A BALLOCH shop owner hopes to take on more gruelling challenges this year after completing his first marathon.

Andy Howell has been living in West Dunbartonshire for the past eight years and is well known to locals who pop into his Loch Lomond News shop at Loch Lomond Shores.

Andy has been a long time supporter of the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat, and in aid of the lifesaving service he ran the London Marathon on October 3 in four hours, 25 minutes and six seconds, raising close to £2,000.

Now he is hoping to secure a place to run in the 2022 London Marathon, as well as taking on two mammoth ultramarathons.

He told the Reporter: “I’m hoping to run the London Marathon again and I’m also planning to do the Luss half marathon.

“On top of that, I’m looking to do the Tiree Ultra, which is 35 miles, and the Cairngorms ultramarathon, which is 42 miles.

“I’m a bit apprehensive but looking forward to it at the same time.

“If I did the London Marathon again, I would run it for charity but the fund-raising opportunity wouldn’t be as good for the lesser-known races.

“2021 was my first time doing a marathon and it was the furthest I’ve ever run. It was really tough.

“I had trained up to 22 miles but nothing quite prepared me for the full distance.”

Andy hopes his 2021 marathon helped to raise awareness of the work of the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat after the crew faced a difficult summer season.

Connor Markward, 16, died on Friday, July 23 whilst playing with friends in the loch near Balloch Country Park.

The following day, Edina Olahova, 29, Rana Haris Ali, nine, and Muhammad Asim Riaz, 39, died after getting into difficulty in the water off Pulpit Rock, near Ardlui.

He added: “It seemed particularly important to support the rescue boat after the fatalities there were at Loch Lomond over the summer, and I know they are looking to move premises too.

“We’ve always supported them and we raise money in the shop for them which we’ve done for nearly 15 years.

“I started running five years ago, before that I was five stone heavier.

“I lost a bit of weight and used running to get fitter.”