Introducing ERNIOLD athlete, Andy Buchanan. 

The Bendigo Bats faithful leader has been killing it for the last 10 years, most notably with his XC running. Andy has shown his range from 800 to Half Marathon with some impressive titles and quality PB’s. Now, all focus is on the Marathon. 

A strong build and plenty of hype surrounded Andy in his lead up to the Gold Coast Marathon. He was one of the favourites to take the W on debut, so when the race was cancelled it was a real kick in the dick. 

After some R and R, Andy is back with a new goal. We caught up over a beer to see what’s up:

GC getting cancelled obviously sucked for a lot of people, how did it affect you?
Yeah it was obviously really disappointing. I was feeling fit, confident and just really keen to race. I was also really bummed because it was also such a unique opportunity to be running GC with some of the top Aussie guys and no international athletes. 

I’d also had such a strange and messy final lead up to the race. I’d taken unpaid leave from work and flew up to Newcastle to train with my coach (Scott Westcott) and the group there to try and escape Victoria. Then when cases started turning up in Sydney, I reluctantly went to GC earlier than planned. Once I was there, I felt as though, ‘I’m here and nothing can go wrong’. Then two days later I was booking a flight home. This flight then got cancelled and moved to a later flight, in the meantime GC got updated to a red zone, so when I flew home I had to do the 14 day isolation (turned into 7 days luckily). So arriving home after that was definitely a real low point. 

Ahh, that’s flattening. Back rolling well now though?
Yeah, it took a bit to get up and running post iso and I definitely felt like shit the first week especially. I definitely benefited from taking some down time. That was probably the only perk of having to isolate - a forced break. 

Well yeah, you obviously don’t want to burn out or peak too early with this new build?
Yeah mentally I definitely needed the rest. Because I didn’t have the option to train, it worked well. I was definitely feeling some pressure with my marathon debut and it was nice to have a bunch of people invested in that. But it was also nice to spend a couple weeks just running for enjoyment rather than being so goal orientated. 

I’m a big believer in you only benefit from the training you recover from. So it’s important to have those ups and downs as you obviously can’t just continually go up. The body definitely forgets how to run fast, but it doesn’t take long to get that neuromuscular strength back. In saying that, I’m back now focused on Melbourne Marathon, and I’m enjoying having some purpose and structure again. 

Are you approaching this build any different to GC?
Pretty similar, but probably less volume early on because I’ve just come off the GC build; even though I didn’t race, the build was strong and the fitness is still there. 

I really enjoy the process of marathon training and the challenge of it all. The key for me is consistently getting at least 2 and half hours on a Sunday, nothing fancy just time on the legs. I’ll probably focus a little more on marathon effort stuff, but the main thing is that I need to take nutrition more serious. This was probably the only area I was a little anxious about leading into GC as I hadn’t practiced enough, or when I did, I didn’t get it right. 

Ahh yes, I was going to ask about nutrition. I remember hearing you say you never really take gels or anything? 
Yeah it’s definitely an area I want to and need to improve on. I like to run fasted and feel comfortable doing that, so I’ve never really relied on gels or anything. It’s hard to know until I actually do a marathon, but I also know that I can’t just ignore it or go in unprepared. I need to do more practice with setting up a table with drinks and gels for marathon specific stuff. 

When I have done some practice in the past, I’ve stuffed up and taken on way too much and just been real burpy and nearly vomited ha! 

So you feel as though you know your body well enough that you don’t necessarily need to rely on it as much? 
Well yes, but I also know that I can ignore it on race day. Like, I never eat or drink anything before a run. Every Sunday long is fully fasted and I get through 2 hours 30 to 45 and feel fine, which is pleasing. I’ll definitely be practising more this time round though, and I plan to be taking on gels and drinks regularly on race day. 

Like it. And if Melbourne Mara gets cancelled?
Well before starting this build, Scott said something along the lines of, ‘If we go all in on this, we will have a back up plan’. Maybe like a 30km TT or something similar. Either way, I need to get some practise of running hard and long. With Comm Games and World Champs approaching next year and 2 teams (6 spots), the aim is to make one of those teams. So if Melbourne gets cancelled or postponed, I might have a crack at the 30km Track Aus Record (even though I don't think Athletics Australia officially recognise this anymore).

We really want to get one on the board to see if I am built for the marathon and get some exposure to the event. Time is really running out, so if Melbourne doesn’t go ahead I’ll have to rely on Athletics Australia organising something similar to the Sydney trials. 

No chance of getting overseas for a race?
Probably not and it’s too hard to make plans like that at the moment, and who knows how international travel will change in the near future. I’d love to get over to Japan to do a Marathon, but as far as I’m aware all of their races have been cancelled. In a perfect world, if things go back to complete normal in 2022, it would definitely be on the cards. I’d either look to do a major or one in Japan, they’ve got so much depth. In the meantime, just focus on Melbourne. 

Excited to see how this pans out. A few quick questions to finish: 
Haha! It’s actually not bad but could be better. I really just try and prioritise on 3 good meals a day (breaky, lunch, dinner). Whatever in between doesn’t matter in my opinion. If I want to have a jelly slice for a snack, then that’s fine I think. Runners often get caught up on being too light, which clearly isn’t healthy. Being too light as a runner can be risky with injuries so I don’t hold back on a bit of sugar. It’s not like I have Maccas for dinner, but I love some fries for a snack ya know?

Macca's chips pre-race? True?
This is true. Started from XCR races starting early afternoon and needing an easy snack to sit well in the stomach. Then a lot of my track races are later at night, so once again it was fitting to have before then rather than a proper dinner. 

Current favourite shoe?
Ahhh shit, that’s hard. Nike Dragonfly. I’ve ran a lot of track races in Matumbos and these are just amazing in comparison. I love them 

Thoughts on strength work?
I’m really big on this. My job through school is effectively a Strength and Conditioning coach, so I’ve got access to a good gym set up and do all my strength work before classes. All the usual kinda exercises; deadlifts, squats, power cleans, Bulgarian split squats, walking lunges etc. 

My number one thing is doing running drills with weights. For example, doing an A-Skip with a 10kg weight above my head. It’s bloody hard stuff but really beneficial. That’s the only kinda core work I do because it’s specific to running. 

Any other secrets? 
I do a lot of stretching. Not all runners are a fan and people consider it a waste of time. But I find it beneficial, in particular with my hamstrings and hip flexors. 

Bendigo Bats - give us an update
Mate, the Bats are flying. We just need a race. I’m really amazed at how far the region has come in such a quick time. Especially considering how the last year has been. It’s just impressive how keen people are and how many people want to get out and race, especially considering we’ve got the furthest to travel. 

Everyone has really hit their straps at the right time and we’ve got strong buy in. Also coming in with a bit of a chip on our shoulder with something to prove. We just want to go and show that we can mix it with the top Div 1 teams. It’s exciting, and we’re still getting stronger.  

Exciting. Tell us, what do you want to see more of in running? 
Just more awareness of the sport and the general public knowing our top athletes more. It’s probably tripled already in the last year, and the Olympics helped with that. But our top runners on the world stage just deserve more recognition in my opinion. Just more exposure and people becoming bigger fans of running. Like, it shouldn't take the Olympics for the public to learn who Stewy McSweyn is. I definitely don’t consider this for myself, but our world class runners deserve to be household names. 

One day in Bendigo - where to run?
Ohhh this is tough. There’s so much variety and it depends and what you’re after. My favourite loops would be the Dead Centre loop (loop around the ‘dead centre’ of Vic), and running up to Herbert would be a close second. There’s so many different spots, but definitely somewhere in the bush. 

If you wanna see how the big dogs do it, give Andy a follow on Strava and follow his training towards Melbourne Marathon. 

Photo courtesy of Run the Tan.