Scotty Hawker: UTMB ‘unfinished business’ may have to wait

NZ runner Scotty Hawker. Picture: @fractelrunning

Despite having finished third in last year’s Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, Scotty Hawker feels he has unfinished business in what many regard as the world’s most prestigious trail race. Due to the current pandemic, it’s business which might have to wait another year, but he’s taking a philosophical view on the current turmoil affecting almost every aspect of life globally.

The New Zealander thinks the event – due to take place on August 28 – probably will be cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Probably the biggest part about UTMB I was looking forward to this year was going back after having a good result there last year. On one hand, I could get frustrated and worked up but that’s not going to help the situation. It is what it is to a certain extent.”

Hawker, whose homeland of New Zealand is in lockdown due to the virus, would have been expecting right now to be in Europe preparing for races, but he’s trying to stay positive and keep sport in perspective.

“Like any athlete, there’s obviously a certain level of frustration that no races are going to be happening soon,” he said. “I think for me personally racing is just one element of the reason for what I do.”

The restrictions currently allow him to run from his house in Christchurch along an old rail trail, although he has been preparing for total lockdown. He is spending much of his time at home on a Zwift bike which allows him to train remotely with friends from around the world.

He is also using the time indoors to work on strength and conditioning and urges other runners of all levels to concentrate on this often overlooked area.

“I think for a lot of athletes around the globe who are on lockdown it’s a fantastic opportunity to get stuck into a good strength and conditioning routine. When we are just running normally, the strength and conditioning side of things tends to be normally the thing that falls by the wayside.”

As someone who grew up learning to love the outdoor life, he has missed not being able to train on the mountains due to the restrictions and concedes he may be losing fitness with regards to the ascents.

However, he said: “It’s kind of the least of our worries at the moment. It is a shame in a way but there are so many more important things. While running for a lot of people is a big part of their lives, running doesn’t define who you are as a person.”

Hawker, whose year began promisingly with a win and course record at the Shotover Moonlight Marathon in Queenstown, New Zealand, in February, admitted the outlook for the rest of the year is uncertain, to say the least.

“But we need to accept that and just realise there needs to be a little bit of a shift in focus and focus on things you can control and put your energy into,” the ambassador for premium headwear manufacturer Fractel said.

“Hopefully, if everyone can do the right thing things will start to settle down and we can get a bit more normality into our lives and get back on the trails and in the mountains.

“Even as much as I like running trails and running hills, it’s just going to have to wait for a little while. When you have something removed for a certain amount of time, when you get it back it makes it super-rewarding. It’s going to make that first mountain trail like it’s pretty hard-earned, so I’m so looking forward to that again.”