Andrew Butchart says backing up his sixth place at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with eighth at the World Championships this summer, proves he is more than “a one year wonder”.
At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Butchart, took nearly five seconds off his own Scottish 5,000m record, clocking 13.08.61 to finish sixth behind winner Mo Farah. It was his first major championships and his performance surprised a few in the athletics world. This summer the 26-year-old aimed to further prove his credentials as one of the best 5,000m athletes with another strong performance at the World Championships.
Butchart, who is now back training after the off-season is currently in Font Romeu until the end of November. He took some time out to chat to Fast Running about his past season, training, Commonwealth Games and the strangest place he has ever been running.
Andrew, are you happy with how you performed at the World Championships this summer?
I was happy that my performance backed up what I did in 2016. There were a lot of people who said I was a one year wonder and stuff like that, and to finish in the top eight for two years in a row was something special. I would have liked to have made more of an impact on the race. If I’m honest though I kind of let the crowd get to me. I was enjoying the moment and the support a bit much instead of focusing on the race. By the time I realised there was a race up ahead it was too late.
These things happen, but hopefully, I should have a few more major finals to look forward to, so I just have to learn from my mistakes. I’ve also had a lot of changes in my set-up in the last 12 months, so taking that all into consideration I am happy with the summer.
How was your off-season?
This was the first time that I’ve ever had a complete two week break from running. I was good to have the break and just time off, but you do miss it and I was eager to get back.
The first couple of weeks back running I was like ‘come on, am I ever going to get fit again’, but it comes back pretty fast and as soon as you start the big mileage it feels so much better.
At the beginning of October, you ran in the Great Scottish Run half marathon – a new distance for you. How did you find it?
It was fun and I enjoyed it. I was running with Callum Hawkins this week in Font and I said to him the amount of respect I now have for guys who can run that fast for that long. It’s completely different to what I am used to in the 5K.
It was my only race at home in Scotland this year, so it was really important that I ran in it. And the fact that it’s the biggest race in Scotland was massive to be apart of it too. I enjoyed the race but I wasn’t in the shape to do anything special and it was really just to experience the crowd and enjoy it.
I would like to think though if I put the work in for the distance a reasonably good half marathon could be achieved. The road and stepping up in distance is the natural progression of the best distance athletes following their track careers, but for the time being, I still have plenty of work to do on the track, so don’t expect to see me moving up anytime soon. I’ll let Mo and Callum do there stuff for now.
Touching on the longer distances, what did you make of Dewi Griffiths performance at the Frankfurt Marathon? He beat Callum Hawkins time to move top of the UK rankings in 2017.
It’s funny, after Dewi bettering Callum’s time, he was saying “I am now going to have to go and run another marathon before the end of the year just to beat his time.”
It was a great performance by Dewi though. Even though he’s been running fast recently I didn’t expect a sub 2:10 marathon. He definitely made me take notice. After a quiet enough year the past two months he has just been nailing it, and hats off to him, it was an amazing marathon time.
In early 2016 you went full-time as an athlete. Up to that point you also worked as a personal trainer. How was the transition to a full-time athlete?
My life has changed so much from back then and I can’t imagine how people balance jobs and the high level of training. I have so little free time now and to fit in a job whilst running would be extremely difficult.
You will represent Scotland at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The competition is early in the season, how will this affect your training?
With the Commonwealth Games in April, you really need an indoor season or an Australian outdoor season to prepare, you can’t really rock up to the start line having just completed a winter season. You almost have to pretend the winter is a summer, which makes it a bit of an odd, but fun year.
I will do a couple of indoor races and that should get me into race mode but I reckon my first outdoor race will be the 5,000m final at the Commonwealth Games.
What do you view as the defining moment in your athletics career?
There were a lot of different things. I took the plunge and went full-time as an athlete. So when I made that decision, I quit my job as a personal trainer and funded going to training camps with own savings. I then tried out training at altitude without any assistance too.
I think at the moment some athletes can think they need to have the governing body behind them to progress but that’s just not true. You have to make it for yourself – no one is going to do it for you. For myself, making that plunge was all or nothing and I gave it 110% and thankfully it has paid off. If you are not willing to put the work in you can’t really expect anything back – that’s the good thing about athletics.
With Mo Farah retiring from the track, do you feel your the man to take over?
Things change every year, but at the moment with British 5,000m I think I am in the driving seat to step up. However, there are a lot of younger runners coming through, Marc Scott for example, who was at the World Champs and is doing great things now.
But at the minute I think I am, Mo also said it to me too, so if he said that – it must be true.
Do you still have room to improve?
There is so much more I can improve on. I have a new set-up, with new training partners and it all feels more professional now. I think that should have a huge influence on my development in the years to come.
I am also planning on moving full-time to America and splitting my time between California and Flagstaff in Arizona for training.
There was an interview recently with Jake Wightman and he mentioned running down the streets of Las Vegas before dawn for a tempo run. Where is the strangest/oddest place you have been running?
I had a weird one in Doha, I was there for the Diamond League. I had just arrived from Flagstaff and had a long run to do – 14 miles. It was so hot, I think it was 33 degrees and humidity of 90, so it was impossible to run outside.
So I ended up doing a 14 mile run in an indoor carpark. The carpark hadn’t opened yet so I sneaked in through the gates and I ran laps inside this carpark that took about 2-3 minutes per lap. I don’t know how many laps it was in the end but it was a lot. I try to make sure I don’t have silly runs to do like that, but there was no getting out of that one.
Where is your favourite place to train?
It has to be Flagstaff. The weather is always amazing, the trails are fantastic and the running community is out of this world.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt to date in your athletics career?
There has been so many, but the biggest lesson is to listen to your body. Don’t push things too hard and just do what your body is telling you to do.
What’s your favourite training session?
Probably fast kilometres on the track. They are usually done towards the end of the summer and when I do that session I am in good shape and can hit pretty fast times – I enjoy stuff like that.
And what about your least favourite?
Hills definitely. I am getting better slowly, but they are a nightmare for me at the minute. The thing with hills, Lynsey [Sharp] does them with me and even though she runs a shorter distance, she always beats me – but one day I’ll get there.
Do you train using a heart rate monitor or by how you feel?
Definitely not heart rate monitors, I’m old school for sure. It’s up to the athlete really, and who knows if you ask me in a year I could be, but not for the moment, I just think they are a bit fiddly.
I can determine myself how hard I am working, but I do wear a GPS watch to see how far I run – that’s as technical as I get.
What does a typical training week look like?
My training can change quite a bit, but in an average week, I will have two sessions on Tuesday and Friday or else sessions on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Between the harder training, it’s just easy runs, normally 16 miles a day split between two runs. I take those runs very easy so my hard sessions can be ‘hard’.
Sessions I do are a mix between; hills, kilometre reps, mile reps, one minute on one minute off.
Just the standard really, nothing too fancy and it works for me. And then I’ll have my long run on Sunday’s usually between 14 to 20 miles.
Can you name four targets for the next few years?
I want to medal in 2017, whether that’s at the Commonwealth Games or the European Championships – or both.
Over the next four years, I want to try and run sub 13 minutes for the 5,000m.
I want to have a good attempt at a fast 10K and I also want to beat my current time for the mile. Back in the day being fast at the mile was big, so I want to have a fast time at that distance.