I’m a 2:08 marathon runner — here’s 5 essential running tips

a photo of Callum Hawkins
(Image credit: Getty/Sam Barnes / Contributor)

Callum Hawkins needs no introduction — the 2:08 marathon runner is the British all-time number three in the distance, and the Scottish marathon record holder. He’s competed at a variety of Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and Word Championships, and he’s not done yet. Following an unfortunate ankle injury that forced him to pull out of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Hawkins is on the road to recovery and has set himself some big goals for 2023. 

But how do the best of the best motivate themselves to lace up a pair of the best running shoes and head out of the door when it’s cold, dark, and rainy? And when training is your life, how do you still find joy in the miles? To find out more, I gathered around a campfire with the marathon great, at the launch of New Balance’s Runlock campaign (opens in new tab), and asked him to share his tips with Tom’s Guide. 

Set goals — both big and small

“I'm quite a goal-based person,” says Hawkins when I ask him how he motivates himself to get up and train every single day. “I'll set myself a big goal, for instance, the London marathon or a big race, and mini goals along the way, like a 10K or a half marathon. And that's really what keeps me focused. It's just having that goal. Having goals really keeps you going and keeps you motivated through the tough months.”

Break a training plan up into shorter blocks

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a training plan, whether it’s 12 weeks, 16 weeks, or 24 weeks. I asked Hawkins how he breaks things down. “Have a couple of races along the way. Do a 5K, a 10K, or a half marathon, and make these races fit into your training plan. Just take it month by month and start training as early as possible, don’t try and cram your training in at the last minute. It doesn’t work!”

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Don’t let bad runs beat you

During the 2018 Commonweath Games on the Gold Coast in Australia, Hawkins collapsed from extreme heat a mile from the finish line (opens in new tab). Later, the runner would share the photo of himself disorientated and exhausted on his Instagram with the caption "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger."  

Hawkins says right now, his training is all about getting fit, with his eyes on “one of the majors” this fall. He’s down-to-earth, focused, and upbeat. I ask him where this comes from. “My dad was a national-level runner before he became a policeman, and his kids took over. He’s now my coach. He knows me inside out. He can see when I’m having a bad day and although sometimes the dad side of things does overlap, and bad training sessions don’t get left on the track, he’s quick to apologize.” 

a photo of New Balance runner Callum Hawkins

(Image credit: New Balance)

Find shoes you enjoy running in

One of the easiest ways to make running more fun? Run in fun running shoes. “I’ve been involved with the Fresh Foam line from the concept of the RC Elite. I wore the prototype in Doha [at the World Championships in 2019], and I’ve been involved since then.” 

Earlier in the day, New Balance showcased its latest carbon fiber marathon shoe — the Fuelcell SC Elite (more about this coming on Tom’s Guide soon). I asked Hawkins which other shoes were in his current rotation. “For everyday running shoes, when I just want to get out and run, it’s the Fresh Foam More. And when I want to go a bit quicker it’ll be the RC Elite, or now the SC Elite — that’s usually my go-to for faster stuff and for racing. I’ll also wear the Fuelcell Rebel v3 when I don’t want a carbon fiber plate.”

“I really love the Fresh Foam More V4 though — it’s one of those shoes that just makes you excited about going out for a run. I think that’s a big part of loving your run, if you find the shoe that you love to run in. How many times have you run in a shoe and thought I just don’t want to do this run anymore? The Fresh Foam More makes every footstep fun.” 

Check out our reviews of the best carbon fiber running shoes, the New Balance 1080v12, and the New Balance Supercomp Trainer here. 

Never fall out of love with running

Finally, I ask Hawkins how he finds joy in running. Through all the ups and downs, the injuries, and the scrutiny of running on the world’s stage. “My dad’s my coach and we’ve just developed a real love for the sport. I don’t run because it’s my job and I’m fast. I run because I actually love going for a run. Having a nice route, having a comfortable pair of shoes — I just love running, it’s something that comes naturally to me. I think even if I wasn’t an athlete, I’d still be out running most days.”

I don’t run because it’s my job and I’m fast. I run because I actually love going for a run.

Looking for more running inspiration? Check out the best running apps for tracking your training, plus this beginner’s running plan that’ll get you running for 30 minutes in just six weeks

Beyond running, also check out this six-move treadmill workout builds strength in just 12 minutes.

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.