Sensationally spectacular with its concoction of the ancient and new, Tokyo had a sublime potential to supply an exquisite visual treat to accompany the sweat of an Olympic marathon. “A night-time race there would have been unbelievable,” Callum Hawkins reflects. “It would have been some sight.”

Instead, the only way in which Scotland’s 26-mile marauder can perform in the Japanese capital is if he earns a medal early on Sunday morning in the far-flung city of Sapporo and is consequently flown post-haste, back to Games Central and a podium presentation that will be integrated into Closing Ceremony itself.

Then again, the 29-year-old has dealt with so many rapid diversions in recent times that he has likely lost count. A persistent ankle injury. Covid obviously too. A threadbare schedule that means his last marathon was almost two years ago, when he came fourth at the world championships in Doha.

It was a sweatbox in Qatar. Sapporo – chosen as an alternative host for its supposedly cooler climes - forecasts 74% humidity and 24C temperature at the start time of 7am. “Almost worst case scenario,” he said yesterday. But while his ability to survive bodily torture in the Middle East was powered by months of running in front of two heaters bought from Aldi on a treadmill in his father’s garden shed, time marches on and the homespun approach has evolved.

“My new secret weapon has been the hot tub in my new back garden,” he reveals.  “Jumping into that after runs and really ramming up the heat. And then I have a turbo bike in my conservatory as well for when I need it. I didn't even need heaters. I got it up to 48 Celsius. Just from closing the windows and doors and just sitting in that for a bit.


“I did use the heaters in the shed at my parents after coming back from warm weather camp in Mallorca. Hopefully that allowed me to keep all the heat gains.”

Unlike Jake Wightman, who has come no closer than his father and coach Geoff than the 50 metres that separates the stadium announcer’s booth and track, Hawkins will have his dual role daddy on the ground among his pit crew. Robert to most. Occasionally “Big Bob” to his youngest son. “Just to annoy him,” he grins. “When I'm mucking about with him. But usually he's just Dad.”

It is a fraught dynamic. Wightman has spoken of how his relationship with his parent has become predominantly professional. Seb Coe of how the nomenclature was almost schizophrenic – Peter at the track, Dad solely at home.

The Hawkins keep it light. “Sometimes the dadness comes in,” Callum reveals. “And he gets a bit annoyed if I have a bad one. But he can read me and know that I've given it all I can. And I'm quite capable of telling him to bugger off when he's overstepping it, which I quite like. He does like to run things by me. And because my dad is a bit closer, we can do that kind of stuff quite frequently.

“I could technically coach myself. But I think it's always good to have somebody else, to see it from a different angle. You can get a bit obsessed with a certain thing and not see the bigger picture. So it's quite good to have somebody else to look at that.”

This Olympics, Robert will not have two sons to cheer on. Eldest Derek, hampered by injuries, running out of time to return. Instead Hawkins will line up with British team-mates Ben Connor and Chris Thompson, the latter a walking inspiration at 40 years young.

It is Elderslie’s finest who shoulders greatest British hopes, despite the presence of luminaries such as Kenya’s incomparable Eliud Kipchoge, the defending champion, and Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa, golden in Doha following the late breakaway that Hawkins could not catch.

In Rio, the presence of Hawkins – then largely unknown - near the head of the leader board caught many off-guard. “I was aiming for top 20 but wanted top 10,” he affirms. “Going in, I was pretty fit and all sessions and paces looked good for that.


“With a championship, a lot of people just seem to either not turn up or get their tactics wrong and completely blew up. So it can be a bit easier to finish higher up at a championship. But I think this Olympics will be different. The marathon has moved on a lot since Rio.”

The Scottish record holder trusts he has too. And that he will have reason to don ceremonial suit and join the dancers and artisans on parade tomorrow night as this most unusual of Games reaches its finishing post.

“I'm not here just to compete at the Olympics, I'm out here to get a medal,” he underlines. “It's going to be tough, probably a tougher race than 2016. I could easily finish outside the top 10 and still have a good run. But I'm going to give it everything for that medal. I think I would regret not going for the podium.”