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16 October 2014

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Also Ran

By Michael Rowland
September 2002, Newport
A digital story from Capture Wales

Keep on running ...

... and don't stop. Michael tells us about his rediscovery of a Welsh legend - Guto Nyth Brân.

"Nearly all my life I've run.

It all began when I was a little boy listening to Children's Hour on the wireless. I heard the story of the Welsh running legend Guto Nyth Bran, the greatest runner ever. He ran his last race in my home town, Newport, and this inspired me to be a runner.

Now that I've reached the Merlin years and all the serious running is done, all that remains are the names of the people I've run with, and the rhythms of the running.

So forget the words, my story can be told in fleeting strides. My story can be told in hard earned breath. My story can be told in the beat of a heart and in the names of harriers.

Guto, Lyn Bevan, Gordon Perry, Harry Wilson and Andes Rye...

With every name there is a favourite memory. A race, a stadium, a city marathon, a muddy field, a forest path, sand dunes or sessions on a tartan track. Humiliation or victory.

I still run in the mornings, by myself but never alone.

Continues to list names...
Bill Stitful, Tom Edmonds, Ridi Jaiwan, Sian, Bill Peel, Imone, Cathryn, Catier Enclay, Angharad, Hailey and Liz, Sally, Dai, Huw... "


So who is this Guto?
I first heard of Guto in school at Newport. He was a local legend because he ran the 12 miles from Newport to Bedworth in 53 minutes. They used to say he could catch a bird in flight and beat a horse. 53 minutes - that's the same time as Haile Gebrselassie today and this was in 1737. Guto's girlfriend - Sian - used to promote his running and for the Bedworth race the prize was 1000 guineas - a fortune for the time. Apparently she slapped him on the back in congratulations and he dropped down dead. I've taken such an interest in the subject that I've started researching a book.

Had you done any writing before the story telling project?
No, not at all. A friend took me to an open evening then I put my application in. I was quite surprised to get the call. Now I think...if only I had a computer. The people at the workshop give you such confidence; I'd love to do more.

How did you start thinking about the story you were going to tell?
I was on a packed train out of Cardiff and the Welsh actor Ioan Gruffydd was standing. He got out at a stop and ran to 1st class. As I watched him run down the platform I just thought, because of the way he looked with that sort of Italian Welshness - he could be Guto!

What are your favourite places to run?
Oh...there are lots. But I used to live in Stockholm for three years and I loved to run through the forest parks that go in and out of the city. The ground beneath the pine trees is so soft and forgiving, you can run for miles. Of course, I also love the canals in Newport, we're quite lucky for that here. I once ran with a friend, out along the canals, all the way to Brecon...it was just so beautiful we didn't want to stop.

What was the workshop experience like?
I enjoyed the storytelling workshop - all the technology fascinated me. It was a good introduction and it felt as if I had only put a foot in the water.

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