STRATHDALE'S Andy Buchanan is aiming to mark a successful return to Victoria Country titles level in Ballarat this Friday night.
After missing most of last track season because of glandular fever, Buchanan has steadily built up strength and his pace.
Night one of the championships will include the Bendigo University athlete chasing gold in the open 5km event.
His fastest time for 5km was 14:47 as he won the "B" final at the Victorian Championships at Lakeside in November, 2013.
"Championships are different to the runs I usually have at the Athletics Bendigo meets on Saturday afternoon," the 22-year-old said.
"The title race is a lot more tactical, so a personal best is not necessarily what I will be aiming for.
"The main thing is to be near the front of the pack for most of the race."
He was a top-five finisher in the 5km at the country championships in 2012, and was the under-20 5km and 10km champion a year earlier.
Buchanan's build-up to these country titles included a training stint at Falls Creek from December 27 until early in the new year.
"The training runs were fantastic. There were up to 150 athletes in some of the runs."
Distances and intensity varied.
In many ways Buchanan is rapt to be back on track.
"There was no running for five months, and then at least another month gradually building up the training workload.
"The illness was frustrating, mainly because it was just rest. There's no much else you can do.
"What it did do was make me appreciate being able to run and compete."
Running is something Buchanan has done from a young age.
Parents Alan and Jenny have racked up many marathon starts, which will include racing the Berlin Marathon for the first time this year.
They all have great support from Andy's siblings Kylie and Michelle.
Away from racing, Andy Buchanan will soon start a diplomate of education at La Trobe University Bendigo.
He has completed three years study in physical education-outdoor education.
His athletics pursuits are helped along by training partners such as Brady Threlfall and Lee McCullagh, and by Eric Hocking at Performance Massage.