Former Army Signaller taking on IRONMAN Wales for SSAFA

Llanelli, Carmarthenshire resident Gareth Thomas is a former Signaller in the British Army, and he is once again taking on IRONMAN Wales this September 22 on behalf of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Gareth joined the Royal Corps of Signals in 2003, after being inspired by his brother who served in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards. Gareth’s service took him around the world, including a six-month stint in the Falkland Islands leading up to the 2006 World Cup. He was a member of the “bar committee” or as he likes to call it, “one of the most important roles on the island”.

One of Gareth’s favourite memories from that time in the Falklands:

“I wrote to a popular magazine asking for some flags that we could put up in the bar for the World Cup. Weeks went by and I got a call from the QM saying that I needed to get down there straight away… When I got there, I’d received a rather large delivery. It did contain official World Cup Flags but also 50 cases of Budweiser. With that, I achieved hero status and didn’t buy another drink for the rest of my tour!”

Gareth left the service over 15 years ago but has stayed in touch with the military community. For the past few years he has worked as the Wales Armed Forces Champions Lead at the Department for Work and Pensions, and he works closely with servicemembers and their families. It only takes a brief conversation with Gareth to see his passion for helping those who gave so much. He has seen firsthand the unique struggles that they face and the help that SSAFA provides.

Gareth said this about his experiences with SSAFA:

“I frequently visit veteran hubs and support the people who attend. I’m in regular contact with SSAFA case workers and attended various meetings as part of my role. What I’ve witnessed SSAFA do for veterans and their families in that time has been incredible.  I’ve lost count on the number of referrals I’ve made to SSAFA and each time, SSAFA has delivered.”

The IRONMAN Triathlon is one of the toughest single-day feats of endurance. The race requires a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride and finishes off with a marathon run to the finish line. Gareth describes himself as a “runner by choice”, having previously finished multiple versions of marathons. He also participated in IRONMAN Wales 2023, although he needed a bit of learning first.

“I’ve completed numerous marathons and ultramarathons but as of 2022 I couldn’t swim.  I could get from one side of the pool to the other, but my face would be dry… After signing up for the 2023 IRONMAN I remember sitting on the sofa having received my confirmation email and thinking I can’t swim!  A year later, I completed IM Wales 2023!”

Gareth recently did a fundraiser at his local Morrisons, riding his bicycle on training rollers and raising nearly £500 for his place in IRONMAN Wales. The support from his family has been essential, both emotional and edible (see the doughnut donation from his son Ollie). His two youngest children will also be participating in IronKids, a much shorter run-only event.

You can donate to Gareth’s JustGiving page by clicking this link:

For more information about SSAFA’s work throughout South West Wales, visit

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