A 2012 Olympic and Paralympic athlete were this year’s Nos Galan Mystery Runners, joining thousands of people on the streets of Mountain Ash on New Year’s Eve!
It turned out to be the biggest street party of the year in Rhondda Cynon Taf, with Team GB athletics captain Dai Greene and home-grown Paralympics competitor Samantha Bowen as the guests of honour.
Organised by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and the Nos Galan Committee, it proved to be the biggest Nos Galan Road Races for 46 years.
All races were filled to capacity, with no registrations being taken on the day for the first time in the history of the event.
There were 800 participants in the 5k Adults Fun Run, 200 athletes in the Elite Race and 150 entrants per age category in each of the Children’s races.
The oldest entrant in the 2012 Adult Race was 74, proving that age and ability does not come into it when it comes to Nos Galan.
Runners came from all over the world, with the furthest two travelling from Washington DC and San Diego - both in the United States of America.
The fun started in Mountain Ash Town Centre at 4pm, with the first of the children’s races. This was followed by an elite race and 5k adult fun run and a spectacular fireworks display.
But the highlight of the night was the arrival of 2012 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 was a keen footballer from an early age and he joined the youth set-up at Swansea City, scoring a penalty against Real Madrid Youth.
At 17 he was diagnosed with epilepsy and continues to manage the condition to this day by avoiding late nights and alcohol.
His first athletics success was on the junior athletics circuit in 2005. He won Silver at the 2005 European Athletics Junior Championships.
In 2006 he competed in his first senior tournament, the 2006 European Athletics Championships but failed to progress past the heats. At the 2007 European Athletics Championships he won Gold.
In 2009 he moved to the University of Bath to train under coach Malcolm Arnold. His training partner is fellow Welsh 400m hurdler Rhys Williams - the 2006 Nos Galan Mystery Runner.
Competing for Team GB at the 2009 World Championships, he finished 7th in the final of the Men’s 400m hurdles and won Silver in the 4x400m relay.
In 2010 he won Gold in the 400m hurdles at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona and Gold at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Dai won Gold at the 2011 World Athletics Championships in South Korea and captained the Team GB athletics team at the London 2012 Olympic Games, finishing fourth in the 400m hurdles final and fourth in the 4x400m relay, just 0.13 seconds off a medal place.
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.
From the moment she started on the Disability Sport Wales volleyball programme, Samantha snapped up every opportunity and was quickly noticed by the GB head coach and invited to train in Roehampton - the Sitting Volleyball training base.
Samantha Bowen was one of four Rhondda Cynon Taf residents represented in Paralympic GB at the London Paralympics 2012 - the others were athlete Rhys Jones, swimmer Nyree Kindred and table tennis player Sara Head.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Deputy Mayor, Cllr Ann Crimmings, who is also Chair of the Nos Galan Committee and Secretary of Aberdare Valley Amateur Athletics Club, said: “The 2012 Nos Galan Road Races was an eagerly-anticipated event, with a record number of entrants - and it certainly lived up to all expectations.
“We had the highest number of race entrants for 46 years, not forgetting the thousands more who lined the streets of Mountain Ash to cheer them on and join in the celebrations, making it the biggest street party in Rhondda Cynon Taf this New Year’s Eve.”
“It has always been a truly global event but the 2012 Nos Galan Road Races proved to be more popular than ever before - we even had a Message of Goodwill delivered from the Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones.”
As well as support from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, the race was also sponsored by Persimmon Homes, Darran Las Communities First, Amgen Cymru, RCT Homes, and Fernhill and Glenboi Communities First. Again this year, Springfield Soft Drinks are also supporting the races, along with Buy As You View and Red Bull.
The two Nos Galan Support Runners, flanking Dai and Samantha the entire night, were Pat Provis and Jessica Lambert.
Pat Provis lives in Aberdare with his wife and five children. At an early age, his ambition was to join the Army, which he proudly did at the age of 19.
During a Tour of Service in Northern Ireland, with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Pat was seriously injured during a mortar bomb blast and lost his right hand and left arm just below the elbow.
Pat has always been interested in sport, including skiing, cycling, climbing and mountain walking, and when his two younger children joined Aberdare Valley Amateur Athletics Club, Pat was eager to get involved and successfully completed a coaching qualification.
He now enjoys coaching athletics at grass roots level, which he says gives him “incredible satisfaction.”
Jessica Lambert has been a member of Aberdare Valley Amateur Athletics Club for six years and runs in the 100m, 200m and 300m.
Throughout her time at Aberdare Valley Amateur Athletics Club she has won 21 trophies, 25 medals and three Regional Championship medals.
Jessica has also been voted Club Athlete of the Year on two occasions.
She has competed in the Welsh Championships and has taken part in the Club’s for Young People event and has gained three Welsh vests.
This year will be her seventh appearance at the Nos Galan Road Races and she says she is “looking forward to the big night.”