CALLUM Hawkins may not have been the only man from Paisley craving fast food in the early hours of Sunday morning. But he was the only one in Doha, Qatar, at the time, having just run the most thrilling 26.2 miles of his life. Keen to mark the his fourth-place finish in the IAAF World Championships marathon with a McDonald’s, he found to his dismay that all such establishments were all closed at this ungodly hour of the morning. So instead he settled for a posh burger out of the 24/7 restaurant in his hotel as he chewed over what ultimately was a second consecutive agonising World Championships near miss. There is, after all, only so much chicken and rice a man can take.

“McDonald’s was closed,” said Hawkins, in the epic surroundings of Stirling Castle yesterday to launch the 2020 Stirling Marathon. “I Googled it! I didn’t get out of everything till about 5.30am but luckily there was a restaurant in the hotel and I managed to get a burger there. British Athletics gave me a fuelling plan so pretty much for a week all I ate was chicken and rice. I was desperate for some other food.”

Medal or no medal, the drama of the Scot’s adventures in Doha scooped up even the casual, post-pub crowd. Cleverly opting not to follow a brutal pace early on in the race, after 25 miles of racing, the Scot had reeled everyone else in and it was now a five-way shoot-out for the line.

Knowing he didn’t have the sprint finish in his legs to rival eventual winner Lesisa Desisat of Ethiopia, he tried to burn off the two men it still required to get his hands on some silverware. Alas he could only get rid of Stephen Mokoka of South Africa, with another Ethiopian, Mosinet Gerimew and Amos Kipruto of Kenya finding more in their legs down the stretch to fill the podium places. But all in all it is fair to say this man who crashed and burned whilst 2km away from Commonwealth gold arrived back home in Scotland yesterday with new-found respect in the eyes of the world endurance fraternity. Not to mention renewed interest in a viewing public back home who were roaring him on in their living rooms, just as the likes of Laura Muir were from the side of the road.

“I’m hugely grateful for the support of everyone in Scotland and Britain who stayed up so late to watch me on television,” said Hawkins. “A lot of my team members also headed out to the course to offer me support and that was hugely appreciated as well - Laura Muir came straight from her race. I knew there were groups dotted around the course and it really helped push me on that last lap just when I was trying to catch them. It speaks a lot for Laura - she must have been hugely disappointed to have run as fast as she did and still not medal and so for her to come out as she did made me hugely grateful.”

You can’t miss out on a medal over two hours of extreme exertion and not feel burdened by a regret or two. But Hawkins has time on his side. This was only the 27-year-old’s seventh marathon. His sixth finish.

“Maybe I could have been 10 seconds closer when the gap went up to 40 seconds but in hindsight I would have done the same as I did,” he said. “They were throwing in some ridiculous kms which I don’t think I could have personally handled, which is why I held back. But it was the strongest I’ve ever felt in the last 10k of a marathon and that’s on the back of suffering a mild strain on my hamstring three weeks out.”

When Hawkins talks of prep, what he mainly means is the punishing sessions he underwent on the treadmill in his garden shed, with fan heaters taking the temperatures up to 39 degrees to mimic the conditions he could have faced in Doha. It is a homespun, maverick way of preparing which has reminded some of Graeme Obree’s home-made bikes back in the day.

“It wasn’t the nicest, there wasn’t a lot of airflow, but I am probably going to be back in it next year,” he said. “Actually, had it been a little bit warmer it might have given me a higher chance of taking a medal because I had prepped so much.”

All going well, Hawkins’ next run at redemption will come at the Tokyo Olympics next summer, although the likes of Mo Farah and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge could be back in the mix by then. With his pre-selection surely now a formality, he will focus on speed work and will do only a few half marathons in the first half of next year. First up is a well-earned holiday in Santorini. “I CAN take a little bit of pride from how I ran,” said Hawkins. “But I would definitely feel unfulfilled if I don’t win a major medal at some point.”