By Rob Cole
Welsh marathon legend Steve Jones believes Callum Hawkins, who finished fourth at the World Championships, could be the man to finally end his long run as the British record holder.
The 25-year-old Scot ran a personal best 2:10.17 to finish within 25 seconds of a bronze medal in London on Sunday as he equalled the highest place finish by a British athlete in the event.
British team mates and Welsh duo Andrew Davies and Josh Griffiths came home in 31st and 39th respectively.
Jones, a former world record holder at both the full and half marathon distances, has been the British record holder since 1984. His best time of 2:07.13 set in Chicago a year later has been out of reach for most British athletes for more than 30 years.
Having seen Hawkins up close and personal – the youngster stays at Jones’ home in Boulder and trains with his group – Jones firmly believed he had the ability to win a medal in London and expects him to go even faster in the future.
“He isn’t looking at running fast in the next couple of years, he is just looking at getting to the major championships and, hopefully, win a few medals,” said Jones.
“I’ve studied him extensively over the last couple of years when he has come to visit and to train with my group in Boulder. He is part of the family now, just as everyone else becomes who stays with us in Boulder.
“I do see a lot of me in him, as I do in Dewi Griffiths (the Welsh 10,000 metre runner). What I like is there is no fear in either of them.
“Callum doesn’t quite have the same annihilation philosophy that I had, but he is still very young and he has plenty of time to develop the ability to win races by destroying the opposition. It is about time someone broke my record – it has surprised me it has lasted this long – and there is an exciting energy in British distance running at the moment.
“Mo Farah has got all the tools to do it, but I’m not sure how serious he is going to be about racing the marathon after he finishes on the track.
“Whether it will be a money making venture for him, or whether he will go out to perform, who knows, but if he doesn’t do it then Callum is the next guy in line.
“There are some records out there, and some times, that are way above everybody’s head. Whether that is down to good chemists, good coaches, good training or good physios is beside the point.
“But these days 2:07.13 is quite pedestrian compared to what the Kenyans and Ethiopians are running. It would be good to see some of our guys running as fast, if not faster.”
Hawkins just ran out of road in his pursuit of winner Geoffrey Kirui, of Kenya, who struck gold in 2.08 27, second placed Tamirat Tola, of Ethiopia (2:09.49), and third-placed Alphonce Simbu, from Tanzania (2:09.51), as he picked off the stragglers in the leading group over the final quarter.
“It’s a bitter sweet experience finishing fourth. I could see third place in the distance and maybe I left it a little bit too late,” admitted Hawkins.
“I didn’t worry about the time, it was all about racing for a medal. Fourth is still pretty good and I don’t think it has quite hit me yet. I’m still young and, hopefully, I can push on at the Commonwealth Games and go for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.”
The Welsh pair who completed the Celtic trio in the British team learned the harsh realities for taking on the world’s best in one of the toughest events in athletics.
Griffiths, who was the first British runner home in the London Marathon in April, ran with Davies for long periods of the race, but it was the 37-year-old from mid Wales who won the individual battle.
Davies, running his 16th marathon, came home in 31st in 2:17.59, while Griffiths, in only his second marathon, was eight places further back in 2:20.06. Now they hope to double up once again in a Welsh vest at the Commonwealth Games next year.
“It was hot out there and it was a really tough race, but it was the best 2 hours and 20 minutes of my life. The best experience I have had,” said Griffiths.
“I am more motivated than ever to come back and improve at this level. The crowd were fantastic – I have never experienced anything like that before in my life.
“A massive well done to Callum for what was an amazing performance. It is guys like him that inspired me by his performance in Rio last year.
“Now I can’t wait to get into the ice-bath, get back to training and hopefully make the Welsh team for the Commonwealth Games team.”
There were two other Welsh athletes performing on Day 3 in the main stadium.
High hurdler David Omoregie got a clean start, but then hit four hurdles to finish sixth in the opening heat of the 110Hurdles in 13.59 sec.
He had hoped to reach the semi-finals as a fastest loser, but was just edged out by three-hundredths of a second. British No 1 Andrew Pozzi went through to the next round after winning Heat 4 in 13.28 sec.
“It was a bit messy and it wasn’t great overall. I’ve loved the experience of the last few weeks building up to London,” said Omoregie, who will now turn his attentions to winning a medal for Wales in Australia next year.
His Cardiff AAC team mate Ieuan Thomas, who was given an IAAF invitation place in the steeplechase, was another Welsh athlete who loved the opportunity of running in a British vest at a major championship. He didn’t, however, get the performance he was hoping for.
“I felt like I deserved to be here and it felt like a normal race. The crowd helped, but I’m really disappointed with the way I ran. It’s not a justification of where I am at and how I have been running this year,” admitted Thomas, who was last in Heat 2 in 8.52.98.
“I have got to go away and figure out what went wrong because that was my worst race of the year at the time when it mattered most.”