Wendy Tocach and Elizabeth Van Heusden
The world-famous Nos Galan Road races attract entrants from all corners of the globe each year, making it the biggest New Year’s Eve street party in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
This year, demand for race places in all categories has been greater than ever before – with one competitor travelling over 3,000 miles from her home in Canada.
A staggering 325 Elite runners will be taking part in the event, organised each year by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and the Nos Galan Committee. There will also be more than 1,500 people taking part in total on the night.
The Nos Galan Road Races are held each year in memory of legendary Welsh runner Guto Nyth Bran. It attracts athletes of all ages and abilities from around the world, including the cream of the athletics world for the Elite Race.
Wendy Tocach, 37, will be making the journey across the Atlantic from her home in Ottawa to line up with all other competitors in the Fun Run. She is hoping to complete the course in around 30 minutes.
This will be first time for her to take part in the Nos Galan Road Races, having read all about the event and the legend of Guto Nyth Bran on the Internet.
America-born Wendy, a Major in the US Army, is currently on an exchange programme from the US army Military Police School to the Canadian Army Military Police for two years.
This will also be her first visit to Wales and a warm welcome awaits her in Mountain Ash on New Year’s Eve.
Wendy said: “I am travelling to the UK for the holidays to visit my friend, Captain Elizabeth Van Heusden, who is stationed in Gloucester. She is also registered to take part in the Nos Galan Road Races with me.
“We met about four years ago when we were both stationed in the Republic of Korea, and the first question she asked me was if I would be interested in running a marathon along the Great Wall with her!
“We have been friends and race buddies ever since. We did run the Great Wall Marathon back in 2012 and competed in races all over South Korea for the next year.
“I coached her to be a better swimmer and we also started competing in triathlons together.
“In 2014, when I was then stationed in Texas and she was on her way to her posting in England, we both travelled to Long Beach, California to take part in a half ironman triathlon.
“Last year during the holiday season she visited me in Texas and we ran a local 5k race together, so when it came time to planning my trip out to the UK to visit her for this year's holidays, we of course wanted to find a race we could run together.
“What better way to ring in the New Year than by running – which is something we both love. After all, it was running that brought us together as friends.
“We did a bit of research on the Internet looking for a race during the holiday season and we came across the Nos Galan Road Races. It has the right combination for us – a run on New Year’s Eve which will bring us both to a part of the UK that we have never visited before.
“This will be the perfect opportunity for us to join you, while at the same time visiting Rhondda Cynon Taf and South Wales.
“I'm incredibly excited about my trip to the UK and Wales. The Nos Galan Road Races provides the perfect opportunity to visit Mountain Ash and the surrounding area. There seems to be plenty of history and tradition surrounding the event – I cannot wait.
“We also plan on visiting the grave of Guto Nyth Bran when we are in town.”
Having grown up in North Dakota, USA, Wendy joined the military upon leaving high school and earned her commission through the Reserve Officers Training Programme at the University of Hawaii.
A volunteer guide for visually-impaired athletes in Canada and the USA, Wendy has been stationed in Texas, Missiouri, Washington State, Republic of Korea and now Canada and deployed to Bosnia and Iraq.
She returns to the USA after the Nos Galan Road Races and is taking part in the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World in Florida six days later, on January 6 – a half marathon on the first day followed by a full marathon the following day.
Next summer she also plans to compete in the Mont Tremblant Ironman in Quebec, Canada.
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