By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Callum Hawkins faces a huge test of his ability when he takes on Mo Farah in the inaugural ‘Big-Half’ race over 13.1 miles on the streets of London on Sunday but getting to the start line might prove an even bigger challenge for the talented Scot.
Hawkins is desperate to go head-to-head with multi-world and Olympic track champion Farah in the half-marathon and on Friday embarked on what could be a long and arduous drive from Scotland on roads littered with abandoned cars due to the ice and snow that has caused such chaos in Britain this week.
After failing to secure a flight over the last two days, Hawkins will be following in the tire tracks of compatriot Laura Muir, who also took to the roads via a 1,500 pounds ($2,065.50) taxi ride from Glasgow to win a bronze medal in the 3,000 meters at the world indoor championships in Birmingham on Thursday.
“She managed to get there, braved the weather and was able to perform so it’s pretty inspiring,” Hawkins told reporters in a conference call on Friday.
Hawkins, fourth in the marathon at the world championships last year and ninth in the 2016 Olympics, is racing for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in Australia next month and is desperate to toe the line on Sunday.
“It was a struggle towards the end of last year with a few niggles but things are going well now and I’ve done some PBs in training,” he said. “This week is pretty vital for my preparation for the Commonwealth Games.”
Briton Farah is also using Sunday’s race as a stepping stone for his second appearance at the London Marathon and he arrived in the capital this week after a six-week training block in Ethiopia.
“London in April is the main thing, training’s gone well and I’m looking forward to testing myself,” said Farah, who has committed himself to the road circuit after a stellar career on the track.
“It’s exciting now to go from track to road, it’s a challenge,” he said. “I really respect the guys in the field on Sunday and hopefully it will be a cracking race, added Farah, who said that 24 hours earlier he was sitting in his garden with his shirt off in temperatures of 25 degrees.
“I’m not worried about the weather,” he said. “Last year in New York I ran 60 (minutes) eight (seconds) in a snowstorm so I’m pretty used to it.”
Farah is the British record holder for the half marathon with the 59:32 he ran in 2015 while Hawkins is next in the rankings with a time of exactly one hour.
However, both men sit well behind 2017 London Marathon winner Daniel Wanjiru, whose best of 59.20 was set two years ago and who arrived safely in London on Friday ahead of the race.
The ‘Big Half’ is a new, mass-participation event, with much of the course following that of the full London Marathon but in reverse.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; editing by Ken Ferris)