Power Cou­ple

AS LON­DON HOSTS THE IAAF WORLD CHAM­PIONSHIPS IN AU­GUST WE'LL BE HOPING TO REPRISE THE GLORY OF 2012. AND TWO NEW STARS HAVE THE BRILLIANCE TO SHINE

Runner's World (UK) - - IN THIS ISSUE -

Cal­lum Hawkins and Laura Muir are ready for the World Champs

He fol­lowed Lon­don by fin­ish­ing ninth in the Olympic Marathon in Rio, be­fore post­ing a stun­ning 60:24 to win the Great Scot­tish Run half marathon a few weeks later, smash­ing the Scot­tish half-marathon record in the process. How­ever, the record was in­val­i­dated early this year when the course was found to be 150m short.

It could eas­ily have been a de­mor­al­is­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for a less con­fi­dent char­ac­ter, but even in the midst of dis­ap­point­ment Hawkins could still ex­tract the pos­i­tives. ‘It was huge for me,’ he says. ‘Even with the con­ver­sion [to the full dis­tance] it’s still a sub61-minute per­for­mance. It gave me the con­fi­dence that if I could do that I could get close to 60.’

As if to prove it, Hawkins went to Ja­pan in Fe­bru­ary this year and ran 60 min­utes dead to win the Ka­gawa Marugame Half Marathon – this time le­git­i­mately smash­ing the Scot­tish record. Dur­ing a dom­i­nant per­for­mance he ran back-to-back 10K PBS of 28:28 and 28:27 and rock­eted to num­ber two in the all-time UK rank­ings, be­hind Farah.

Hawkins rewrote the record books again in the New York City Half Marathon in March, where he ran 60:08 to be­come the fastest Bri­ton on US soil, over­haul­ing the ex­ist­ing record held by, you guessed it, that man Farah. Al­though the time was a few sec­onds slower than his month-old PB, it was another key be­lief-build­ing per­for­mance. ‘I think in the form I was in for New York, on a fast, flat course I could have bro­ken 60 min­utes,’ he says. ‘The first half is through Cen­tral Park so it’s pretty hilly.’

In the space of less than a year a nascent tal­ent had be­come a world-class con­tender. But ask him what the main fac­tor was be­hind his seem­ingly me­te­oric rise to promi­nence and the an­swer is log­i­cal but pro­saic: long-term con­sis­tency.

‘I think it’s just the last three or four years of con­sis­tently high mileage in train­ing,’ he says. ‘I’ve not had any ma­jor in­juries. Over the last few years my con­fi­dence has snow­balled and I’m just lov­ing my run­ning. And mov­ing up to the marathon at the end of 2015 agreed with me.’ Like a lot of overnight suc­cesses, it seems Hawkins’ jour­ney to the top has been built on years of graft.

GO­ING THE DIS­TANCE That jour­ney started when he fol­lowed in the foot­steps of his dad, Robert, the 1979 Scot­tish un­der-15 cross-coun­try champ, and now his coach, into run­ning. Both he and his older brother Derek, also an elite marathoner, were promis­ing teenage ath­letes, and by un­der-17 level Cal­lum had a string of Scot­tish ti­tles to his name. The Scot­tish in­ter-dis­trict cham­pionships used to take place at Holy­rood on the same day as the In­ter­na­tional Cross-coun­try, which gave the teenage Hawkins

‘ I WAS IN PAIN, BUT WITH THE CROWD AND ME BE­ING FIRST BRIT, I CAN’T PUT INTO WORDS HOW AMAZ­ING THE FEEL­ING WAS’

a chance to see Ke­nenisa Bekele, one of his run­ning he­roes, at his im­pe­ri­ous best, win­ning the se­nior men’s ti­tle three times in suc­ces­sion from 2006 on­wards.

Hawkins then ran for But­ler Univer­sity in In­di­ana, US, for two years be­tween 2010 and 2012. ‘He was an aer­o­bic mon­ster,’ re­mem­bers his col­lege coach Matt Roe. ‘He was aer­o­bi­cally the best ath­lete I’ve ever coached.’

Un­for­tu­nately two knee op­er­a­tions in 2012 ham­pered his progress into the se­nior ranks. ‘It was tough at the time,’ Hawkins re­calls. ‘The first one wasn’t too bad, but to have to go in a second time pro­longed it – they were al­most a year apart. But I al­ways had the feel­ing I’d be back.’

He re­cov­ered to run the 10,000m in the Com­mon­wealth Games in Glas­gow in 2014, fin­ish­ing 20th, but events the fol­low­ing sea­son led him away from the track and onto the road. ‘The track sea­son in 2015 didn’t go well,’ says Hawkins. ‘I was try­ing to work on speed in the 5000m and it just didn’t hap­pen. Then the [qual­i­fy­ing] time came out for Rio [Olympic Marathon] and I thought 2:14 was achiev­able. The way things worked out I ended up hav­ing to do Lon­don, and just went from there.’

Hawkins’ sparkling form saw him be­ing the first Bri­tish ath­lete to be se­lected for this sum­mer’s World Cham­pionships in Lon­don, where he will toe the start­ing line in the marathon on Tower Bridge on Au­gust 6.

Some of his prepa­ra­tion has been done at the high al­ti­tude of Boul­der, Colorado, US, un­der coach Steve Jones, a mul­ti­ple marathon cham­pion him­self and still the UK record holder. Jones was leg­endary for his fear­some work ethic and de­ter­mi­na­tion to give ev­ery­thing dur­ing a race, qual­i­ties his pro­tégé is hoping to take from him. And there are sim­i­lar­i­ties: the ap­petite for hard work, with Hawkins reg­u­larly churn­ing out 120-mile train­ing weeks. Jones was ob­sessed with crush­ing the op­po­si­tion first and run­ning times second. Hawkins him­self doesn’t wear a watch in half marathons, pre­fer­ring to race them rather than run ac­cord­ing to a strat­egy dic­tated by the clock. ‘It’s bril­liant be­ing round him,’ says Hawkins. ‘He’s a leg­end. He had the men­tal­ity that if you give your best and get beat, there’s noth­ing more you can do.’

Such a deter­mined but prag­matic ap­proach is help­ing Hawkins to deal with his grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion. Has life changed much in the last year? ‘A lit­tle bit,’ he replies. ‘I’m get­ting more in­ter­est from the big­ger races. That’s good be­cause I want to com­pete against the best. But over­all things are still the same. My mum and dad keep me grounded as much as they can.’

There is also Hawkins’ brother and oc­ca­sional train­ing part­ner, Derek: the rules of sib­ling ri­valry dic­tate that the two al­ways want to run quicker than each other, but ‘we’re al­ways there if the other needs some ad­vice’.

His aim in the Worlds is ‘just to try to com­pete at the front and hope­fully I can im­prove on what I did in Rio’. Be­yond that is the prospect of fu­ture con­tests against Farah, who is mov­ing up to the marathon af­ter re­tir­ing from the track this sum­mer. And Hawkins is adamant that he won’t give up his sta­tus as top-ranked road run­ner eas­ily. ‘Not with­out a fight,’ he says. ‘Even if he is Sir Mo Farah.’

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