CALLUM Hawkins sits quietly in the Emirates Arena café, talking about Metallica and sporting what can only be called a beard. His dad, and coach, Robert tuts with gentle disapproval as his unshaven son is led away to have his picture taken; his pals Chris O’Hare and Andy Butchart teased him about it too when they popped in for the European Indoor Championships. But as the 26-year-old from Elderslie sits here incognito beneath that unfamiliar facial hair, it only strengthens the notion that this is the forgotten man of Scottish athletics.

It is 11 months now since Hawkins wilted in the final 2km of a gruelling Gold Coast marathon in the face of the kind of unrelenting sun and heat where even veteran Kenyans and Ethiopians were shaking their heads and seeking out shade. Prior to that, the Scot had finished a remarkable ninth in the Olympic marathon in Rio, and an even more remarkable fourth in the World Championships in London in 2017.

But public sightings since he collapsed to the kerb not once but twice that day in April– a heart-breaking final race position of Did Not Finish – have been rare. While there was an untimely hamstring problem which did for his hopes of a return in Fukuoka, Japan, last December, he hasn’t subjected himself to 26.2miles outwith training since. Thankfully, it won’t be long until Hawkins breaks cover and re-introduces himself to his public. And in training at least he is feeling razor sharp.

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In Valencia this January, Hawkins set a new Personal Best for the 10k, at 28.55 and will test himself over the half marathon distance in Lisbon in seven days’ time. But having memorably defeated Mo Farah over 8km of cross-country racing in Edinburgh early in 2017, the world won’t have to wait long for the next instalment of that much-anticipated match-up.

The pair will go head-to-head at the London Marathon on April 28, as they aim to book their places in the World Championship marathon in Doha in October.

“Mo will be there in London but I will just be focusing on myself, that is really all you can do in the marathon,” said Hawkins. “It will be good, not so much a comeback as ‘look, I’m still here’.”

When Hawkins turned up at last year’s London marathon to start a fun run, it was only a fortnight after the trauma of the Gold Coast. He was in no condition to even think about competing. “All that feels a lot longer than just shy of a year ago,” said Hawkins. “All in all it wasn’t my best year, with what happened at the Commonwealth Games and what happened at the end of the year. But luckily, I have got myself in some pretty good shape again so I wasn’t too much of a write-off.

“The field for the London Marathon is going to be pretty much as strong as you’ll get at the World Championships,” he added. “I’ve only done it once, and I was eighth. But then there was the fourth place in the world championships, over a course which was similar in parts, so I have had a pretty good time down there.

“For the worlds, the standard is 2.13, and the top two are automatic, but a discretionary place could come into play too. If everything went right I would feel pretty confident that I could get under that. You never know how everyone else will run, but I feel that if I run to my best and nothing goes wrong with me, I will be pretty high up there, certainly among the British guys.

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“Mo always brings out a big crowd but I like being under the radar. He has gone a lot quicker than I expected, he has broken the British record twice, so it is going to be pretty tough running the kind of times he is running. But I will still go out and run my own thing and, if I get close, I will go for him.”

Recently returned from a warm- weather training stint in Flagstaff, Arizona – and soon to seek some more sun out in Mallorca – music is no small part of Hawkins’ training routine. While the 26-year-old admits he is an unlikely headbanger, this Scot pays credit to a series of punishing training runs covering 100 to 125 miles a week, which see him listening to anything from “Motown to Metallica” on an MP3 player, for getting him ready to rock and roll again.

“I’m into my metal a bit just now, although I don’t look like a metalhead,” he says. “But I guess I can range from anything from Motown to Metallica. I just put all the music that I am into at that point on to a little MP3 player and if I like it I will listen to it. If I’m not feeling it that day, I will just skip it. I do 100 plus miles every week, and I usually run with some sort of music on. Most of my runs are on my own, but if I do a harder session I do it with my dad on the bike as the Waterboy! He is always behind, he never takes the wind.”

If the heat and sun aren’t the problem come Doha, the wind just might be. Assuming no qualification mis-haps, the World Championships marathon is scheduled to start at one minute to midnight on October 26. Sand storms are commonplace at this time of year.

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“The marathon starts at one minute to midnight,” he said. “It is still going to be about 20 odd degrees, that isn’t far off the temperature of London . . . but I have found out that the sun does make it a bit worse. I found that out the hard way at the Gold Coast! But they are quite dusty conditions, so that is something I will have to look at.

“I definitely think a medal is achievable,” he added. “By the end of last year I was in PB shape. I just did my first marathon session and ran one of the quickest times I ever have and I have only just started the marathon block. The worlds is a bit of a strange thing where some of the guys might opt to do a big city marathon instead. But I am about chasing medals rather than chasing money.”

As a New Balance athlete, Hawkins has only a passing interest in Nike’s bid to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon, an attempt which saw the mighty Eliud Kipchoge running 2.00.25 on a track with windscreens and pacemakers stepping on and off the track in 5k stints.

The same man also holds the official world record of 2.01.39 at last year’s Berlin marathon. “I don’t see that two-hour mark going in a proper city race or a world championship for a long time, maybe not even in this current generation of runners,” said Hawkins.

It would only be natural if Hawkins had watched his contemporaries like Laura Muir and Chris O’Hare winning medals in Glasgow last weekend and wanted some of that for himself.

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His abiding memory when he woke up in hospital after his Gold Coast trauma was the fact that he had let one get away. “I was more pissed off that I had missed this opportunity than anything,” he said. “Because it was there. Will I ever get that opportunity again? It was a weird thing coming back. It took me until July to start feeling like I was physically in normal shape, at that point it was more fitness, but then it was fitness plus the more physical part of the heat exhaustion.”

Hawkins hasn’t had his happy ending yet, but like Muir he has done things the hard way at times.

“When I went to the proper club running scene I was toiling a bit. It took me about a year to find my feet, but then I ended up winning the Scottish Schools, coming from a mile back,” he said. “I think I was tenth at some point, it was all strung out and I caught the guy in the last 50m. I still like finishing stronger now, it does feel nicer. But I don’t get the opportunity much now. I have to try to break people early these days then hold on.”

Still only 26, Hawkins has time on his side. “I’ve got a half marathon in Lisbon on the 17th of March so that will be the only race for me really ahead of London,” he added. “It is usually a pretty quick race. How many marathons have I done in my life? Well . . . I’ve started five!”