I’ve been a runner all of my life, from playing mid-field in YMCA soccer to junior high cross country and high school track. College was no different – I took “aerobic running” as a kinesiology course multiple times, and my all-time favorite was a 3-hour off-campus trail running course. But my senior year of college, I was so swamped with school/clubs/interviewing during the day that the only time I had to run was after dark… I called them my “midnight runs” because they often didn’t finish until after 12am! Needless to say, a young girl running alone at night was not the safest of situations, and my roommates were constantly worried about me. That’s when I made one of the best decisions of my life… I decided to get a dog – a running partner, protector, and friend.
After searching animal shelters and online ads, I picked out a feisty husky/lab mix puppy – “discounted” to $50 because she didn’t have the blue eyes of her mother and littermates. So silly! I named her Sky and instantly fell in love with this high-energy, sassy pup. At about 10 weeks old (and only 10lbs), I took her on our first “run”… It lasted about a quarter of a mile, after which she literally fell asleep on the sidewalk. And so became the ritual – we would run a ways, and I would end up carrying her home. Luckily, as Sky got older (and HEAVIER), we got to a point where we could run 2-3 miles at a time and make it home before naptime. In fact, any time I put on my running shoes, Sky would excitedly run to the door and wait for her leash. We became such regular running partners that instead of “midnight runs,” I now referred to our outings on Strava (www.strava.com) as “Sky runs.” And so I became the Sky Runner (twitter.com/skyrunner259).
After graduation, I moved into a tiny apartment in Houston. Working full time and without a backyard, I became concerned that Sky wasn’t going to get all of the exercise she needed. I would come home from work exhausted, only to be greeted by a 65-lb puppy who had been napping in her crate all day.
It was then that our “sky runs” changed from purely recreational to a necessary nightly ritual. We run 4-6 miles at a good pace, with a stop halfway for me to let her off-leash at an abandoned baseball field for a good game of fetch.
I found that the routine was great for both of us to burn some calories, relieve stress, and spend quality bonding time together outdoors.
Adventures in Dog Running – and Beyond
My loyal running partner has allowed me to be more flexible with my running and explore all sorts of terrain. We run on paved sidewalks, in park trails, along the bayou, and on the beach. We’ve also ventured into light biking – with Sky pulling me (at speeds surpassing 15mph!) on my mountain bike. Most recently, Sky has run with me to my local CrossFit gym, where she barked us on and faithfully waited for our run home.
Why You Should Run Your Dog
Running with Sky has been greatly beneficial. She’s completely leash trained, and knows when to “wait” or turn “left” or “right.” The exercise keeps her strong and fast, and her temperament around other people and dogs is exceptional. She has high endurance and has become acclimated to Texas heat. I really believe that she knows her way around the neighborhood from all of our exploring, so if she was to ever get out or lost, she might know her way home. Her nails stay filed down from running on the pavement, and she has become accustomed to baths after muddy runs.
Tips for Getting Started
- Start slow – you and your dog may be on different levels, so start at a pace comfortable for both of you.
- Drink plenty of water, even before you or your dog show signs of thirst or heat exhaustion. Many areas have public water fountains, and “doggie-level” fountains are becoming more popular.
- Take rest days – even once you and your dog have built up endurance to run every day, be sure to make some days walk-only days to avoid risk of injury. Running is an inherently high-impact activity, so rest is important for your muscles to recover.
- If running isn’t for you, find something else you love! Simply walking your dog to the grass and back for potty breaks is more of a chore than exercise, and you are missing out on everything there is to see! Find a scenic route, take an hour long walk at sunset, or change up your normal routine for weekend adventures. It’s good for the body and soul!