I’ve mentioned briefly in past posts that although I love running and I love my dog, I do not love running with my dog. Between her obsession with squirrels, her ADD and her inability to run any speed other than ‘as fast as she can’, it’s just unpleasant. Still, it’s such great exercise for her so I have not given up on training her to run with me at a reasonable pace. Sometimes she’s almost okay and sometimes she bolts after some ducks and goes for a swim in the Charles. Last month I was taking her for a short 4 mile loop and she pulled me after spotting a squirrel, when my reflex jolted her back I irritated a muscle in my neck/ upper back forcing me to reschedule my entire day around a massage and chiropractor appointment. I had to put Britt back in her Gentle Leader (which she HATES) for a few days to keep her from pulling and meanwhile found a great harness online thanks to one of my favorite trainers and her blog MuttStuff. The Sensation Harness works great for Brittany. She is very comfortable in it and the front clip keeps her from pulling, I highly recommend it.
Right before the unfortunate neck pulling run, our friend Gillian Spealman owner of Wicked Happy Dogs asked me to join her team for the MSPCA 5k Run Fur Fun where runners are encouraged to bring their dog. I knew the race was less than a week after my marathon and I was nervous that Brittany would be extra awful trying to run with all those other dogs around but I decided to sign us up anyway, worst case scenario I would just take her for a little walk rather than running the route.
A couple of days before the race I was pretty confident I was going to skip it. I obviously had not run or exercised much at all since Manchester and had not tried running with Brittany since she had started wearing the harness. I didn’t have much confidence that she was going to behave with all those dogs around and was questioning whether it was going to be worth it. But Saturday morning I woke up early to a beautiful day and decided to go for it, Jared even decided to join us to help out.
The race was in Artesani Park in Brighton and when we pulled in there were dogs EVERYWHERE. I kept Britt close to me and treated her nonstop to keep her attention while we looked for Gillian and the Wicked Happy Dogs table. Britt was thrilled to see Gillian and some of her friends from the hikes she used to go on (she is no longer invited on hikes because she cannot be trusted off leash but that’s a whole different post). She got a little ‘growly’ with some dogs that may have invaded her space too quickly but she was much better behaved than I had anticipated.
The race got started at 10:00 and was in two waves. The first wave was for runners without dogs who just wanted to enjoy the race without the complication of animals under your feet. The second wave took off a few minutes later with about 200 runners and over 100 dogs racing around the Charles River. The beginning was tough since we were quite a ways back from the starting line and getting the dogs started was a challenge. It took Britt and me a while to break through most of that crowd –this was obviously way harder than a race without dogs and leashes to trip over. As I anticipated, just a half mile or so in to the race Brittany pulled over to poop but Jared and I had a plan that he would stop to pick it up and dispose of it while we took off since he was not a registered runner. We had to re-pass a lot of the runners again but after a mile the course opened up a lot and we were able to find a comfortable pace. Brittany was doing great and with the exception of one short pee break and a well deserved water stop, she had great focus. You would almost think she knew we were racing. We finished strong and found her some water and a cookie right away. I was so proud of her and excited that the race went well. After finding the race results I am proud to report that team Laura/Brittany finished in 27:29 – an 8:51 pace. We finished 19th in the ‘Runners with Dogs’ wave; 4th in my age group; and 3rd in the Medium Dog division! I think they may have had awards for the top 3 in each dog size but we didn’t stay for the awards ceremony. I did buy her a new leash at the race from Bowchies to reward her.
The harness has made a big difference in the way Brittany walks with me so I’m hoping it will do the same for running. My right shoulder was a little sore after the race but with more practice I think Britt will get the hang of running closer to me. I’m going to make an effort to take her out once a week and hopefully see some improvement. She really enjoys it and it’s very effective in tiring her out.
I thought most all the dog owners were great with their dogs in this kind of setting but I did see a guy let his dog poop during the race and then took off running without picking it up. I yelled for him to go back and he gave me a dirty look. I thought this was so disrespectful of the race. If everyone did that there is no way DCR would allow a dog friendly event like this to come back to Artesani Park. Please friends, don’t ever be the loser who doesn’t pick up after their dog.
The race was super fun and well organized. I would happily do this race again and I think with better timing (not 6 days after a marathon) we could definitely improve our time, I may inch up closer to the line to get a better start and maybe take Britt for a warm up to ‘take care of business’ before the race. Sometimes racing isn’t just about the finish time. This was about participating in an event for a great cause and having fun with my dog. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a fall day.