Medal-chasing Hawkins hard at work in parents’ shed

Spending hours on end in his parents' shed in Scotland wasn't exactly what marathon star Callum Hawkins had envisaged for the summer of 2020.

Having been pre-selected for the Tokyo Olympics in December, the 28-year-old - who finished fourth at the World Championships last year - had set himself the realistic target of claiming his first senior international medal on his second Games’ appearance in Japan.

The reality of lockdown soon put those plans on ice, but Hawkins has put the extra time available to him to good use, keeping himself in the best shape possible to give him the best chance of realising his podium ambitions next year.

Part of his training regime has seen him committing to treadmill sessions in heat conditions similar to those expected in Japan, in a facility jokingly known as the ‘Hawkins Performance Centre’ - a far cry from the dilapidated wooden structures found at the bottom of most gardens.

“The name’s a bit of a joke,” said Hawkins. “My parents got their garage converted a couple of years ago so they built a pretty substantial shed with a treadmill, a bike and some weights.

“Before Doha I bought a couple of outdoor heaters from a supermarket and used it as a bit of a makeshift heat chamber. It’s obviously not as scientific as the real thing but it definitely helped and it’s been useful ahead of the Olympics, where it should be pretty warm too.

“I tend to prefer to do a lot of my training outside, but it has been really handy over recent weeks - especially when there were fears that we might not be allowed outside for exercise, towards the start of the lockdown.

“I don’t live with my parents but I’m able to go into the garden round the side and train on my own based on plans that my dad has devised, and although it’s been tough not being able to see him, we’ve communicated a lot on the phone and by text.”

While Hawkins has largely adapted to training without his dad - Robert Hawkins, who is also his coach - he admits among the biggest challenges he has had to overcome is the lack of treatment he is able to access, a key component in the life of an athlete used to running more than 100 miles a week.

That, alongside the uncertainty of when his next race will be, makes it difficult to maintain the intensity of regular training. But with news earlier this month that his pre-selection will be honoured for the re-scheduled Games, the Paisley-born man is focused on giving himself the best chance of success next summer.

He said: “To hear that really put my mind at ease. For the first half of the lockdown I was a bit panicky in terms of deciding what I needed to do but not knowing what marathons I could do. It just means I can focus a bit more now.

“The lack of treatment has been hard. You can’t quite train as hard as normal - some sessions are over 20 miles and if you’re doing that two or three times a week it can have a big effect on your body. Without the proper recovery you’re just asking to get injured.

“I’ve been doing some faster sessions and also experimenting with hill sessions, which has been good as it’s given me a chance to do some things I’ve never tried before and see what works and what doesn’t.

“I originally planned to do a marathon at the end of October but now we’re looking at something in December or maybe even into next year, as a target. My next marathon will be based on the timeframe for Tokyo and what I believe is going to help me get the best time and performance there.

“In a way it was a bit frustrating that the Olympics were moved because I think I had a lot of momentum behind me after Doha, but realistically it had to be so there are no ifs or buts.

“I am really excited for the Olympics and I think it will be quite an even playing field. The podium was always something we were looking at and I think there is still more to come from me in the future.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has delayed his chance of international sporting glory, he admits that that there have been certain aspects of the lockdown that he has enjoyed. Britain’s third-ever fastest marathon runner has been able to take a more relaxed approach to his usually demanding daily routine, and spend more time at home with girlfriend, Thuy.

He said: “The beauty of lockdown is that I’ve been able to be a bit more flexible. I usually try and train in the morning and then rest for the rest of the day or get any chores done, but if I’m feeling a bit more tired I’ll have a long lie in and train a bit later.

“I live with my girlfriend so she’s kept me sane during the lockdown. It’s been nice to see a lot more of her during the day and together we’ve exhausted Netflix.

“Parts of it have been good but really I can’t wait to get signed up for my next marathon and get back out on the start line, ahead of a big summer next year.”