Monday, March 26, 2007

Natural Runners

One of yesterday's running partners, showing the all-terrain
nature of his gear.

Running with a dog is a humbling experience. If you are getting faster, feel like your times are improving, and your ego is growing like an amusement park balloon--grab a leash, a dog (preferably your own or a friend's) and hold your ears for the bursting ego balloon.

I started taking our then 4-year-old Golden Retriever, Ivan, to Tuckahoe State Park for trail runs a couple years ago. I had run a marathon, had knocked some time off my 10K and 10 mile times, and I didn't take Ivan running really, so I guessed I'd be dragging him by the end of the run. Out of the truck, onto the trail, and I quickly came to the conclusion that 4 legs are necessarily faster than 2.

Nose to the ground, bolting down hills, charging up them, adeptly adjusting to any change in terrain--he is a natural trail runner. We did a few 6-8 mile runs, and 11 miles is still the longest to date, at the end of which, he still bounded ahead at our final sprint to the lake.

Dog running, especially on trails, is a real throwback for me--I feel like a boy and his dog on an adventure, which is essentially accurate. Yesterday, Mike Keene and I ran with Ivan and Mike's sub-2-year yellow lab, Luke, in and around Wittman. Mike has the envious running route there that includes friends' dirt and gravel lanes and farms. In the time that we plod along at 8-9ish minute miles, the dogs sprint back and forth, gallop ahead, check back in, bound into and through the river, then wonder what's taking us so long?

Running with a dog gives them the opportunity to be a dog at their fullest, natural potential--tongue hanging out, heart-pounding, happy. And it reminds me that 1) we people are not the fastest designed runners on the planet, and 2) nor are the only ones who enjoy going for a run.

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