"Canis Familiaris" the dog. For the runner, it has the potential to be either a worst enemy (a vicious animal chasing at his heels) or a best friend (a runner's training companion).
For the dozens of runners (and walkers) who competed with their dogs of all sizes and breeds in last Saturday's second annual "Sneakers & Paws Run/Walk Race" at the Layton Hills Mall, the latter was true. It was teamwork - a human with a dog on a leash - covering a three-mile running distance (or a one-mile walk) to benefit the Utah State Guide Dog Association.Wolfe, my 6-year-old collie-setter mix, and I participated in the three-mile race. To enter, a dog had to be a year or older (6 months or older for the walk), have current vaccinations and be on a leather/nylon leash.
The race was also open to runners without dogs, and everyone started at the same time.
I shouldn't have started in the middle of the pack since it was a real circus getting into the open during the first 500 yards of the race. My leash got tangled several times with other dogs.
But that wasn't the worst of it. Wolfe wanted badly to catch up to the people and dogs in front of us. He somehow knew it was a race and he literally dragged me for the first mile, wanting to move at a sub-five-minute per mile pace instead of my intended six-minute a mile speed.
Several runners told me during the early stages of the race that it must be great to have a dog that pulls you along.
This outside force disrupted my rhythm, and having to try and slow down my 65-pound dog by leaning backwards tired me out early and also caused a severe lower back spasm.
I quickly realized that there was a huge difference between running with a dog and racing with a dog. While training with Wolfe, he'd usually be content to let me set the pace or at least would respond to my commands to slow down. But in the race, he wanted to go all out, and I suspect it would have taken a runner the caliber of Henry Marsh or Ed Eyestone to satisfy him.
By the end of the first mile, I was no longer being dragged along, and Wolfe was somewhat content to run beside me. But it was unlike an ordinary footrace. Holding the leash and suffering through Wolfe's periodic surges to get closer to a passing runner, object, or other annoyances, continued to upset my rhythm and concentration. It was like running with ankle weights or a pack on.
We were able to place first in my age division and third overall among the runners with dogs. (Layton High's Darel Webb and his dog Babe finished first.)
Having a slower dog who didn't pull would have made for an entirely different race. Still, it was Wolfe's first real race. Comparing how well I did in my first real footrace back in seventh grade, Wolfe did a great job. But either he has to slow down a lot that first mile or I have to speed up considerably!
I'VE RUN AT LEAST several miles a day with Wolfe four to five times a week for the past six years. He started out running unleashed with me across country fields or in the mountains.
At first he acted as though it was a dumb idea to go out and run, especially if the route was one where you doubled back; but later, a daily run became the most important thing in his life.
The fun and games didn't last long his first year, however. In mid-1982, I shattered my left wrist while racing Wolfe over a 100-meter distance on some aging asphalt. (I had suddenly slipped on some loose pavement and went down at full speed, maybe 20 miles per hour.)
Ironically, two months later, Wolfe broke his front left leg, when he followed my car one morning as I left to go to the doctor for a new wrist cast.
But Wolfe was still so hooked on running that he'd try to limp with his splint to go with me on runs for the rest of that summer.
In 1983, Wolfe was fully recovered from his broken leg. We ran/hiked Ben Lomond Peak, Mount Ogden, Antelope Island, the High Uintas.
In 1984, I moved Wolfe from the country to the city, and that meant he often had to be put on a leash, something he's still not used to today.
He'd sometimes drag me for that first mile of our two- or three-mile daily run in the city. That pulling force over the span of months caused its own injuries. I suffered from alternating left-right heel bruises (probably bone spurs, though X-rays revealed none). These injuries later disappeared when I ran part of my route on isolated stretches (old railroad tracks, dirt roads, etc.) where I could let Wolfe loose for a mile or more.
Overall, Wolfe makes a convenient running companion who's ready to go at any time. For women, running with a large dog might offer some personal protection or at least a sense of protection.
Also, if another dog chases you when you're running with your dog, he goes for your dog and not for you!
SOME TIPS ON RUNNING with your dog:
-Have your dog checked by a veterinarian first. Ask his or her advice.
-Most dog bones aren't completely fused until age 2, so limit the running in those crucial years. For older dogs, too much running can speed up the arthritis potential.
-The working breed of dog (huskies, shepherds and collies, labradors, greyhounds, etc.) are best at running distances.
-Use a nylon leash. They last much longer than other kinds.
-Run in the early morning or late evening to avoid summer's heat. (Dark-colored dogs will be affected most by the summer sun.)
-Provide small drinks for your dog on longer runs, either by carrying a little water with you or by having some available on your route.
-Be mindful that while you have comfortable running shoes, your dog has only that one set of pads. Limit running on pavement.
-In winter, salt can aggravate a dog's feet. Either avoid running on slushy days or be sure your dog's feet get cleaned off after such a run.