Team GB race walker Callum Wilkinson looking towards World Athletics Championships in Doha following a largely positive 2018
Asked to sum up his 2018 in three words, race walker Callum Wilkinson replied: “I will give you four – learning on the job.”
It has been a season of ups and downs for the Moulton-raised athlete, but despite experiencing a range of emotions, he believes that he will head into the new year a more rounded competitor.
Wilkinson, who almost quit the sport towards the back end of 2017 after his passion fizzled out, started with a highly impressive seventh-placed finish at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
His time of one hour, 22 minutes and 35 seconds was just 20 seconds shy of his 20K personal best and it all pointed to a positive assault on August’s European Athletics Championships in Berlin.
But, from the highs of the Commonwealths came the lows in the German capital, as the former world junior champion suffered a disqualification in pursuit of his top-10 target.
There have been a number of other competition appearances and training camps in-between, all of which have left Wilkinson in confident mood about the future.
“I have had so many experiences and yes, learning on the job sums it up perfectly,” he said.
“At 21 I have competed at two more major championships and it was very different emotions.
“The Commonwealths was as good as I could have hoped, and then there was the disqualification in Berlin. You learn a lot from both of those and there is plenty to take in 2019.
“I have seen this year how important training is. You have to do it day in, day out. Even on your bad days you have got to get through it.
“You have to do things for yourself; it is you competing out there after all. I learn better from experiences rather than getting advice. If I am told a plate is hot, I will touch it just to make sure!
“There is so much improvement to come from me and that is the exciting thing.
“It will be a case of simple, easy changes that will hopefully make a difference. I have shown I can compete with some of the best in the world and now it is about building on that and doing it consistently.”
Wilkinson’s 2019 calender is already chock-a-block, with May’s Race Walking World Cup and the European Under-23 Championships in July all building towards the World Athletics Championships in Doha and the following year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Competing in the sweltering heat of the Middle East will be a whole new experience for Wilkinson.
Athletes contesting medals inside the stadium will have the benefit of an air-conditioned venue. But there will be no such luxuries for Wilkinson and his fellow race walkers out on the road.
As it stands, the 20K race is due to start at 11.30pm local time, and even then the temperature will still be hovering around the 30°C mark.
The Leeds Beckett University student has already started to prepare for the challenge, something that he hopes will leave him in good shape come not only Doha in September, but also the 2020 Olympics.
“Next year I have even more opportunities to race against the top guys in the sport – that big-race experience is everything,” he added.
“The Euros is close in terms of my targets to Doha, but the Worlds are so big.
“We are used to competing in July or August, but this time the Worlds is not until late September, so we have already made adjustments and are two months ahead of the normal programme.
“I have already been using the heat chambers, not just for Doha but also Tokyo.
“It is hard work, really tough, but we are really happy with the early results.
“It is about enjoying the process and the journey and where we are hopefully heading is the Olympics, the pinnacle of sport.
“By the time the Olympics come around I will have had three years at senior level. It has been a quick rise from the juniors and I want to keep it going.”