I have tried to like running several times over the last 7 years, and failed.  I have done couch to 5k several times, but always stopped after, through injury or hating it still and never finding the magic that I see ‘every’ other runner found.

“It clears your head”  Nope.  Just gives me time to think how much I hate every step

“You feel amazing after” Nope. Just sore and like I want to die and looking like a tomato

“You can set yourself goals and smash them” Or you can find new cake you like and eat that #similar

But then last year I bumped into Amanda on a dog walk.  It is really her lovely Ripley who was to blame.  Ripley to look at is a slightly giant version of our pup Dakota.  On a walk I saw this enlarged duplicate of Dakota across a field and then had to stop and ask, knowing full well they weren’t the same breed, what breed she was…. And here starts my canicross journey…

My husband is one of those annoying runners who can not run for 6 months, puts trainers on and goes and does a casual 5k in a respectable time.  We hate people like Dan.

I happened to see on Amada’s Facebook page her mention canicross, and so kindly signed Dan up.  Knowing that Dakota would love it.  He went to his first session on a Tuesday night and he and Dakota both loved it.

I saw the photos and the chat and the community that was Tailrunners and thought that *might* be fun, I *might* get over it is still running…

So in January this year (as I am a cliche) I decided to give running another go, with the goal of being able to do canicross.  I dusted off the couch to 5k app again and off I went round Southchurch park alone. 

I then started doing free runs with Dakota instead of our usual walks over at Gusted, it is a great distraction having a dog run with you as you are watching them instead of my normal hating every step.  But I still wasn’t ready to do actual canicross and be attached.  At that point I had developed the canicross fear…

In February I ran my first ever parkrun at Hockley Woods alone, it was not fun, in fact it was pretty tough.  But I then went on to run at Brentwood parkrun (yes lets pick nice hard courses to make it harder!!??) and then Sizewell.  

I still hadn’t run a 5k at this point without stopping, and in my head you can’t be a runner until you do this (this of course is utter rubbish!) So I made myself go out one morning to the seafront and do a 5k.  

So then I felt ok, I could maybe do the canicross thing.  I had all the usual worries, will she pull me over, what if I can’t stop, what if she sees squirrels.  I had visions of being dragged across the middle of a field at Gusted like a kite.  Not sure how really that would ever be possible (it wouldn’t!)

So I got the harness and line out, tried it on and drove with Dakota to Gusted and had a now or never moment… and off we went.  I did 2.5 k with her and it was wonderful.  Hard? Yes but in a totally different way to normal as your focus is different, you are watching your pup and it didn’t feel like I had to push for every step.

So I then carried on doing a couple of runs with the club, but mainly by myself, and as many of us in the 40+ age club find, I got injured.  Not through anything specific but a combination of stupid flat feet, dodgy hips and blah blah (its boring…)  so I stopped running in May.

I also don’t run in the summer, so canicross seasons are perfect for me!  There is no joy in running when it is hot for me.  Just no.

So we hit September, and the injuries are mostly ok, but a dodgy knee and ankle are there still a bit, but not bad enough to use as an excuse and so I start running again with the pup not attached for starters and then attached and reminded of the joy.  No pressure on distance, or speed or time.  

And then I seem to be entered into a canicross 5k and 3 days before it I needed to prove to myself I could do 5k with her and so we went out one morning and did it (with a lake and stream stop on the way around)

The race I loved, but I knew there was one thing I still had to concur my fear of, a parkrun powered by the pup…

So last Saturday off to Hockley Woods we went, out of excuses and knowing that a few other of the team would be there.

Having only ever run the course earlier on the year alone, and hating it (until about ten minutes after with the annoying runners high of OH THAT WAS AMAZING I NEED TO DO IT AGAIN) I was a little nervous to see how it was going to go.

It was busy and trying to work out the best place to start didn’t really happen as we just started to walk down the hill to the starting line.  We were probably 3/4 of the way back.  Dakota isn’t a people she doesn’t know kind of dog.  But she was a star, it was crowded but she was great.  We started and she just wanted to run, I had to hold her back a bit so we could go past people safely (for them and us) and she’d look round to see if I was ok and we could go ok.

The first lap I really enjoyed, the 2nd was harder work, but I purposely didn’t look at my watch, I didn’t want to care of the speed or distance, just wanted to connect and look at the trees and how lovely it is there, with my pup. We got halfway up the finish hill and she spotted a bog, stopped to have a drink and then a lay down (ultimate #bogdog) but then we ran up the hill to the finish. 

First canicross parkrun done.

It is a great event at Hockley, it is busy and some paths are narrow, but its about respect of the other runners, and people were great.  I was aware of not letting her run too close behind them, I said a few sorrys to people if I thought we had got too close accidentally.

We stopped a few times for puddle slurps (her not me) and water from my bottle (both of us) and then the #bogdog incident.  This for me totally takes the ridiculous pressure off  ‘you have to run without stopping to be a proper runner’

So the fear is gone, I am looking forward to doing more.  Telling myself I don’t really care about times (yeah not totally true)

Jo & Dakota

A small note about dogs and parkrun…Running with your dog guidance.

Every parkrun has different rules regarding dogs, some are suitable for running with your dogs and some are not.  Some don’t allow it at all.

If you are running with your dog at parkrun, be aware of other runners at all times, some people might be scared of dogs, some might just not want one running close to them.  

Make sure your dog has a supply to water, if there are not streams and puddles take water with you.

Expect to stop for toilet breaks,  and pick up the poo! Your time of the run is irrelevant running with a dog.  Their comfort comes first.

Do not drag your dog around the course, if they are not a willing participant then stop.  

Have the right equipment, no haltis or neck collars should be used.

Be aware of bloat, and feeding times before and after running.