Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge may have completed a marathon in under two hours but could he run seven miles in the time it takes for a kettle to boil?

Legend has it that is exactly what Welshman Griffith Morgan, or Guto Nyth Brân as he is more famously known, achieved back in the 18th century.

Born on this day 321 years ago, Guto’s feats as a runner have become legendary, although it was after winning a race in 1737 that he collapsed and died.

A statue of Guto stands in Mountain Ash and the traditional New Year’s Eve Nos Galan road races – run around the town centre – have been held in his honour since 1958.

Guto was born in Llwyncelyn, Porth on October 26, 1700, before his parents moved to a farm, Nythbran, which he adopted as his own name.

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His athletic ability was evident from an early age – it’s said he was able to chase and catch sheep, wild hares, foxes and even birds.

It is said that his mother would send him on errands to Llantrisant or Aberdare while she prepared breakfast and he would be back in time to eat.

It’s claimed his mother once sent him to Aberdare to deliver a message while she had business to attend to.

When she thought it was time to go home to prepare his dinner, he was already there, much to her disbelief.

He is also reported to have won a fair sum of money after winning a race against a horse, perhaps helped by his pre-race preparations of sleeping on a warm manure heap in front of the stable.

It was thought the natural heat would loosen his limbs.

A woman known as ‘Sian the Shop’ became Guto’s best friend, trainer and manager, often setting up races which would earn her a small fortune.

In 1737, he was challenged by an Englishman, only known as Prince, over 12 miles, starting from St Woolos Church in Newport and finish by St Barrwg’s Church in Bedwas.

A lot of money was wagered on the race, but Guto was off the pace in the early stages.

Realising he needed to get moving, he overtook Prince going up the steep slope towards Bedwas Church, finishing first in 53 minutes.

It then goes that Sian, overjoyed at his victory, gave him a slightly overenthusiastic back slapping which his heart couldn’t take.

And, at the tender age of 37, Guto took his final breaths.

The National Wales: Gravestone of the athlete Griffith Morgan (1700–1737), better knows as Guto Nyth Brân, in St Gwynno's Church graveyard, Llanwynno. Source: Verbcatcher CC BY-SA 3.0Gravestone of the athlete Griffith Morgan (1700–1737), better knows as Guto Nyth Brân, in St Gwynno's Church graveyard, Llanwynno. Source: Verbcatcher CC BY-SA 3.0

His body was laid to rest at St. Gwynno’s Church in Llanwonno, Pontypridd, with a large gravestone erected in 1866, more than a century after his death.

His legacy lives on in the form of the Nos Galan races, which each year features a ‘mystery runner’ laying a wreath on Guto’s grave and then carrying a torch to the start in Mountain Ash.

Famous faces to take on the mystery runner role include Olympic champions Lynn Davies and Linford Christie, rugby’s Sam Warburton and Shane Williams, and ex-Wales football manager Chris Coleman.

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