“Adjust your pace” to suit the weather, Hawkins tells London’s runners
Callum Hawkins, the Scottish marathon man who stumbled and collapsed in the Australian heat when in sight of a famous Commonwealth Games victory last weekend, is back in Britain, happily feeling much better after his dramatic plight and looking forward to greeting the country’s best young runners as the official starter of Sunday’s Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon.
It was a delight to see the 25-year-old New Balance athlete looking well recovered again just six days since the drama that left millions of TV viewers fearing for him when the exhausted runaway leader lost control of his legs and his senses and tumbled to the ground less than 2km from what had looked a certain victory.
Hawkins’ collapse on the side of a bridge on the Gold Coast caused a firestorm on social media after it took what seemed an age for him to receive medical assistance. Yet, though obviously disappointed to miss out on a first major championship gold, he was delighted to tell his relieved fans at a New Balance-sponsored question and answer session in central London: “I’m feeling myself again.”
Hawkins, who had been more than two minutes in front of Australia’s eventual winner Michael Shelley, explained that even now he could not recall a great deal about the episode.
He reckoned it was “a bit weird” when he watched his nightmare on video. “I’ve seen it a few times. It’s been hard to miss it,” laughed the man who could hardly credit becoming an internet sensation in such a fashion.
“I remember getting to about one hour 52 minutes, but I’m not 100 per cent sure I remember taking a bottle from dad at 35 kilometres and, when I went to watch the actual footage, I don’t actually remember getting back up after I’d fallen.
“Now, though, I’m feeling a lot better after the medical treatment. I feel a bit more like myself, although I’m still feeling a bit tired.
“For some reason, I didn’t find it too bad watching it again and injuries were the least of my worries. I‘ve got a few scrapes to my knees and hands, but not too much.
“Hopefully, it will be four weeks before I get back in training but I hope to get on the bike in the next week, just light stuff, nothing strenuous.
“I’ll do another marathon next year, definitely,” said the man who equalled the best performance ever by a British athlete in the men's World Championship marathon with his fourth-place finish in London last year.
“Where that is, I don’t know yet, as I’ve still got to work out what I’m doing this year. But everything’s going to be focused on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon and what is needed to qualify for that.
“I definitely hope to learn from this experience, though. Usually, I’m very good at listening to my body. I know the point when my body starts to overheat, and the strange thing about the Gold Coast race was I never felt that point.
“There was no point until my legs started stumbling when I felt I was overheating. Maybe I need to be a bit stricter on my pace or maybe go a bit later.”
His recall of events last week may be hazy but Hawkins still has razor-sharp recollection of being a teenager coming down to London with his older brother Derek from their home near Paisley to run in the Mini Marathon.
That’s why he is so thrilled to be doing the honours as race starter in Sunday’s Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon, a series of 12 races over the last three miles of the course involving more than 1,500 of the country’s best 11 to 17-year-old runners, wheelchair racers and ambulant para-athletes.
Hawkins will set them on their way from Old Billingsgate from 08:40 before greeting the winners at the Finish Line in The Mall where he will present the winners with their medals and prizes. He never did win that elusive first prize himself – and even now he’s frustrated by the memory.
“I’m excited to be here because I did the Mini Marathon three times. I really wanted to win because Derek had won it a few years before me but I only finished second and third – and the year I finished second, I probably should have won.
“I was about 14 and it was a great experience. I’d never experienced anything as big as that. Just the whole process of going on the bus and almost having the call room situation that you’d get years later at major championships. What an experience!
“And who knows who could be in that field tomorrow? The amount of international athletes, like Mo Farah, who’ve come through the Mini Marathon is quite ridiculous. There’ll probably be the next British international athletics star in there.”
And did he have a word of advice for all those thousands who may have to experience on Sunday just how brutal the marathon can be when the weather is hotter than you’ve experienced?
“Well, I found out the hard way to be honest,” he said with a rueful smile. “Adjust your pace – and don’t keep pushing like I did.”