Andy Butchart has one simple instruction to follow this morning on the occasion of his half-marathon debut. “My coach,” he revealed, “just wrote in my plan: ‘do not get injured’. Always sage advice, one would expect, but more so as the Olympic 5,000 metres finalist prepares to embark on a winter in which he – and his new mentor Terrence Mahon – will provide the foundation for a spring and summer with tangible returns on investment.
The European Championships are ten months away and the Commonwealth Games a mere six. The route map that leads towards Berlin via Gold Coast and myriad points in between begins on the streets of Glasgow for the annual Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run. It is a turn into the unknown for the 25-year-old who, by his own admission, is merely testing the waters rather than taking a full-on plunge. “I’m not going to say I’ll be in a sprint finish,” he acknowledges. “It’s an unknown for me. I could end up really fast. I don’t know.”
Yet he is not averse to leaps of faith. Guided for so long by Derek Easton, the paterfamilias at Central AC, the Scot – with certain encouragement from Mo Farah – changed tack this past season by seeking out American-based Terrence Mahon and asking him to unlock the small gains required to move from very good towards great.
His regime, already nurturing Chris O’Hare and Butchart’s now-girlfriend Lynsey Sharp, preaches that his disciples ready themselves to endure huge loads in the quest for strength and, ultimately, success. Up to now, Mahon has been a transatlantic hop away in Boston. No sooner had the dynamo from Dunblane signed on that the guru announced he would decamp further afield.
“He’s moving to California. But it won’t change things too much. We live such weird lifestyles that we live all over the place anyway. There will be a lot of travelling but I’m used to it after the last couple of years.”
Just as well for 2018. Keen observers like Brendan Foster have urged him to learn how to triumph next season so that they might be better equipped to take on the world come Tokyo [Olympics] three years hence. Others, Sharp and O’Hare included, will be of similar mind. “Next year is a year without the majors like Olympics and world championships,” Butchart notes. “So the opportunity to get medals is a bit easier. I feel I’m capable of doing it.”
A victorious opening to his 13-mile exploration is not anticipated, he offers, mainly because, in the shape of his old nemesis Callum Hawkins, there is a Scottish record holder with ambitions to repeat his 2016 victory. “It won’t end well for me probably,” Butchart smiles. “But this is the start of the next cycle.”