5 Miles of Dragging the Dog (this is not a euphemism)

It was meant to be a blissfully easy five miler, the last long run before next Sunday’s Fleetwood Half Marathon.

I decided to try Murphy, my seven year old Jack Russell Terrier, out on a longer run and on the road. The route I’d chosen was my favourite four and a bit mile loop, mostly on quite single track roads infrequently used by farm traffic and I was preparing to add a little bit on by heading down the track to the castle which is tarmaced. Murphy is used to runs of around three to four miles, but mostly off road and off the lead. Today I’d fashioned a makeshift waist harness so that I didn’t need to hold the lead. I must admit that bit worked incredibly well.

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Murphy is a ‘bit of a dog’, by which I mean he likes to stop frequently and squirt on things, if you get my drift. This isn’t behaviour I attach to bitches, mainly just dogs; an incessant need to mark a route or a boundary or a territory, just in case we get lost between here and there, no matter how far apart ‘Here’ and ‘There’ actually are! This causes all sorts of issues when I run with him on a lead, so I was prepared for frequent full astern stops.

In actuality he did very well and I only felt as if I was dragging him away from places he simply HAD to squirt a few times. The looks I got were incredulous! I tried to use the language I’d heard on the Canicross videos (events where runners run with their dogs) I’d seen: “GO” “LEFT” “RIGHT” “HUP” and the generally encouraging “GOOD BOY”. I realised that this is exactly what I need at times. He was starting to listen but once he tucked in behind me there seemed little point in saying anything other than “good boy”. He was just following me at that point.

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We ran two minutes to one minute walk – something nice and easy on a reasonably warm and humid morning. I wasn’t sure how well Murphy would cope with anything else. However we ran these at a faster pace than I have been running longer runs. I was surprised when I heard Jeff Galloway announce the remaining miles and each time we were well ahead of suggested pace. It felt good and I wasn’t going to purposefully slow down just to suit the app.

At first Murphy ran in front, stretching the lead to its full extent, but after a mile he was heading into unknown territory and started to hang back a bit. The other concern was that between miles one and two the local council have put a temporary road surface on which consists of a wet layer of tar and then loose chippings thrown on the top. The theory is that passing vehicles will bed the loose chippings down and, after a few weeks, they return to sweep up the remaining loose bits. It’s a cheap fix to local road problems. I don’t mind running on this surface, but I could see that it could cause problems for Murphy’s little paws. This is when he started to hang back and by the end of mile two he was running at my heels. I stopped and checked his paws and they were fine. It might have been a coincidence, but I could feel him slowing down when we hit the change in road surface.

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However when we got on to mile 3 and a proper tarmac surface he was still running behind me. Maybe he was tiring or maybe he just wasn’t sure where we were. He’s not the most confident of dogs in unknown circumstances. He’s what’s known around here as a “fearty” i.e. someone who is afraid of everything. He balks at road signs, animals in fields, traffic, the big stones people round here use to demarcate their farmyard entrances – pretty much anything that doesn’t look like grass.

I was worried that he was tiring and I was prepared to stop and carry him, if I had to! He’s good company and I’d love to do more road work with him. At the moment we’re pretty much confined to doing off road running and locally that is restricted to a three mile maximum unless I get inventive with loops.

We ran well. I didn’t mind Murphy running on my heel. He does that a lot when we’re off road. I’m not sure how acceptable that would be in official Canicross events. I would imagine that the dog should be in front so that you can see them. The only problem came as we ran along the castle road and a Collie, notorious for barking at passers-by, started barking at Murphy. He reacted by shooting off, pulling the lead taut and then circling me at speed! I felt as if I was being orbited! That aside Murphy did incredibly well.

One tired pooch!
One tired pooch!
Rewards!
Rewards!

He’s totally exhausted now and has found a quiet space in the spare room to recover. He is, however, also lying in wait for the postman who is due anytime. On hearing the letters through the door Murphy will spring into life again, of that I have no doubt!

We ran 5 miles in 58:49. I’m really chuffed with that. It was meant to be a 13 min/mile paced run but I ran it as I felt happy and actually ended up with an easy feeling sub 12 min/mile pace. I’m hoping that this means I have plenty of endurance in reserve for Sunday coming!

Muted Celebrations
On Saturday gone we celebrated my 50th birthday, along with my Dad’s 75th, my Mom’s 70th and my husband’s 50th from last September! My birthday isn’t until Thursday, but this was a chance to get family and friends together before the school term started. I was actually a bit disappointed. People keep asking me how it went and in truth I felt let down by people I considered friends. I will continue to be polite and say “fine” when asked how it went, but here I’m having some internet therapy, safe in the knowledge that very few of my friends actually read my blog!

Don’t people RSVP any more? We were left wondering right up to the last minute in some cases how many of the 100+ people we’d invited were coming. More than half didn’t bother to even get in touch one way or another and very few got in touch beyond a week before the event. And then we had so many last minute cancellations it made me wonder if it was worth going ahead! We had estimated (for the caterers) that around sixty would turn up. In the end we had about forty odd turn up, trying to fill a room designed for over a hundred. At least those who did come had plenty of food and the dance floor had plenty of room on it. All I can say, without swearing, is never again! And thank you to the friends who did come, some from a long way away. It meant a lot to us all.

So on Thursday I’m planning a nice romantic meal in a lovely restaurant with the man I love. After that it will be ‘Welcome to running in your 50’s’! I’m looking forward to doing exactly that!

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