Andrew Butchart spent his opening hours as Scotland’s first British Inter-Counties champion perched on top of a box in complete darkness in the back of a chip-timing company’s van en route from Birmingham to Newcastle.
The consequences of that afternoon at Cofton Park earlier this month were a 27-hour journey from Perthshire to Guiyang via London and Beijing to wear a GB vest at the World Cross Country Championships in the early hours of Saturday morning (our time).
Butchart, then, has had plenty of time to contemplate his own athletics journey.
Even this season’s personal ‘marathon’, which has featured cross country relays, road races, more cross country and the British Indoor Champs, started way back in October in the unlikely launching point of Peebles.
Long before that, on a snow-bound Sunday afternoon in Cardiff in January 2013, he arguably took the first steps towards China with a fine performance as a late Scotland call-up for a Celtic XC fixture – after missing out on the initial U23 selection.
Here, in a special blog post preview for scottishathletics, Andrew outlines how he has definitely enjoyed the journey . . .
‘It was a good day in Birmingham (winning the Inter-Counties and World Cross trial) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
‘Afterwards, I was drug tested and just didn’t produce the right amount of urine on the first attempt so had to hang around for a couple of hours.
‘The buses all had to leave, which was fair enough, and then fortunately I was offered a lift to Newcastle in the Chip Timing van.
‘It was a free lift to where I was headed so I was happy with that but there was no seat and I did have to sit on a box in the dark! It was definitely all a bit weird.
‘I am glad British Athletics changed their minds on the policy.
‘At one stage they had it as Top 30 for the World Cross and realistically Gemma steel was the only Senior athlete they would be taking. Andy Vernon was injured and Mo Farah wasn’t keen to go.
‘Fortunately, they then adjusted it and made it Top 30 Potential for this event or future World Cross events. So those us going now know that they feel we can produce something now or in the future and that’s great.
‘It helps the sport to have performances rewarded and maybe this will help the British Cross Challenge series next year and thereafter. You can’t dangle the carrot and then take it away from people.
‘Look at me; I started the season in the East District relays in Peebles in October and I certainly wasn’t thinking then about the World Cross – or anything like it. So that’s maybe shown what can be done in a short time with a bit of hard work and form.
‘I’ve been training all year and racing but I love racing. I had two or three days off after the Euro Cross when I was ill but even then I had to get going again for the Edinburgh Cross.
‘My transition from winter to summer is probably going to be the first two or three days in china as we adjust to the altitude. When I get back, I will be straight into work for the track season.
Cardiff 2013 – launched Andrew’s international career
‘I didn’t win championships or Scotland vests as a youngster, no. I was the best in my school in Dunblane, yes, but people like Sean Reilly were really dominant at the club around that time.
‘I enjoyed it but wasn’t all that serious about it. I won a Scotland vest in January 2013 in Cardiff and had a really good run. That made my buck up my ideas.
‘I don’t know who was selected originally, or who pulled out, but I do know I was a late call-up.
‘I think I was phoned on the Thursday or Friday and told: ‘’Do you want to run for Scotland? Get on the bus on the Saturday morning.’’
‘Robbie Simpson had been performing well on cross country that season but I beat him there and it made me think I’d better work a bit harder. My coach, Derek Easton, helped a lot at that time, too. Now it is the World Cross and I’m relishing the whole idea.’
Euro Cross U23 champion Rhona Auckland races in the Senior Women’s in China following her recovery from the injury which cost her the chance to defend her National XC title at Falkirk.
The Banchory Stonehaven/Edinburgh Uni Hares and Hounds athlete is one of only two British athletes selected at Senior Women, alongside Gemma Steel, the Euro Cross senior champion.
Prior to leaving, Rhona told the Aberdeen Evening Express: ‘It has been a tough couple of months because of the injuries but everything is headed in the right direction and I feel fit.
‘I am excited about competing for GB as a Senior and it will be my first race outside Europe. There should be time to recover from the journey and adjust to the surroundings.’
Find out more about Rhona via a great Q and Q on Eightlane website
Jonny Glen – photo by Bobby Gavin
Inverclyde AC’s Jonny Glen is part of a six-strong GB Junior Men’s team in China.
He told the Sunday Herald: ‘To get picked for the Euro Cross in Bulgaria was amazing and now China is a bit surreal. When I was speaking to my coach Mark Pollard early in the season, he was saying ‘’we will go to the Euros and then hopefully you will make the team for the Worlds . . .’’
‘I was like ‘‘Okay, it is good to be ambitious and optimistic’’ but I wasn’t sure if it was realistic. I’m so glad the way it has turned out and it has been an amazing season.’
Read the Sunday Herald piece online