Andy Butchart might not say it out loud, but it is clear he believes that road running is where the real blood and guts of athletics is at its most severe.

It is not, however, a suggestion that sends him fleeing to the nearest safe place; in fact, it is this kind of brutal test that he is relishing as he prepares to stand on the start line for today’s New York City Half Marathon.

Butchart has made his name as a track specialist; a three-time British 5,000m champion, multiple major championships finalist and Scottish record holder over 3,000m, 5,000m and 10,000m, his list of achievements is nothing to be sniffed at.

But there has, for some time, been something pulling him away from the track and towards the road.

He is not a complete novice to road running; he made his half-marathon debut in 2017 but that, he admits, was more of a jog than a race.

His second attempt at the distance came last September when he recorded a creditable 62 minutes 59 seconds in London.

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But it is this weekend that Butchart believes his road running career really begins.

A return to the track at some point is not out of the question but it is on the road that he sees himself winning races in the future.

And he is not exactly easing himself in gently today. Also in the field in New York is the Ugandan pair of Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptegei as well as the American, Galen Rupp.

With Kiplimo the world half- marathon record holder and Cheptegei a world and Olympic champion on the track, Butchart is up against some of the best individuals to grace the sport.

And he is expecting plenty of blood and guts, at least metaphorically.

“I feel like the road is a much more ruthless place than the track, just because of the number of bodies that are there. Athletes who compete on the road are a different breed to track runners,” the 31-year-old from Stirling says. “I feel like road runners want a bit more blood. It’s more cut-throat than the track.

“Road racing is very different to the track because tactics come into it much less. It’s more about just running hard and whoever’s fittest on the day will likely win.

“And for me, going into New York, I’m thinking that’s how it’s going to go and I have to be ready for it.”

Butchart has gone to the extremes to make sure he is prepared for the test. A prolonged five-week training camp in Ethiopia at an altitude of 9,000m alongside the likes of Mo Farah may not have been glamorous, but it has put Butchart in great shape.

“We train in basically a really big field. There’s random car tracks in places and you just do different loops of the field. It’s not scenic or picturesque but you’re there to get the work done,” he says.

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“When you go somewhere as high as Ethiopia, the main thing is survival. If you can come out of a five, six-week camp not being hurt or having had an injury then you can consider it a success but I think I went one better than that and had a really, really good camp.

“It was my highest-ever mileage and I coped with the camp really well so I feel like I’m in a good place.”

It is not just the physical preparation that Butchart has focused upon, the psychological challenge of running 13.1 miles alongside some of the best athletes in the world is also significant. And having to be mentally switched on from the first stride to the last is not something he is used to.

“In a track 5k, you’ll be switched off for the first 3k and then for the last 2k, you switch on and start racing,” he says. “Whereas on the road, from the first mile to the last, people can put in breaks and there’s twists and turns and ups and downs throughout the entire race. The race can be won and lost anywhere in that 13 miles so it’s a lot different both physically and mentally.

“I’ve been watching a lot of half marathons to try to get my head round how they’re actually run. I feel like they’re much more difficult than a track 5k so I’ll have to just see how I cope with it.”

A few years ago, a month or so away from home would have seen Butchart barely bat an eyelid. But now, it means being away from his one-year-old son, Max, and his wife and fellow athlete, Lynsey Sharp.

And even more important, this time Butchart was away for Sharp’s return to competitive racing after three years out.

It was a new experience sitting in the Ethiopian sun watching his wife return to the track.

“I felt really proud. It was strange being in Ethiopia but it was so nice to watch her race. I’ve not felt nervous for her for such a long time. So it was quite emotional,” he says.

“I know she isn’t entirely happy with her indoor season because she has such high expectations for herself but I think she should be really proud of herself.

“I don’t think she does herself enough justice so I’m trying to do that for her and remind her of how well she’s done.

“She’s desperate to get back to the top level and she’s got that hunger. And racing indoors made her realise even more how much she wants it.”