Since taking up running last April there have been lots of pluses for me, (fitness, weight, energy levels) but there have also been a couple of minuses. If you’ve been here from the start you’ll know that this blog was first and foremost created as a sewing blog, in order to share my makes with the online creative community. You’ll also have noticed that that type of post has become more sporadic over the past months. Aside from sewing, which I’m still passionate about, though has become something now largely reserved for school holidays, it’s the dogs who have lost out to my new love. Do they still get two walks a day? Almost always, yes. Do they get as many long walks as they used to? No, probably not – although again this is rectified during the holidays.
Wilf accompanied me on my first ever 5k, and trotted along merrily beside me, when I couldn’t possibly imagine running so far without feeling incredibly sick, dizzy and exhausted. But I quickly realised that holding his lead affected my posture, and as I began to try and learn about running, I knew holding a lead was a hindrance and not a help. Last year I worked on my technique, speed and my ability to just keep going. After long/harder runs I would usually walk the dogs after, albeit for shorter times and distances.
Around Christmas, I wasn’t training for anything and had accepted that steady runs are an important part of any running schedule, so I took Wilf out on a 5 mile run. He did great! I used a regular lead that I looped across my body, giving me adequate control over Wilf but enough freedom for him to run (or at least walk quickly) beside me without requiring constant holding. It wasn’t the most comfortable set-up but it was ok. I did my usual 5 mile route, maybe 30 seconds – 1 minute per mile slower than my usual pace – and of course we made around 10 stops for Wilf to cock his leg. He kept up with me well and only pulled a couple of times to try and investigate items of interest such as molehills and distant rabbit burrows.
Following this success, I ran a couple more times with Wilf on a similar route/distance, each time he seemed to tune in better to me and my pace and stride. I read something that said it was important to remember that running with a dog meant the dog is joining YOU on a run, when things like stopping to sniff a tree trunk should be discouraged and reserved for dedicated dog walks. One evening, I even bit the bullet and took both dogs out, somehow managing around 4 miles in a not too poor time – although Oliver has since returned to being an incompatible running buddy, confirmed this week when a mile into a run, I was forced to loop back to the house and shove him through the back door – he had no interest in picking up his pace and keeping up with me and Wilfie.
A couple of weeks ago I ordered a special cannicross lead, which goes around your waist, attaches to a harness and is very stretchy, to ensure if the dog comes to a sudden halt the runner isn’t yanked to a stop or worse. So far I have worn this a couple of times, and realised part way through the first run that it is something that I need to adjust to, rather than Wilfie – it almost gives him too much freedom, especially for running beside roads – which is our main surface on dark and damp January evenings. Now, about 5 runs in, he is able to match my pace throughout a 5 mile run. He is learning that we only stop for a sniff and a wee when I have slowed down and walked a couple of steps first. I believe that fitness-wise, he would be capable of running twice as far, though I have’t yet experimented with this – but I do plan to.
The downside is that even when I do and have run with Wilfie, Oliver still needs to be exercised. Wilfie adores his walks, and will cry to be taken out on evenings when I would rather not. Oliver, on the other hand, is much more of a fair weather walker – if it’s too damp/cold/frosty, he’s happy to stay home, so a short post-run wander of a mile or so is often adequate for Oliver, fortunately.
As January comes to a close I’m looking with interest at races that I may wish to take part in during 2017. I’ve already spotted one or two where I can run with a dog. I haven’t yet taken Wilfie to Parkrun, but I’m thinking that would be a good way to see how he copes with running in a group – surrounded by people, pushchairs and dogs. If that is a success, I feel like we could make a good team in a cannicross-friendly run. Even off the lead, he just loves to run, too.