BENDIGO athlete Andy Buchanan marks his return to track racing when he contests the 10,000m at the Zatopek 10 meeting this Wednesday night at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne's Albert Park.
Uni Pride's number one athlete has run the gamut of emotion the past 12 months as plans to contest the Gold Coast Marathon and later Melbourne Marathon were derailed by COVID-19 and then injury.
Also in the field will be Moama-based Archie Reid, 20, a member of South Bendigo Athletics Club.
Having recovered from a stress reaction in his right femur, Buchanan is keen for another Zatopek 10 hit-out.
"It's an incredible race to be part of," the 30-year-old said after his latest training session at the Bendigo Regional Athletics Complex in Flora Hill.
"There is a lot of prestige attached to the race, and you are up against many of the best distance runners in the country."
The 10,000m duel is also part of the selection process for this year's Birmingham Commonwealth Games and world track championships.
The Zatopek 10 honours Czech athlete Emil Zatopek, gold medallist in the 5000m, 10,000m and marathon (42.2km) at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics in Finland.
Zatopek's first marathon was at the '52 Olympics.
Buchanan recalled watching the Zatopek meet when he was younger and being amazed by the times being run.
"The 10,000 metres really tests you mentally and physically."
For Buchanan the major goal in the Zatopek 10 is embrace the challenge.
"I am not too focused on the overall time, or caught up on lap splits.
"It's an opportunity to race, something I have not done too often in the past year, and race as well as I can."
Buchanan said the Gold Coast marathon being cancelled in 2020 and '21 and then not starting last month's Melbourne Marathon because of injury were disappointing.
"Training for those events had gone well. They were big training blocks, but ones I enjoyed and learnt a lot from," he said of plans set by long-time coach Scott Westcott.
"To not race was disappointing, but not the end of the world."
It's an opportunity to race, something I have not done too often in the past year, and race as well as I can.- Andy Buchanan
After scans cleared him of major damage in early December, Buchanan was back training just after Christmas and then in the new year headed to Falls Creek for the annual training camp.
"There were nine of us from the Bendigo Bats (XCR group) who trained at Falls across 15 days.
"It's a great way to build team culture, but also fitness for races and training."
Athletics has played a big part in the life of the Buchanan family for a long time.
"Racing is what it's all about, but training is a challenge I have always looked forward to.
"Distance running is going from strength to strength in Bendigo and those doing it are enjoying what they do."
Buchanan was rapt the Bendigo Bats athletics group has gained the support of Erniold Clothing, a business run by Simon Hanns and Xavier Meade, who played footy at Sandhurst, and are keen athletes.
"They have kicked in to supply the racing and training apparel for Bendigo Bats going into this year's XCR series," said Buchanan, a dual national 10km cross-country champion.
Read more: Buchanan blitzes field in 5km Frenzy
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