RUNNING with a dog is strictly forbidden in races affiliated to UK Athletics or the Trail Running Association – but hounds can get a slice of the action at most of the UK’s 600 Parkruns these days.
My first race in six months is likely to be a gentle outing at a Parkrun sometime soon. Being unfit and out of practice, I reckon the best way to keep moving and get some legal assistance to the finish will be to attach myself to a four-legged friend and get him to drag me along.
Carrying out this job will be Arthur, an energetic terrier who has recently been put through his paces in local parks to test his suitability. Last weekend he even got to sample a ‘big race atmosphere’ for the first time when I took him along to watch and mingle with runners at the NESS Cross-Country League event on Hilly Fields, Colchester.
Arthur, whose fourth birthday is this weekend, wasn’t at all fazed by the noise and congestion created by 330 runners and other assorted onlookers. He seems good and ready for his Parkrun debut. He’s not used to crowds, but was happy to meet my 20 Tiptree club colleagues who were running at Hilly Fields. At one point he even rolled on to his back in order to get a tummy rub from Morven (lucky boy!).
Runner’s World magazine have endorsed Arthur’s participation in running – his breed was named at No.6 of the best 20 types of dog as running partners. They said Staffies like Arthur are “Low to the ground and really excel at shorter distances. They are one of the rare breeds that look like they are working as hard as you when running.”
I quite like the idea of making my latest comeback while tied to an energetic quadruped. Not only can he haul me along when the going gets tough, but if my finish-time is embarrassingly slow, I can always shift the blame to him!
At least he won’t need carrying. Heard a tale recently about runner Khemjira Klongsanun hitting the seven-mile point of a marathon in Thailand, when she suddenly noticed other runners dodging a stray puppy. With no houses nearby, Khemjira was sure it must have been abandoned. She scooped it up and carried it the remaining 19-miles to the finish! She ended up adopting it, named it Chombueng after the location of the race, and now they’re both living happily ever after.
My other shaggy dog story this week concerns the recent Marathon des Sables (self-styled ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth’). Run over seven days through the Sahara desert, this year’s participants found they had an unexpected companion - a dog happily racing alongside them! They named it Cactus, welcomed it into camp at night, gave it food and water and health checks from the runner who was also a vet.
It seems having four legs is an advantage on sand, for Cactus was ranked 52nd overall in the race’s third stage and was listed as a finisher in the bulletins from Race HQ. What a very good boy.