A CLACKS man who took up running in his 50s has claimed the title of Lord of the Isles after completing three half marathons.

Neil Bell, from Alloa, recently completed the Hebridean Tri-Island Challenge and was the only contestant to finish all three half marathons on the isles of Tiree, Mull and Coll.

Despite only taking up running during Covid lockdowns, he claimed the Lord of the Isles trophy and title for 2022, all at the age of 53.

Now gearing up for the marathon at Loch Ness in October, Neil reflects on feeling two decades younger and is encouraging people to find a sport they like.

Each of the three half-marathons brought their own challenges with some participants unable to see them through.

Neil, originally from Ayrshire but a Clacks resident for half of his life, told the Advertiser: "The Tiree one, it's basically a half marathon consisting of more than eight miles of wet beach and 30mph wind, rain and sleet – it's wind against you most of the way."

The Isle of Mull, while all of it on road, was a foot-battering uphill struggle before the undulating course at the Isle of Coll.

The trophy was to go to the participant who completed all three in the best time and Neil explained: "There were a couple of drop outs and there were people who signed up but didn't show.

"So although there were 150 people in each race, it was only really myself who actually completed all three half marathons and, at the end of it, it entitled me to get the trophy."

Neil, who also plays the bagpipes, gave thanks to wife Angela and friend David McKillon for cheering him on.

Indeed, it was by chance that he entered the Tiree race and ultimately claimed the title as David's wife had to pull out.

He was ready to take her spot, but the names had already been registered for the race.

Neil said: "My friend David told the organiser: 'Tell you what, how about we get Neil to play the bagpipes at the start line and change his name then'.

"And they did!"

While Neil admitted he never really had the pace to compete had more experienced runners finished all three, slow and steady certainly won the race.

"I only took up running during Covid there, wow, just to get something, just a cheer [was amazing]," he added.

"They had me stand on top of the podium – there was no way out of it – we are talking a room full of 300 people.

"Each one of them, as I am going by, were bowing down to me," he recalled. "It was quite funny; it was quite nice."

He also spoke of the health benefits, losing two stone in as many months and feeling more motivated in life.