Ash, Chris was also awarded the OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours.
Colin Jackson CBE
Former Olympic, Commonwealth and World athlete Colin Jackson CBE was the 2015 Nos Galan Mystery Runner.
The double world champion, four times European champion, twice Commonwealth Games champion and world record-holder for almost 13 years was delighted to be representing the spirit of legendary runner Guto Nyth Bran at the world-famous event in Mountain Ash.
Colin Jackson CBE, who also made his mark at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, retired from competition in 2003 after the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, his 71st appearance for Britain in a spectacular athletics career.
Wales and British and Irish Lions prop Adam Jones was the 2014 Nos Galan Mystery Runner.
A proud Welshman, rugby star Adam said he was delighted to be the person representing the spirit of legendary Welsh runner Guto Nyth Bran at the world-famous Nos Galan Road Races in Mountain Ash.
Alun Wyn Jones
Mystery Runner for Nos Galan Road Races 2013 was Wales and British Lions rugby player
Alun Wyn Jones.
The 28-year-old Ospreys player, capped 74 times for Wales and six times for the British Lions, appeared at the Brynffynon Hotel Llanwonno, before laying a wreath on the grave of legendary Welsh runner Griffith Morgan (Guto Nyth Bran) at St Gwynno’s Church, Llanwonno.
Traditionally two support runners, acting as acolytes, flank the Nos Galan Mystery Runner, The two Nos Galan Support Runners were father-and-daughter duo Gareth and Holli Jehu, representing Aberdare Valley Amateur Athletics Club.
Olympian Dai Greene and Paralympian Samantha Bowen
Dai, 26, is British, European and World 400m hurdles champion and was also Team GB athletics captain at the Olympic Games held in London in 2012.
Born in Felinfoel, near Llanelli, Dai said he thoroughly enjoyed the Nos Galan experience.
“It was a brilliant way to end 2012, a year I will not forget for the rest of my life.”
Samantha, 26, was born and bred in Mountain Ash and fulfilled her ambition by joining the Army, serving with the 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery. She suffered life-threatening injuries while serving in Iraq and went on to compete at the London Paralympics 2012.
Samantha represented GB in the Women’s Sitting Volleyball competition. Having battled for her life six years previous after a bomb attack at her Army base left her paralysed when razor-sharp shrapnel sliced into her right leg and back. An artery in her right leg was severed.
Emergency surgery saved her life and she was flown home to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham for further surgery. She was later discharged from the Army in December 2007, returning home to live with her family in Mountain Ash.
Shane Williams and Ian Evans
British Lion and Wales rugby legend Shane Williams was the 2011 Nos Galan Mystery Runner, accompanied by Wales and Ospreys team mate Ian Evans.
Shane, 34, was capped 87 times for Wales and retired from international rugby with a spectacular try in the last minute of the game against Australia in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on December 3. He continues to be a key player with regional side Ospreys.
Ian Evans, 27, lives in the Cynon Valley and began his rugby career with Abercwmboi RFC.
Capped 17 times for Wales, he also played in Shane’s last game at the Millennium Stadium in December 2011 and is hoping to be included in Warren Gatland’s Six Nations Squad 2012.
John Hartson and Mark Taylor
John Hartson is a former Welsh international footballer, best known for his time with West Ham and Celtic. Hartson featured prominently for Wales, earning 51 caps until his international retirement in 2006. He retired from professional football in January 2008.
Mark Taylor made his debut for Pontypool in 1992 before joining Swansea and was the Welsh Player of the Year in 2000. In the 2003-2004 season, Taylor was a member of the Llanelli Scarlets team that won the newly-formatted Celtic League.
James Hook and Jamie Roberts
Neath-born Hook represented Wales in the 2007 RBS Six Nations and was included in Warren Gatland's Grand Slam-winning RBS Six Nations side in 2008. The fly half played in the 2009 Six Nations and the Lions tour of South Africa.
Newport-born Roberts was part of the U21 Grand Slam-winning Six Nations team in 2005. He was included in Warren Gatland's RBS Six Nations squad in January 2008 and the RBS Six Nations squad in 2009.
Linford Christie OBE
In an international career spanning 17 years, Linford Christie competed more than 60 times for his country and won more major championship medals (23) than any other British male sprinter. He was the British team captain from 1990, a year that saw him claim his second European Championships 100m title, and his first Commonwealth Games Gold, until his retirement from international athletics in 1997.
Unbeaten by a British athlete for eight years (until 1996) over 100m, he is the only European to have run below ten seconds. His fastest time, 9.87 seconds, recorded when he won the 1993 World Championship in Stuttgart, is the European record.
Pontypridd-born rugby player was a talented fullback with a wealth of experience in international rugby.
He initially played for his home town club, Pontypridd, then joined Swansea in 1998.
Kevin joined the Celtic Warriors when regional sides were formed in 2003, then signed for Newport Gwent Dragons in 2004.
Rhys's first victory was in 1999 Welsh Schools Championships. Rhys would go on to achieve the European Champion at Under 17, 20 and 23 Levels.
In 2005, following a double gold in the European Under 23 Champs in Erfurt, Germany, Rhys made his Senior GB debut in the World Athletics Champs in Helsinki, Finland, making the Semi Finals, equalling his personal best twice.
In Gothenburg, Rhys managed to snatch the bronze medal by one 100th of a second, beating the Olympic Bronze medalist in the process.
Rhys then claimed his second medal in the Championships, picking up a silver in the 4x400m relay. His relay success meant that Rhys was Britain’s most successful athlete in Sweden.
Gethin Jenkins, Martyn Williams, Rhys Thomas
After almost a 30-year wait, 2005 was Wales’s year and the team won the RBS Grand Slam! Our mystery runners were Cardiff Blues’ Rhys Thomas, Gethin Jenkins and RBS Player of the Championship 2005 Martyn Williams.
After winning almost every Youth British title in all cycling disciplines and re-writing the record books winning four Junior titles in a year, Nicole has gone from strength to strength. In her first year as a Senior she became the Gold Medallist in the 2002 Commonwealth Games Road Race and at present is ranked 5th in the World in her discipline.
The third highest scorer in Welsh International rugby. He has 35 international caps and has won all available domestic rugby honours, Celtic League, Welsh National League and Welsh Cup. Left his hometown club the Llanelli Scarlets, to join French outfit Montferrand in the summer of 2004.
Silver medal in 2002 400metre hurdles at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Silver in the 4x400m relay at the same event.
Gold Medal as part of the 4x100 relay team and bronze in the 200m at the commonwealth games in Manchester, Bronze 100m at the European Championships.
World Junior 100m and 200m Champion. European Indoor 200m Champion. Commonwealth Games 200m Silver medallist.
Garin Jenkins & Dai Young
Garin Jenkins - most capped Welsh hooker and front row forward. Played in all three Rugby Union World Cups - 1991, 1995 and 1999.
Dai Young - current Welsh rugby captain. Holds 40 Welsh caps. Has played in two British Lion Tours, one Rugby League World Cup and two Rugby Union World Cups.
Jamie Baulch - Gold in the European Championships, silver in the World Cup and bronze in the Commonwealth Games 4 x 400m relay.
40th Anniversary Nos Galan
Jamie Baulch & Ron Jones
Ron Jones - Former British & Welsh Team Captain. Commonwealth & European Bronze Medalist. Member of the World Record breaking British 4 x 110 yards relay team.
British Record Holder over 400m
European & Commonwealth 400m Champion.
Former WBO World Bantam weight Champion.
Wales’ most prolific international points scorer, British Lions Full back & Barbarians outside half.
Former WBO World Feather weight Champion.
Photography by Creative Design, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.
Additional photography, courtesy of Mountain Ash Studios.