Derek and Callum Hawkins grew up watching Kenenisa Bekele dominate cross country races in their native Scotland. This summer they will swap muddy fields for sun-baked roads in Rio, emulating the man who inspired them to run in the first place.

Athletes can often pinpoint the moment they realised they could run, jump or throw better than the rest of their mates. Others may laud a visionary teacher or coach responsible for turning them towards their event.

Hawkins brothers Derek, 27, and Callum, 24, can thank Angus Gilles, who was head teacher at the “pro cross country” Bridge of Weir Primary School down the road from Elderslie, a village near Glasgow, where they were raised.

“We were lucky,” Derek says. “He was quite keen to get cross country going.”

Derek showed talent in county championships. “I’m alright at this,” he thought, and joined the local Kilbarchan Athletic Club. He has been a member ever since.

It’s largely the same story for younger brother Callum. No good at football – “I could run about for ages but when I actually had to kick the ball I couldn’t” – he saw his older brother’s success with running and got involved.

In truth the pair would likely have found athletics eventually anyway. Their father, Robert, who is now their coach, was 1979 under-15 Scottish cross country champion; they grew up in an era where Scottish-born 1991 10,000m world champion Liz McColgan was a national hero.

Kenenisa Bekele Edinburgh ()

Callum Hawkins: “Bekele would usually win in Edinburgh, so he was always my hero when I was younger”

Gilles’ role was nonetheless pivotal in coaxing the brothers into running from a young age. Sport in late 90s Glasgow meant Celtic vs Rangers. Though Gers fan Derek admits to revelling in the era of Dick Advocaat and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, his sporting heros hail from East Africa rather than Ibrox.

“From 11 onwards it was always Haile Gebrselassie or Kenenisa Bekele,” he says.

Callum agrees: “For me, it would be Bekele, because he used to come to Edinburgh to race. They’d have Scottish inter-districts on the same day, so we were always up over there to watch it. He would usually win it. He was always my hero.”

Bekele won the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country meet in 2006, 07 and 08, and won his eleventh career World Cross Country title in the city in 2008. If ever the young Hawkins wondered what an international running career looked like, they did not have to look far.

Both brothers showed promise through their teens. The set-up Derek joined at Kilbarchan AC included “probably the best U13 group in Scotland”. He had to fight to keep up. “I was off the back for most of it,” he admits.

A breakthrough came when, aged 14, he won the U15 Scottish Cross Country Championships and finished the year ranked number one in the 3000m for his age group in the UK. “I kicked on from there,” he adds.

Callum says he never used to try that hard. “I enjoyed it,” he insists, “but I was the sort of the kid who makes it look like they are going hard, but aren’t really.” Without trying too hard he still managed to run a 2:15 800m aged 13. By U17 level he had a string of Scottish titles across 1500m, 3000m and in cross country.

Callum Hawkins Euro Cross ()

Callum finished fifth in the U23 race at the 2014 European Cross Country Championships in Samokov

For all their age group success, the brothers’ progression in the senior ranks has been more fractured. A combination of injuries and circumstance fast forwarded them both to athletics’ ultimate test: the marathon.

“It was always an inevitability, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon,” Derek says. “I was kinda backed into a corner!”

Desperate to qualify for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, he entered the 10,000m at the 2012 British Olympic trials, hoping a fast pace would help him run the standard. A bout of food poisoning two weeks before the race killed his chances. Unable to find another 10k that fit with his schedule, he instead turned his focus to the roads and had a bash at the 2012 Frankfurt Marathon. He finished 18th in 2:14.04.

“I found it a lot more suited to me,” he says of step up. In Frankfurt he ran the second half quicker than he did first – a sign of strength, if a little inexperience. “As far as debuts go it was good as you can get,” he insists. And he had achieved his aim: qualifiaction for the Commonwealths. In Glasgow he was the first European home in the marathon, ninth overall in 2:14:15.

Callum competed in the 10,000m at the Commonwealths, where he finished in 20th in 29:12.52. It was only his second track 10k. Though it was a reasonable performance, it was one diminished by two bouts of knee surgery in 2012.

“It took me about a year and a half to get back to where I was prior to the surgery,” Callum says. In 2015 he dropped back down to the 5000m, but struggled to regain his pace. With the Olympics on the horizon, he found his road to Rio lay on the, err, roads.

With a 1:03:06 half marathon debut under his belt, Callum felt confident he could make the standard for Rio (2hrs 19mins). Like his brother before him, he stepped up for his 26.2 mile debut in Frankfurt, finishing 12th in 2:12.17.

The 2016 London Marathon was a de facto British Olympic trial. Both brothers had run the standard. The top two Brits home were guaranteed selection, with the third spot allocated by selectors. It was a high stakes race with an atmosphere to match.

“[London is] pretty unreal,” says Derek, who was making his second appearance in the British capital. “From about two miles in all the way to the finish the crowd support is just ridiculous. It is insane.”

Both bros finished with shiny new personal bests, having resisted the temptation to go out at the lightening pace (winner Eliud Kipchoge set a course record 2:03:05, the second fastest marathon in history).

Callum led the Brits home in 2:10.52. His place was secure. “Being a trial, I had the feeling that I just had to go out and do it,” he says.

Derek was third Brit home in 2:12.57. The elder brother had to wait two agonising days before his place was confirmed.

“I felt going home I’d justified the selection, but it was totally out of my hands. I prepared myself that I wouldn’t be picked,” he says.

“It was Spencer Duval [retired Scottish steeplechaser who works closely with British road running] who phoned to say I’d been selected. I actually said ‘sorry, did you say I hadn’t?’”

But he really was. Both brothers had booked their places in Rio.

Derek Hawkins London ()

Though he was the third Brit home in the London Marathon, Derek had to sweat for two days before his spot in Rio was confirmed

The prospect of two marathons in the space of four months does not daunt either brother. Their attitude is pragmatic. “There’s no choice,” as Callum rightly points out.

He ran in the half marathon at the European Championships on Sunday (10). It was a high quality outting six short weeks out from Rio.

“It [fell] perfectly for what we’d normally do for prep,” says Callum, who six weeks before London finished 15th at the Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships.

He used Amsterdam to test of his race pace, going out hard and staying with the pace setters. “I thought I’d try something different and put myself near a medal but it didn’t pay of,” he says of his ninth place finish in 1:03.57.

The brothers will now spend two weeks warm weather training in Majorca before returning to Scotland. “Hopefully we’ll be getting use of a heat chamber in Glasgow to maintain our acclimatisation,” Derek says.

In training they will top out at 120 miles in a week, a maximum of two or three times; their longest run will be 22-23 miles at a slow pace. Average August temperatures in Rio top 26°C (78°F) – somewhat warmer than the 15°C (59°F) average north of Hadrian’s Wall (they still call it summer).

You can prepare for conditions, but you can’t predict for how your body will react. Mindful of that, come Rio, both brothers plan to draw from the attributes that led them to the marathon in the first place.

“I’m a bit of a metronome,” Derek says. “If I can get into a decent rhythm I can just churn it out all day long.”

Callum adds: “With the marathon it’s patience. A lot of people go out far too quick.

“The way London went, Derek went out at his own pace, let everyone else go and came through. I let a couple of the British boys go as well, thinking they’d probably come back. The pace they were hitting I knew that if I hit it I’d die.”

In the last Olympic marathon, Australia’s Michael Shelley – who won Commonwealth gold over 26.2 miles in Glasgow – proved the worth of running your own race. His mature performance is the blueprint they hope to replicate.

“His splits I think had a six second difference,” Derek says. Better – Shelley ran 1:07:04 and 1:07:06, moving from 61st half way to 12th at the tape (all splits here). “He showed it can be done. If we manage the conditions and be sensible I’m sure we can move through pretty well.”

Shelley will join them on the line in August. And though the great Kenenisa Bekele won’t be running in Rio, the two Scottish lads he taught to dream big will be, doing Mr Gilles proud on the biggest stage of all.