The grossly peculiar nature of staging sport amid Covid was dragged cruelly into focus yesterday. The European Indoor Athletics Championships will, despite everything, be held in the Polish city of Torun two weeks from now. To facilitate the selection process, trials must be held. 

The domestic championships were pre-scheduled for Glasgow and then erased due to the complexities involved. Which is why UK Athletics, seeking a semblance of Plan B, were compelled to stitch together an alternative over three sites this weekend.

An unedifying proposal, especially with no British titles placed on the line. In an Olympic year, some – like Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie - were always going to eschew indoors. So many others took one look and demurred.

Which is why Kilbarchan’s Andrew Murphy went into Day 1 of the men’s heptathlon in Manchester yesterday morning as the most odds-on of favourites as the sole entrant pitching up. Instead, three no-throws in the shot put imploded his chances. The Scot’s head was in his hands. Even in a one-man race, there really is no such thing as an absolute cert.

Andrew Butchart could testify to that also. Effectively a certain selection for the Euros, his recently-enhanced Scottish 3000m record of 7:40.85 appeared to mark him out as a class apart at the trials. Except the Olympic finalist found himself surprisingly overhauled, coming second to the unheralded Jack Rowe in a time almost 15 seconds outside his best.

“Jack ran really well,” Butchart said. “I got hit by a sniper with 200m to go, I had nothing. It was nice to get a race in. I know it isn’t British Championships, but I’m thankful this race was put on and it was a really strong field. British distance running is in a good place right now, and you could see that, as it was a high calibre race. To win it isn’t easy as I found out.”

He will not dwell on it unduly. With a new coach in Barry Fudge, and a refreshed approach, Butchart will target the podium in Torun. Perhaps twice over, with the 29-year-old doubling up over 1500m today, where his foes will include Joe Ewing, Edinburgh AC’s teen prodigy who is planning to swap the capital for Harvard University in the autumn.

But not Neil Gourley, who will ask for a free pass to the Euros based on the time of in 3:35.79 he ran in Torun in mid-week which made him the fifth-quickest Brit of all-time. “I’m going to stay put and train and hope for selection,” the Glaswegian confirmed.

Zoey Clark is relishing her brief indoor campaign following 15 months without a race. The world championship medallist eased into today’s 400m final by winning her heat in 53.23 secs. Whatever occurs, she will surely resume her role in the relays but would ideally like more by ruling the trials. “This is the first time I’ve run rounds so far this year so it was good to get used to that again,” she said.

At the other site in London, her fellow Aberdonian Alisha Rees won the women’s 60m in 7.37 secs. Chastened by harsh lessons learnt during her transition into the senior ranks, the 22-year-old harbours hopes of sneaking into GB&NI’s potent 4x100 relay squad ahead of Tokyo.

Even with Dina Asher-Smith recanting on plans to chase a Europeans title, Rees knows her time is unlikely to facilitate a summons to Poland. But these are all building blocks, she presumes. “I maybe would have liked to have gone a bit quicker but I can’t be too disheartened about it.”