FOR so many athletes this summer, the thought of a third major championship in the space of just over a month is daunting. 

For Andy Butchart, however, it is exactly what he wants.

The World Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth Games have come and gone. Now, the one remaining chance for Butchart to get his hands on a much-coveted medal this season is at this week’s European
Championships in Munich.

While it may be difficult, the 30-year-old believes that instead of fatigue setting in, he is building towards his best performance.

“This year has been hard but I’m in good shape going into these Europeans,” says Butchart. “And I want to be on the podium and join these other Scottish athletes who are doing so well, especially Jake [Wightman] who I feel like is King of Scotland at the moment.”

Butchart has faced numerous obstacles this year. Firstly, injuries severely disrupted his pre-season training before suffering a bout of Covid just weeks before the World Championships.

He failed to progress through the 5,000m heats at the World Championships before finishing seventh in the 10,000m final at the Commonwealth Games but he hopes this week will be the pinnacle of his season.

“It’s been a tough time, but professional sport isn’t easy for anybody. Everyone has struggles and so it’s about how you deal with it,” Butchart says.

“I believed this was going to be a big year in terms of hopefully winning a medal but the injury hindered me in that I’ve not been able to build the base I’d have ideally have wanted to. 

“Each week makes such a difference though and I’m still on an upward trajectory so hopefully that continues into the Europeans.

“I’m fit, I showed that in the 10k in Birmingham. I’m never completely satisfied but if I look at the bigger picture, it was my first Commonwealth Games and I ran well despite having had an injury and Covid the week before. I expect an unbelievable result when really, everything is pointing towards that not happening. But there’s no point being there if you think you’re going to lose.”

Butchart has an added incentive to do well in Munich. He is a three-time British champion at 5,000m, but this could well be his last big race at the distance.

The Stirling man has already dipped his toe into the 10,000m, and the longer distances is the direction in which his career is moving.

“There was actually a bit of a mix-up with the Europeans. I wanted to do the 10k but it’s worked out that I’m doing the 5k,” he said. “Knowing this could well be my last 5k at a Championships definitely makes me want to do something in this race. I’ll be moving up and whether that’s moving on from the track on to the road or what I’m not quite sure yet.

“I’d probably be a bit more confident running the 10k at the Europeans but that doesn’t at all mean I’m not confident going into the 5k. My training has been more geared towards the longer distances so I’m stronger than I have been but not as fast; but I’m in good shape and I’ve tweaked my training to suit the shorter distance so I’m feeling good.”

Butchart has been well supported by partner and fellow runner Lynsey Sharp, as well as their baby Max. And it is through Sharp that Butchart
became friends with former Rangers captain Richard Gough, who has become something of a father figure to him.

“When Lynsey and I moved to San Diego a few years ago, we didn’t have any friends.  But Lynsey is in with Rangers Football Club and someone said to us that Richard Gough lives in San Diego so we should reach out,” he says. “He invited us over for dinner and we all just hit it off so every weekend, we’d go to his house for dinner and him and his partner became almost like a second mum and dad to Lynsey and I. 

“We speak every week and they have a room in their house for us any time we go to America. He’s really like family now.

“He’s the pinnacle of an athlete in a lot of ways. And he’s very black and white – if you’re not in good shape he will tell you to go and sort it out. But then if you run well, he’s the first person to text. He’s a lovely
guy and just a really good person to be around.”