Scottish distance runner Andy Butchart continues to gain momentum in his quick rise back from the abyss.
While the 26-year-old should have been all set to fight for medals on the Gold Coast, thriving under his new coaching base in San Diego alongside girlfriend and 800m star Lynsey Sharp.
However, the pair were soon made to feel “like the whole world had just dropped” as what seemed to be a minor niggle picked up in a race was revealed to be a broken foot, forcing him out of Commonwealth picture altogether.
It was perhaps the most devastating moment in the Olympic and World finalist’s whole career and something that neither he, or anyone else, had ever expected to happen.
“When I ran the race I felt my foot break,” said Butchart “so instantly I was like ‘where’s my coach?’ and I found him and said ‘coach I’ve broke my foot’, but he just said ‘nah honestly it’ll be fine’ because I’d never had any issues with injury before.
“So everyone after that was also saying ‘Oh, you’ve not broken your foot you’re fine it’s just a sprain or some cartilage damage’, so in my head I was thinking ‘Oh it’s fine I’ll just have one or two weeks off and be back running again’.
“(when I was told about the injury) It felt like the whole world just dropped for me and then I started to get upset and then Lynsey got upset as well, but then you realise that there’s no point in crying about it and you have to get on with it because it’s just one of those things and I just wanted to get on with it and start my rehab as soon as I could.”
Now the Scot is ready to quite literally take his first few steps back onto the track, as he returns to his home in San Diego hungrier than ever, after more than two months of not being able to run.
It isn’t particularly clear, even to Andy, what it will take to once again storm into the world’s top ten distance runners, but the aim of gracing the European stage for the first time in his career is very much alive.
“We’re definitely ahead of schedule to where we should be,” claims Butchart “last year Dina Asher-Smith had an injury around the same time as me and also went to the same surgery and of course she then came back for British Champs and went on to get a world medal.
“Obviously she runs a lot different to me, she’s a sprinter who’s on the track for 11 seconds whereas I’m on it for half an hour. But I’m going in the right direction and hoping that in the Summer we can salvage the season. If it means that I have to run low key races then that’s fine, so European Championships is definitely the aim.”
With Butchart now all-but set for a quick return, the injury now simply looks to be the latest of many learning curves he has experience in his short career so far.
In the beginning he was, in his own words, “just like any other kid” who wanted partake in sports purely for the enjoyment of it.
However, when a certain Commonwealth Games competition suddenly made its way to Scottish soil in 2014, the young sports fanatic suddenly saw it as a golden chance to try and turn the sport into more than a mere pastime.
And he did it in one of the toughest ways possible, as he “put everything aside” and moved over to America in an attempt to grab the qualifying standard; an effort which ultimately came to no avail.
But while his journey to the 2014, Glasgow Commonwealth Games was already over, his journey to the Rio Olympics in 2016 was just about to begin.
“Just after the Commonwealth Games I tried my first ever 5k,” says Butchart “I loved it, I think I ran about 13.59, just under 14 minutes and it was easy and so much fun. So then me and my coach were like ‘maybe I should run 5k and I just went ‘Ok let’s do it!’
“So the next year I ran 13.33 and then 13.29 and we were thinking ‘Oh I’m getting pretty good at this’ and then suddenly the next year, to then go and run 13.08 to finish sixth at the Olympic Games it just shows all hard work, all that sacrifices and all that time you put into the sport is worth it.”
It was during this period that the then-journeyman was given the big wake up call that he needed, grabbing an insight into just how hard he would have to work to storm in and amongst the world’s elite.
“Looking back I thought I was training hard,” says Butchart, “but actually I was just being a little bitch. It’s just as you start improving and you start having to put the miles in you look at what all the other athletes like Chris O’Hare, Lynsey (Sharp) and Mo Farah are doing and think ‘oh shit, I really have to step up!’.
“So I was a late comer to the sport and probably a late learner as well in terms of how to actually train properly.
“When I was younger I didn’t put any sort of effort into training or work hard, I was just pissing about with my mates and going out at the weekend, I wasn’t really arsed. It was only even until quite recently that I got really competitive and really into my diet, but I’m still learning and I think every athletes has to keep adapting to their surroundings, keep getting the right things in them and train well.”
Despite the brief period of heartache and devastation that his injury caused, looking back it seems to be merely just one of the many challenges that every top level athlete faces throughout their career.
And despite the European Championships being firmly on the horizon for the “ahead of schedule” Andy Butchart, the real top priority for this season is mainly just to run as well as he can, whatever level that may turn out to be.
“I don’t really care (about making the Europeans),” says Butchart, “if I get back for it I get back for it, but if not then that’s cool. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t, so for me it’s just about letting my recovery take its time. But I know I’ll be back soon enough so it’s all good!”