We’re still working our way through the A-Z of Canicross and so now we’re at ‘S’ we can’t ignore the fact that canicross is a recognised sport, with it’s own races and even different championship series taking place all over the UK, Europe and the world. Canicross was also recently added to the Kennel Club listed activities, although we would suggest going to one of the more experienced clubs and organisations who have actually been involved in the sport for over 10 years if you’re looking for up to date information and advice. One such organisation is CaniX http://www.canix.co.uk who set up the first race series specifically for canicross in the UK and are still holding events all over the country today. Another of the largest clubs who organise races and who offer training, advice, and kit to try, is the Canicross Midlands group http://www.canicrossmidlands.co.uk/. Although canicross is now known as a sport, CaniX and Canicross Midlands have always encouraged people to run with their own pets and to just enjoy the bond you can create with your dog through running together. As the sport has developed many people are beginning to take the racing side of canicross more seriously and have invested in purpose bred dogs (mainly originating in Europe) to compete in higher level races such as those organised by the BSSF (British Sleddog Sport Federation) and the IFSS (International Federation for Sleddog Sports). However, whilst these dogs are beautiful athletes, there is no need for you to change from your pet dog to enjoy canicrossing with your four legged friend and we would suggest that the most fun you can have is in seeing your dog simply enjoying activity with you, keeping you both fit and healthy. Our slogan is after all, active dogs are happy dogs, and so for ‘S’ in our A-Z of Canicross we have chosen to highlight the fact that canicross is a sport that anyone with a dog can enjoy!
One of the most common things that people say to me about why they haven’t gone to a canicross race is that they don’t feel they are quick enough to enter, so I wanted to make the ‘Q’ in our A-Z of Canicross represent the word quick and explain why you don’t have to be! Canicross is growing so quickly in the UK because it provides an outlet for many dogs and their owners to engage in an outdoor activity which is good for both. Canicross racing for most people is just a way to challenge themselves to get better and give themselves a goal to aim for. I have been competing now for eight years and have never been quick but I have enjoyed running at many different venues and met so many like minded people by attending the events. If you are very competitive and want to improve, racing is a great way to improve your times but being a fast runner is not a pre-requisite for entering and I would always encourage anyone to have a go regardless of your speed. Of course you don’t have to race at all, there are now so many fantastic canicross groups who arrange regular fun runs that you can enjoy the social aspect of canicross with your dog without ever making it to a race. The canicross groups will always cater for every level too and even the slowest of runners will not get left behind. It is for that reason I’ve chosen the word ‘quick’ for my Q in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross, as in, you don’t have be quick to enjoy this fantastic sport with your dog.
The Neolithic Half Marathon, organised by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in conjunction with CaniX (for the canicross entries in the race) was held over the bank holiday weekend on the 5th May at the site of Stonehenge. We’d entered the short race before, which is the 4 miles distance, but the half marathon had not been something I had wanted to do. The reason I decided to enter the longer distance this year was to raise money for the Animal Health Trust in memory of my friends’ dog Ronnie who died from canine epilepsy earlier in the spring.
We arrived early to register, collect our time chipped numbers and to catch the coach up to Charlton Clumps, where the 13 mile linear route starts. The dogs are surprisingly good on the coaches that take competitors to their start points and very rarely cause any problems. This bus journey was a bit longer than the ones we had previously taken but the dogs behaved just as well.
On arriving at Charlton Clumps there was a tent to leave any bags to be labelled and taken back to the start and a couple of portaloos, as we had about an hour to wait before our start time in an open field. There were 4 of us who were ‘Running for Ronnie’ and we all had different targets for the run. Mine was to finish in under 2 and a half hours for my first half marathon and I had a feeling we were going to have to take it steady as the temperature was creeping up steadily.
Just as we were about to start, the cloud cover disappeared and the sun came beaming through, just what I didn’t want for the dogs! The route for the half marathon is a hard packed trail with lots of loose stones, particularly on the first half. The track also undulates with some fairly steep uphill and downhill sections for the first half, after which it levels out and becomes less stony. I had been pre-warned about the stones and so I had Judo in a full set of Pawz boots and Donnie with just front feet protected (Tegan doesn’t need boots for regular running).
We set off at a steady pace but with the heat of the sun and with the ‘race’ situation, it became clear quite quickly that Judo was beginning to get too hot. We slowed down and at every water stop covered him and the other dogs lightly in water to help with the cooling process. Dogs tend to lose heat through panting and to a lesser extent their paws, so it was important to keep checking the boots weren’t going to cause any overheating. After about 3 miles we made the decision just to walk until Judo realised we weren’t racing and calmed down.
I’ve experienced Judo verging on getting too hot a few times, always in situations where he sets off with a big group of dogs and is very excited. Through this I have learned how to manage it so he never gets uncomfortable and thankfully it wasn’t long before he was calm and cool again and we could pick up the pace. We had probably walked about a mile and a half at this point but we made up some time and it wasn’t long until we reached the half way point.
From this point on the run seemed to go really quickly and in spite of it being warm, the dogs dutifully pulled all the way. It did help that the ground had evened out both in terms of stones and hills so it became easier for us all. With 4 miles to go, I recognised where the shorter race is started from and realised it wasn’t far to go. We were running along at an average of about 9 and a half minutes per mile so I was hopeful of completing within my time frame in spite of the walking we had done.
With about 2 miles to the finish I started to feel strange and realised I had goose bumps which was not normal considering the heat and that fact I was running! I asked one of my running companions why that might be and he asked if I had been drinking. I had been so busy making sure the dogs were kept cool and hydrated that I had forgotten to drink myself! I had to slow to a walk again and take some water and electrolytes to make sure I replaced all the water and salt I would have sweated out.
After a short break from running I was able to pick up the pace again for the last mile and we had a strong finish completing the half marathon in 2 hours, 19 minutes and 3 seconds. I was thrilled we had managed to complete within my goal and that was even with a couple of miles of walking and many, many water stops.
I would highly recommend this half marathon to anyone thinking of training up to this mileage or anyone who is already running this type of distance with their dog. The support along the way was incredible, from other runners and bikers (this a big event not just for canicrossers) and from CaniX who were at regular points along the course with water and a hose for the dogs (and people). At any point it would have been simple to withdraw your dog and the dogs’ welfare was paramount at all times. I think this event is unique because of the support CaniX provides and so I am grateful to them for putting this event in the race calender for us to challenge ourselves.
I would like to thank all those who has already sponsored us and if you would like to sponsor us for completing this challenge the link to my justgiving page is here: http://www.justgiving.com/Emily-Thomas-Animal-Health-Trust
There are now so many lines for running with your dog available, it’s hard to know which one to go for, so I thought I’d write a little bit about the types and my own experiences of which works best for me in which situation.
The first line I had to start out with was the Canicross line: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross-line-one-or-two-dog.html which suited me perfectly because it came with colour options and was cheap to start out with. I am pleased to say I still have the line and it’s so hard-wearing that in all the years I’ve used it, the line still looks (nearly) new. The hard wearing quality of the line is perhaps one of the reasons I decided to change it though, as I was finding it very hard on my hands to hold both dogs on the start lines for races. I do still however use the bikejor and scooter equivalent on the scooter: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bikejor-scooter-line-one-or-two-dogs.html
After the Nordkyn line, I tried a number of other lines and have since gone for softer options on the hands, because I often have to hold the dogs in if we do any road running and at the start of races.
One of the toughest webbing lines I use is the Howling Dog Alaska Line: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/howling-dog-line.html
However, I particularly like the Non-Stop Canicross/Skijor/Bikejor line because it comes in a variety of lengths and has the bungee integrated with no knots in the line. For more information or to see purchase options go to:
Another line also made of webbing, which is softer on the hands, are the Arctic Wolf lines, also available in a variety of lengths to suit your needs and with an integrated grab handle near the clip which attaches to your dog.
One of my favourite lines in my collection of lines and one of the most useful is the Bono’s Canicross/Walking Line (http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bono-canicross-walking-line.html) I introduced this line to the K9 Trail Time range as a result of some complaints at Parkruns that other runners were finding the canicrossers lines a trip hazard. The line is much shorter than a normal canicross line and keeps your dog really close to you, it also has a handy grab handle on the outside of the line near to where it attaches to your dog for greater control when needed, for example by roads. It is also suitable for normal dog walking but not long enough for bikejor or scootering.
The Bono Lines are also now available in a standard length:
And a two dog option:
As you can see there is quite a choice available to you and if you would like any more advice or information on any of the Lines I use and sell at K9 Trail Time, please do not hesitate to contact me (email@example.com) and I would happy to help.