Andrew Butchart dreams of beating training pal Mo Farah
Andy and Jamie Murray have since been there, done that, and changed the Scottish mindset of what is possible in the sporting arena. Now picture this scene. A few miles east of SW19 and Sir Mo Farah’s hopes of yet another gold medal in one of his farewell major track events are scuppered, not by a Kenyan or Ethiopian, but another lad from Dunblane.
Andrew Butchart stops short of saying that outcome is possible although, tellingly he doesn’t completely dismiss the proposition, as he seeks to improve on the sensational sixth place he achieved, behind the imperious Farah, at the Rio Olympics last year.
The 25-year-old is currently high altitude training in the French Pyrenees ahead of Saturday’s appearance in the 5,000m British world championship trial at Birmingham. He may also have a crack at the Scots-stacked 1,500m on the Sunday but it is at the longer distance that he has emerged as a stunning revelation in the past couple of years.
Very much part of the Scottish surge in British athletics, Butchart has enjoyed a meteoric rise from enthusiastic but unfocused club runner to world-class performer and now hopes to, first qualify, and then prosper at the IAAF World Championships at the London Olympic stadium in August. A gamble to leave his job as a fitness instructor and lifeguard at Gleneagles Hotel after a revelatory warm-weather running trip to Mallorca with mates from Central AC in late 2015 has paid off as he has achieved international standard, sponsorship and funding, and finds himself in the incredible position of rubbing shoulders with the legendary Farah.
The “can you beat him?” question has to be asked but Butchart just chuckles and avoids being boxed in.
“Everybody’s going to try,” he says. “But, look, I’m not going to stand here and say I’m going to beat Mo Farah. That’s not how it works in our sport. You’ve got to go out and do it and then talk. We’ll race each other in London next weekend over three days [at the Anniversary Games] and see how it goes.
“Mo is in a different stage of his career from me. The worlds in London will be his last big outing on the track, he’s done the miles. If I can learn anything from him for the future as I strive to be among the best in the world that would be amazing. But, the way Mo trains and the way he is as a person, he’s going to be really hard to beat. And there will be other people in the race. It’s not an easy event. And I’ve still not got there yet, I’ve not been selected. I need to take it day by day and not get too ahead of myself.”
Butchart trained with Farah in Flagstaff, Arizona, earlier in the year, along with fellow Scottish runners Lynsey Sharp and Chris O’Hare. Any sense of starstruck fandom has worn off with familiarity and Butchart does not view his GB team-mate with any sense of awe.
“He’s just a regular a guy,” said the Scot. “I don’t look at him and think ‘oh my god it’s Mo Farah’. He’s just an idiot like me. He’s always up to mischief and nonsense. Such a funny guy.
“Of course I respect all he’s achieved but I don’t think about that when we’re hanging out and training together. I just look at him as a friend.”
That sixth place Butchart achieved in Rio was overshadowed by the Farah-mania but stands as one of the great results by a Scottish athlete in recent years. Now he wants to push on further.
“I’d love to place higher than sixth at the worlds,” he says without hesitation. “As to what what I’d view as a successful season is a hard question because you don’t know how things will take shape. Just getting to the final with these guys is a hard task. But yeah, after a sixth in Rio you’ve got to be looking to improve on that. If I could medal then I’d be absolutely over the moon, that would be a completely different level. I just want to perform to my best.”
While many other members of the British team have had good experience of home events in London and Glasgow lately, it would be a fresh experience for Butchart.
The current focus is on Birmingham and London but, having missed out on Glasgow 2014, next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia are also an undeniable carrot.
He said: “The plan is I might get a bit of a holiday in Australia after because by that time it will have been a really long slog and I think I’ll be needing it.”