Lessons From Running With A Dog

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As I mentioned in my North Face Endurance Challenge 50k race report, as I stood at the start line there was a dog there, ready to run all 50k with its owner. I know that if humans can train themselves to run long distances then dogs should also be able to improve running longer distances too. But I could never imagine my dog running 50k.

This is my dog, Lucy. She is a small munsterlander spaniel and the third member of our little family. We adopted her just before her 5th birthday from a friend of a friend that couldn’t take care of her anymore. So when we got her we were told some information about it, namely that her previous owners had RUN with her. Callum and I both thought, great she can run, we’ll have a new running companion.

This is NOT the case it turns out! Maybe her previous owner had just started running so they didn’t go far? Maybe they sprinted and then stopped (Lucy’s kind of a run). Whatever they did, she is not what I would consider a good running dog. We tried running with her and she sprints and then stops to smell something, she likes getting right under your feet so you trip and then after about 5km she lags behind and wants to walk. Then when you walk, she speeds up and strangles herself to run ahead. She is overly enthusiastic and always ready to go but also easily distracted and freezes (stops dead in her tracks) when she sees squirrels. None of these components make a great running companion.

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But I was determined that Lucy would run with me at least a little bit because I spend so much time outside running and it seems like such a waste to run for hours and then when I get home to have to walk the dog. My solution was to take her to a trail where she could run off leash so that her sprinting and stopping wouldn’t affect my running and we could both have a good time. For the most part this solution works. On a good day, she’ll keep up enough so that I don’t have to stop and call her. But this solution still has limits, the longest run we can go on is 6km. I once pushed it to 7km and by the end she was walking 10-15 feet behind me trying to catch up.

I get frustrated a lot by these runs because there’s so much stopping and calling the dog but I think a lot could be learned from how she runs. She goes out and gives it 100% ALL. THE. TIME. She never has a bad run because she isn’t trying to hit a number on her watch. She just purely loves any time that she can spend outside. She stops to smell (and pee on) the flowers. She makes me slow down and enjoy what’s around us. She get so much joy out of running. All these lessons from running with the dog are why I continue to bring her with my on my short  runs.

Lucy will never run 50km, she probably will never even make it 10km but in some ways she is best running partner that you could ask from. There is no judgement about how fast or slow I go, she is happy to walk, to sprint or to stop. She is just happy to be outside. It’s so easy to get caught up in kms, time, pace, HR. When I run with the dog, I know that I am going for a run that won’t be super serious but that we’ll get to spend the whole time exploring together. Plus what’s better than looking behind and seeing her sprinting to come run beside me!

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Do you run with your dog? Do you think your dog could ever run farther than a marathon?

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