His focus has long been on making the Great Britain team for this summer’s Rio Olympics but, as athlete Andrew Butchart chased a second qualifying time in Holland at the weekend, his mind was occupied by more pressing matters.
With the race hislast scheduled shot at achieving the necessary time ahead of next month’s British trials and final team selection, the Scottish 5,000m specialist was distracted by a shoe crisis which threatened to sidetrack him.
He said: “It was quite wet out there, and sometimes laces can untie themselves. I only double knotted my right shoe and it must have come undone a little bit. When the gun went off and I started running I could soon feel my lace hitting my leg. The next lap, it was undone and my foot was coming out a little bit and it started getting wider and wider. I kept thinking ‘oh no, this is not happening, I can’t let this ruin the race’.
“Every lap I was thinking ‘don’t fall off, don’t fall off’. Because, if it had fallen off then, my foot was going to get wrecked.
“I thought to myself ‘I could maybe stop and tie my lace really fast’. I thought about it for about 200 yards, thinking I could put in a bit of an effort, then tie my lace really quick, then jump back up and get back on’.
“Then I thought ‘what the hell am I thinking about’. That was all going on in my head and it put me off the race, although, it might have helped me because I didn’t think about how ruined I was.
“I felt fine going into the last two laps, but because you pick up a bit more pace and you want to be competitive in the race, my stride pattern changed a little bit and the inevitable happened and it just came out with about 400m to go. I started landing on the heel of the shoe and then down the back straight I thought ‘I can’t run’ so I just kicked it away.”
The 24-year-old managed to keep it together, though, building on a fine race in California a couple of weeks ago to make the qualifying mark with a time of 13:13.30. Butchart also smashed Nat Muir’s Scottish national record for the three-mile distance, which had stood since 1980, by over four seconds.
“It was a bit annoying. I knew the race was going to be run fast and in my head I thought this was my last opportunity to run the time. I didn’t have another 5k planned between now and the trials. So it was either get it done there or I might have to try to find another race. I would have been in such a bad place.
“I’m just lucky that my foot didn’t come out the shoe earlier, if it was going to come out that was the best time for it to come out. In a way I am lucky that is the way it happened.
“The fact that I got the Scottish record as well meant a lot to me. I didn’t know how fast I could run but knowing I could run that fast – and I still think I can run faster – makes me think I am a lot better than I thought I was at the start of the year.
“I have worked really hard to get where I am and there is a lot more work to get done.”
Now one of the favourites to make the GB team in his event, the Central AC runner still has to finish in the top two at the British Championships in Birmingham in June. There are three places available for those who have secured the qualifying time but a certain Mo Farah is pre-selected, meaning Butchart cannot fully relax until he crosses the line ahead of his rivals in a few weeks. He added: “I’m still not there yet.
“There are lots of athletes in the UK who are in a similar position to me so it is all a matter of getting top two at the trials.
“Mo Farah is going already then there is me, Andy Vernon and Tom Farrell, all going for two spots.
“I am confident and right now I guess I am in a good position. Those guys haven’t run the time this year yet so if we ran it right now then I would be confident.
“But it is going to be a good race. There are a lot of guys there who haven’t got the timings yet who could still finish top two and get the time they need. There are lots of good athletes right now in the UK so I have to get the job done and that is it.”
But at least Butchart only needs to worry about his finishing position in Birmingham and won’t be burdened by the added pressure of also clocking a certain time.
“I’ve never been in this situation before so I don’t really know how I will cope but I feel fine, I feel relaxed. I am not worried, I can still sleep at night. I feel confident right now in how fit I am. Hopefully I feel this good on the day.”