People that know me now would say I’m a runner, but up until a couple of years ago I never thought I would think of myself as one or for other people to see me as one.
I didn’t really start running until a few weeks before my 30th birthday. I had tried a couple of times before, but without support or a plan I didn’t stick to it. I had never been sporty and I didn’t think I was built for running. When some friends suggested doing a half marathon, for some reason it seemed like a good idea! Maybe it was the impending 30th birthday that was making me a little crazy, but I agreed and signed myself up with only 6 weeks to train.
Luckily my husband (fiancé at the time) is an ex army physical training instructor so he took on the challenge of getting me race ready. It was a gruelling experience! My first 5k run felt like torture and I remember walking a lot of it while struggling to breath. So between my super fit friends and my husband they got me to a fitness level that meant I completed the race (with some walking). The problem was I didn’t really enjoy any of it. Except for the steak and chips I rewarded myself with after long training sessions.
I did keep running after the race, partly because my wedding was a few weeks later and partly because I liked my new slimmer figure, but I can’t say I had found a love for running or considered myself a runner.
It wasn’t until I heard about Canicross and bought myself and my young border collie JJ the Canicross gear, that things started to change. JJ was reactive to anything new and different, including moving vehicles, bikes, runners, wildlife etc. so off lead walks were limited to areas where there would be no distractions and a young border collie needs plenty of time to burn off energy so Canicross seemed like a perfect solution.
We started running locally just me and him. He loved the freedom to run and I knew he was safely attached to me via the bungee line connecting his harness to my running belt so if any other runners or wildlife surprised us he couldn’t make a dash for them.
The main difference was that I wasn’t thinking about how far or how fast I was going. I wasn’t hyper focused on my breathing (which usually made by breathing worse) and I was actually enjoying being out running with my boy. My focus was on him, not on me, plus I had some company instead of slogging it out on my own.
Next, I heard about a local Canicross group and had a chat with the super friendly organiser to see if a dog like JJ would be allowed to join. As the owner of a reactive dog you get used to ticking off all the normal dog owner things you can’t do with your dog so I was expecting a ‘No’. To my surprise I was told we would be very welcome! JJ was already muzzle trained for when we need to go to more crowded areas so I said I would muzzle him for the group meet just as a precaution in case he was worried by lots of strange people and dogs.
Right from our first Canicross meet, everyone was so friendly and understanding of JJ. They didn’t mind that he was a bit barky when he first got out of the car (I soon learnt to leave him in the car with the door open so he could view the other dogs from a safe place) and he was fine once he was running. After a few meets we were able to run alongside other dogs, including with male owners (men are more scary than women for JJ) and JJ even made a couple of human and doggy friends.
Canicross has really helped with JJ’s socialisation skills and his general confidence. And he has helped me improve my running and find a real love for it. JJ has given me a 5k pb and a 1 mile pb that I know I could never achieve running without him.
JJ can’t run very far now as he was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) a few years ago which will worsen as he ages due to the associated arthritis. He still loves to run, but I keep our runs short and less frequent. I do a lot of my runs solo now and I do still enjoy them, but on the days when I’m not really feeling motivated, I put JJ’s running harness on and we go do a quick 2 miles to blow the cobwebs away and both come home grinning.