Taking Your Dog from Couch to 5K

On the Run: Taking your dog from couch to 5 K

Donna Cormier

05/26/16

Two years ago I fostered a dog — a very large dog — for a friend. Deuce was not a runner because of his size, but he was a great walking companion for about 5 miles during training for half marathon and Marathon that I did that year. Deuce went home to his owner last July.
Recently, Sky, aka Violette, adopted us when we met her at the Conway Area Humane Society, an amazing experience with a great organization.
Sky professes to be part Lab and part Border Collie and weighs about 35 pounds. She’s currently enrolled or I should say we are all enrolled in training classes at Telling Tales in Fryeburg, Maine. So far, so good. Sky has proven to be a  great hiking partner, and I was eager to start her on a running program. 
I searched the web and found the story of Eric O’Grey, a 51-year-old, 340 pound man, who adopted a dog just like himself, overweight and lethargic.  One year later, Eric had lost 140 pounds and his dog Peety lost 25 pounds through diet and a walking/running program. You can read more of the story at runnersworld.com, but have some tissues nearby.  
There’s a running program in D.C. started by a Vet Neurosurgeon, “We Ruff DC.”    In the Runners World article about the program, Laruen Talarico says, “I realized I could make my patients and their owners happier and healthier if I got a group of us together to run.”  I then turned to White Mountain Miler and dog owner/dog runner Paul Kirsch for some advice.
Paul began running with his first dog, Samantha, as she was high energy and needed exercise.  His second dog, Roxy, also from Conway Area Humane Society, began running with her sister as soon as they met.  They run side by side on trails throughout the valley.  The pack also prefers trail running to save their paws and feet.  Paul advises starting your dog easy, a mile or two in cool temps and slowly build up their mileage.
Paul uses a Trekking Belt and Bungee Line, Mushing Harness and two Guide Lines to run with his dogs. The leash attachment has a safety emergency pull attachment too so you could unhook them from your waist if something bad happened (like an oncoming tree).  The bungee really helps absorb the surges nicely,” reports Paul.  The set-up he uses is available at nooksackracing.com/skijoring.html
Kirsch also admits, “Unless they see wild animals, my dogs are very good about not pulling me the whole time — I was just lucky with that, but I think some may take some training to get there.”
So, after this bit of research, I realized that beginning a running program with a dog is just like a new human beginner runner and I looked into couch to 5K programs.  I’ve heard from many runners that this program worked for them, went slowly but worked up running time and mileage. The first thing I noticed when I looked at the programs was there was more than one version! I downloaded one of the free apps to my phone and we began the program this week. I do have to keep Sky walking on the off days from the program, as she loves to be outside and exercise, but the run/walk time of 30 minutes is fun and she’s learning to stay with me. We’ll see how we progress and if we can graduate to the waist belt system.
As we do progress, there are races for four legged runners and their two legged owners.  One is happening this weekend at the Pineland Salomon Trail Running Race Weekend in New Gloucester, Maine. With a total of seven races, one is the Canicross 5K Race. There will be a water stop with bowls for the dogs along the course and cups of water for the humans.
The King Pine Tri was held last weekend and full results may be found at http://kingpinetri.com/race-results.html. It looked to be a perfect day for the races, and photos are on Tri Tek Events Facebook page.
The Dirty Girl Race of June 4, is looking for volunteers for the course. This is a fun event for women only, but men are more than welcome to help out. Please contact Leslie O’Dell at docllamacoy@gmail.com.  
“Vary your training, your running partners, and your environment.  Only your imagination limits the way you can spice up your running routine.”  — Bob Glover
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