The pulverising heat of Doha felt a universe removed from the sodden chill of Kirkcaldy as Andy Butchart was transplanted from displaced sand into treacherous mud. A month after surprisingly missing out on the 5,000 metres final at the World Championships, the 28-year-old dusted himself down and returned to his humble roots on the outdoor terrain.
“It is a bit bizarre to be running through a field in short shorts and a vest in these temperatures,” he acknowledged. No matter. Needs must. For the third time, he won the Scottish short-course cross-country title as his countdown to next year’s Olympics truly began.
With Callum Hawkins pulling out with an Achilles niggle, Butchart was able to turn the four-kilometre circuit into a procession, bursting forth from the outset over a pack of aspiring challengers. He cut through the turf to claim victory in 11 minutes and 54 seconds, eight seconds ahead of the fast-finishing Sol Sweeney with Morpeth’s Karl Avery third.
Fun, the victor smiled. “It was tough conditions. It was so soft underfoot that I could hardly get moving. But it’s nice to come here and win. I’m still getting back into training and building up. So it’s nice to perform without going fully flat out.”
It may open the door for the European cross-country championships in Lisbon. If available, Butchart would surely be selected, even if he opts out of the designated trials in Liverpool.
“I’d consider European Cross,” he revealed. “I’ve not said I’ll do it but I’ll sit down with my team and discuss it.” The inquest following Doha was brief and precise. Moving on is more vital than looking back.
“There wasn’t much more I could have done,” he declared. “If I’d been in the final I think I’d have run well. I missed out by nothing. But once I’d missed out, it was done.”
Annabel Simpson won the women’s title in 13:57, seven seconds ahead of Fife club-mate Jenny Selman with Inverness Harriers’ Megan Keith recovering from a fall to come third and earn the Under-20 crown.
“I’m building up to run a marathon in 2021,” Simpson said. “I’d love to make the Commonwealth Games team and that’s a long-term goal. But now I’m targeting a first GB vest at the Euro Cross.”