Callum Hawkins can prepare at his own leisure for his pursuit of Olympic marathon glory next summer after he was pre-selected for the British team for Tokyo 2020.
The 27-year-old Scot, who presented an irrefutable case by finishing fourth at October’s world championships in Doha, was the only runner given an advance guarantee when selectors met, becoming the first UK athlete to secure his spot on the starting line at the Games.
It is a security which will allow the Scot to preserve his energies rather than troubling himself with the distraction of competing at April’s official trial at the London Marathon. Instead, he will head overseas for training camps and pick a couple of half-marathons to test himself.
Hawkns said: “We’re firming up the race plan at the moment but one of the half marathons could be over in Japan, although not at the Olympic venue.”
It will be a precise strategy, overseen by his father and coach Robert, which will maximise Hawkins’ chances of hitting the streets of Sapporo on August 8 in prime form as he bids to improve on his ninth place at Rio 2016.
He will face a field which is expected to be headed by reigning champion and world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.
“I feel I’ve progressed a lot in the past five years and been to major championships,” added Hawkins. “But I’m not in any doubt that the level of competition in Japan will be even tougher than Doha.
“That’s just the way I feel because I’m sure the very fact it is the Olympics will motivate people even more and there will be greater depth to the top 10 or the top 20 or whatever. Making the top 10 again will be really tough and the conditions could be difficult, too, even though they’ve moved it.”
The race is set to be held in Sapporo in the cooler north of Japan, rather than Tokyo.
Hawkins went on: “I won’t have any fear, though. I will go out there feeling no pressure and, assuming everything has gone well in the build-up, I will really go for it. With a marathon, it comes down to how you cope and how you feel on the day.”
His elder brother Derek is primed to target his own second Olympic appearance after rebounding from a series of injuries to run 2:12.49 in his first marathon for three years in Frankfurt six weeks ago. And Callum believes his sibling can lower his time and cement another joint assault.
“The Olympic standard for British Athletics is 2:11.30 and I think he is capable of that,” he said. “He ran a personal best in Frankfurt and I think he had a bit more to come that day. So we will see how that goes with him and a couple of other Brits come London.
“I’d love him to be there. We were both selected for Rio in 2016 but at that time he had a real struggle with injury in the last few months and it was all about just making the start line. It would be a nice achievement for two brothers to make it twice to the Olympics in the marathon.”
Steph Twell missed out on pre-selection despite recently capturing the Scottish women’s record in Frankfurt.
Instead team chiefs – faced with the dilemma of choosing two from a trio including Jess Piasecki and Charlotte Purdue – opted to make all of their female hopefuls fight for the three available places via the London Marathon.
However Twell may opt to miss the trial and take her chances on being granted a discretionary spot with the qualifying time of 2:29.30 already accomplished.