Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Running Shoes: Not Just For Chewing!

As soon as we brought Calvin into our family last summer, I started making plans. Calvin, a Labrador and Rhodesian Ridgeback hybrid, would be my running partner. Never mind that he was practically feral when we first got him, or that he couldn't walk on a leash without chewing it, or that he bolted at the first sign of a squirrel, a bird, a cat, a leaf, a tree, or his shadow. I had dreams of running through neighborhoods with my big, black dog by my side. I would make these dreams come true.

(I know what you're thinking. "But, Chrissy. You already had a big, black dog named Seamus. You have had him for seven years. Why didn't you make him your running partner?" I will tell you why. Because I only started running three years ago and Seamus had already exhibited some hip issues. He is a large animal with a strange body type and is not built for the rigors of long, sustained exercise. Also: lazy. Very, very lazy. There is a reason we refer to him as Couch Dog. So: Calvin and I wake early and go for runs, and Nathan and Seamus sleep late and hit snooze. Everyone is happy!)  

After doing some reading, I discovered that one should not take a dog running until he's at least a year old, when his bones have fully developed. Calvin is now just over a year old, plus he's actually somewhat obedient these days (I know! He's growing up so fast!). There was nothing stopping me from running with him, but I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. I figured there would be a learning curve and with my last two races on the horizon, I was putting it off.

Then a friend informed me of a number of attempted assaults that had occurred on my usual running route in the last few weeks. I often run by myself, early in the mornings, when it's still dark and the roads are fairly  empty. With this troubling news, it seemed the time to start bringing Calvin on my runs had definitely arrived.

And so this morning, we set out on our first run together. Like any human just starting out with a new workout regime, I knew it was best to ease Calvin into running. We started by walking a quarter of a mile to warm up and give him time to make his morning deposit, if you know what I'm saying. Then we set off running at a decent clip. At first Calvin was confused - What were doing? Were we chasing something? Was something chasing us? Should I stop and pee on that bush? No? Are you sure? He finally caught on and seemed to enjoy himself - we ran some streets he'd never been down and he was doing his little dog smile and looking at everything we passed with interest. When the Garmin beeped the one mile mark (9:19! Calvin was smoking!), we took a walking/sniffing/peeing break before beginning mile two.

At about 1.5 miles, I could feel Calvin slowing down. Instead of being just in front of me, he was just behind me. I egged him on and told him we were almost done but he was dragging. Then - he saw a squirrel. There was a lunge. I pulled. We re-focused our energies and kept going without falling down. And suddenly, wouldn't you know it - Calvin had found a second wind! We finished strong (9:22!) and walked the last quarter of a mile home. I was so proud of him that I let him sniff and pee on every tree he wanted. (FYI, that's a lot of trees.)

I think I'll take him on a two or three mile run once or twice a week, with walking breaks, until he builds up his stamina. By the fall, when the weather is cooler and he's in good running shape, we'll tackle some longer runs. I don't think I'll take him for anything over ten miles (this handy chart helps you figure out which breed is best suited to which distances) but for short, fast runs and long, slow distances he'll be perfect. Plus the fact that my new running partner is a 90 pound, muscular, and half crazy dog should keep the bad guys away.

Dogs! I just love them!