A military veteran has run a marathon to raise money for the charity Combat Stress after it helped him overcome mental health issues after he left the Army.

49-year-old Richard Thomas, of Darlington, says a ‘significant gesture’ by Duncan Bannatyne, who offered free membership of his health clubs to ex-service personnel, who had suffered from PTSD, also helped him recalibrate his wellbeing.

He says he is very grateful to Duncan and Bannatyne Darlington health club staff, who ‘have always made me feel valued and welcome’.

During 26 years in the services, Richard was exposed to conflicts across the world, which had a lasting effect into civilian life.

He was ‘fortunate enough’ to receive help and support from Combat Stress, which has allowed him to rebalance his life.

Now Richard has raised money for the charity by running the Sheffield half marathon, which he completed in 1 hour 38 minutes, and which raised £560.

He felt able to complete a 13-mile course after joining Bannatyne Health Club Darlington under an offer, spearheaded by Duncan Bannatyne, which gave free membership to ex-service personnel who had suffered from mental health problems.

Richard retired from the Army in 2015 having started his career in the Infantry and finishing it as an exercise rehabilitation specialist helping services personnel recover from physical injury.

He said: “During my service I was exposed to conflicts across the world that had a lasting effect into civilian life. I was fortunate enough to receive support from Combat Stress, which allowed me to rebalance my life.

“A significant part of this rebalancing was influenced by physical activity – it made a huge contribution towards my recovery.

“Very generously, in 2018, Duncan Bannatyne subscribed to the military covenant and offered free memberships to ex-service personnel, who had received treatment for mental health-related illnesses, and I was fortunate to benefit from this significant gesture.

“At the time I was travelling the country as a consultant and living out of hotels and having access to the network of Bannatyne facilities was a real gift, allowing me to maintain the re-balancing of my state of mind.”

Duncan said: “Richard is a fine example of what I was trying to do by offering free membership to military veterans with PTSD.

“If we have helped him in some small way to regain his mental strength that is absolutely fantastic.

“Our servicemen and women do an outstanding job and the bravery that they display is amazing and it was the least I could do to support them.”

Richard added: “To this day, my wife Natalie and I avidly attend the gym in Darlington, which has become the fabric of our daily life. Natalie is my rock and our time in the gym provides much-needed quality time together.

“So, I’d like to say how grateful I am to Duncan and all the staff at Bannatyne health clubs across the country, who have always made me feel valued and welcome. A huge thank to you all.”