A Bancyfelin postmaster has raised an incredible £5,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance - by taking on the world’s toughest mountain race.

Father-of-two Dean Thomas set himself the challenge of competing in the Dragon’s Back Race, which saw him run from Conwy Castle to Cardiff Castle in just six days – a distance of 380km, or 1.5 marathons a day.

Dean, who also runs the outreach post offices in Llangain and Llansteffan, said: “In the last few weeks leading up to the event more and more people were asking if I was doing it for a charity, so with a week to go when the race was all systems go, and I was fit to go we decided to raise funds for Wales Air Ambulance.

“We chose the Wales Air Ambulance as it's a locally based charity which was important to us, it's a relevant cause to all as none of us know when we could need the service. It hit home to us when the Wales Air Ambulance landed opposite the shop at the beginning of the year when one of our villagers needed their help.

“It was ironic really that on route to the race registration I was caught up in traffic behind a serious road collision where a motor cyclist required the assistance of the air ambulance, reaffirming our charity choice for the amazing work and service they provide.”

In December 2020, the charity achieved its aim of operating a 24/7 service. Wales now has access to the service’s Emergency Department-standard critical care around the clock and to keep the helicopters in the air, the charity needs to raise £8 million every year.

Whilst Dean concentrated on the huge task ahead, his wife Anthea, who also works at the post office and shop in Bancyfelin, and their two daughters, Ellie and Megan, focussed on the fundraising.

Dean initially hoped to raise £1,000 for the lifesaving charity, but quickly smashed that target.

He said: “Anthea and the girls did all of the fundraising really, I just did the running. We only started the week before the event and the response was incredible.

“It was just word of mouth from there really. We're quite lucky in a way that we see a high volume of people within the shop and post offices. I think we expected to raise a thousand pounds due to us starting it so late, so we were blown away with people's generosity and support for the charity.” 

Dean - who took part in his first half marathon aged just 13 - is no stranger to pushing his body to the limits, having previously completed nine marathons, which included three London Marathons and five Snowdonia Marathons.

He has participated in the International Snowdon Race, which is a race to the summit of Snowdon and back to Llanberis 15 times and the Brecon Beacons’ Fan Dance. Dean has also featured in the Ninja Warrior UK series 4.

As Dean took on the ultra running journey down the spine of Wales, he was hit with an injury on day five.

He added: “I got injured and I still had over 50 miles to go, every step was really painful and that pain doubled going downhill. I saw the race doctor on the last morning who told me then that the injury I had could be a stress fracture or could lead to one, so she taped my shins up and that's all that could be done - other than stopping and resting, but that wasn't an option!”  

Pupils from Ysgol Bancyfelin threw their support behind Dean and followed his progress each day. The children made daily video updates of his progress which they shared on social media and wished him luck throughout his gruelling challenge.

Dean had no contact with his wife Anthea and daughters during the week, added: “I was unaware of all the support I was receiving during the race as I had no contact with anyone until I arrived in Cardiff on the final day of the race. I was in my own little bubble for the week so all I had to focus on was getting to Cardiff.

“I was amazed to hear how many people were tracking me and how much they enjoyed it too, some family members and friends spent hours of their week watching a dot on a map tracking me.” 

Dean was delighted when he arrived back home to Bancyfelin to a surprise welcome home from the villagers and the school children. He said: “The welcome home was amazing and completely unexpected, I said to Anthea and the girls at the time, 'what's all this for? I've only been for a run'.  I couldn't get my head around it and didn't know the school children had been following me all week.”

Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Dean has raised an amazing £5,000 for our lifesaving charity by completing the exhausting Dragon Back Race. Despite suffering an injury on day five, that didn’t stop Dean from completing his challenge, which is incredible. He showed sheer determination to continue the remaining 50 miles.

“Wales Air ambulance regularly attends life and limb-threatening emergencies in Carmarthenshire. Donations like this are vital and we know how important our service is, particularly for rural areas. By keeping our helicopters in the air we can continue to take the emergency department to the patient, saving time and saving lives. Thank you to everyone who supported Dean in his fundraiser or donated to our Charity. You’re all helping save lives across Wales.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance. These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.