17th June 2020


Third on the UK all-time marathon list and twice a fourth-place finisher at the World Championships, Callum Hawkins is one of the very best over 26.2 miles. Such performances led to British Athletics pre-selecting him for nomination to the British Olympic Association for the Tokyo Olympics and he’s using the extra time between now and the Games to get physically better as he bids to return home with a medal.

Hawkins made his Olympic debut at Rio 2016, finishing ninth in what was only his third career marathon, and has since lowered his personal best from 2:10:52 to qualify for those Games to 2:08:14 following a great run in London in April last year.

The year after Rio Hawkins produced a superb run to finish fourth on his World Championship debut in London with that 2:08:14 effort in the UK capital in 2019 – the third quickest ever by a Brit – securing another shot at a global medal in Doha.

Hawkins’ medal attempt at those World Championships in Qatar was one of the most captivating of the British team as he ran his own race and seemingly timed a charge towards the leading group of three to perfection.

The 27-year-old was in the mix in the final kilometres but just missed out following the long kick to the finish and place an agonising fourth again, clocking his fourth fastest time over 26.2 miles – 2:10:57 – despite the extremely hot and humid conditions.

The Olympic marathon in Tokyo was expected to be similarly hot and prompted a move 800km further north to Sapporo with Hawkins, prior to Doha, investing in a set up at home to mimic the heat and humidity in order to be as best prepared as he can for both.

The Games will no longer take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and so Hawkins and his father and coach Robert have been forced to reassess plans. Regardless, in the aftermath of coming so close again to a global medal in Doha they’ve identified what they believe can be the difference.

Hawkins said: “My focus right now is not on the Olympics, it is on when I am going to do my next marathon and trying to go a lot quicker than I did in London in 2019. From my Doha performance, I have at least got a minute or two more in me. It is just about seeing what we can do different in training – maybe it’s upping the distance and speed.

“My dad has been looking into a lot of numbers and pulling together a lot of spreadsheets and graphs based on PBs and percentage towards PBs and we looked at if I had gone harder here [in Doha]. It was his thought just after that if I had been a bit closer in the middle of the race I might have caught them earlier and therefore been able to have a break and attack harder.

“But looking at percentage effort based off PBs, he doesn’t think there was much more I could have done. If I had gone earlier, I might have gassed myself. It is just about getting physically better, that’s about the only thing I could have done. The tough thing about now is staying healthy because of the lack of treatment. It’s hard to do over a 100 miles a week without any treatment but things are starting to open up.”

The World Championships in Doha was expected to be Hawkins’ last marathon prior to the Olympic Games with half marathons being targeted along with altitude training in the USA and warm-weather training in Spain.

Hawkins was due to race in New York at the time the Covid-19 restrictions were put into place, returning home where he has invested in a new treadmill in order to use the time being in one place to experiment in that bid to become physically better.

He added: “My lifestyle hasn’t changed too much, it’s run in the morning and then sit on my backside for most of the rest of the day. We have been trying some new sessions like a completely uphill hard run on the treadmill – it was 4km or 5km up at 4 per-cent the whole time. We’re just trying different things and putting some more hill stuff in and tweaking about with the sessions to see what works and what doesn’t, using it as an experimental period.

“I was supposed to be in Mallorca just now and from March to May I would have had two months up at altitude in Flagstaff. So we’ve been going outside and we’ve got a new treadmill. I have got a top of the range one for when we start doing heat stuff looking ahead towards the Olympics, which we will be starting fairly soon. It is a lot more solid and doesn’t bounce around as much. It feels more like a normal road, to me anyway.”

British Athletics announced this week that the 2021 London Marathon would act as the trial race for the Tokyo Olympics, something that Hawkins, given British Athletics’ pre-selection of him for the Games, doesn’t need to pencil into the calendar. The challenge instead is finding a marathon to race with Hawkins and his team keeping their options open.

He added: “We don’t know when anything is going to happen. Plans are constantly changing and we are trying to pick the right race that will actually go ahead. It could be Amsterdam at the end of October, maybe Valencia or maybe Seville or Tokyo next year. With Valencia I will have ten weeks of waiting to train for the Olympics. That would be a weird time. Tokyo would give me momentum going into training for the Olympics.”

Pictures courtesy of Mark Shearman