Piper has been galloping around the yard for months, but this winter her joints finally matured enough for her to go on an official road run with me. Yay, running buddy! But unfortunately inviting an energetic German Shorthair to go jogging with you is far easier said than done. Piper and I went on a short jaunt over the holidays and she pulled me all over the road until my hips were out of alignment and I started seriously second-guessing how fun it would be to have a four-legged running partner.
Fed up with being – quite literally – jerked around, I purchased a “Gentle Leader” head collar for Piper in late December. The gentle leader works by redirecting a dog’s forward motion and turning their head back towards you when they pull. It only took Piper a few minutes to figure this out and I was thrilled to find that my wild, lunging beast was quickly transformed into a tiny, prancing racehorse who seemed to be perpetually trotting towards an imaginary starting line with a short, bouncy, energetic stride. Splendid!
As soon as I determined that the Gentle Leader was our go-to headgear for running, I starting looking at running leash options. If I gave Piper too much room to roam, she’d turn back into the beast and pull until the Gentle Leader left rub marks on her face — not good! Throughout January I experimented with tying knots in a long bungee waist leash to shorten it and keep Piper under control. We enjoyed a few positive runs together with the knotted leash so in February I decided it was time to invest in some new equipment… namely a short bungee leash and a padded running belt for me that the leash could attach to.
My new gear arrived in mid-February. I was so excited to try it that I immediately took Piper out on a mile and a half trial run on a blustery 25° afternoon before happily proclaiming that the belt-leash-gentle-leader combo was a success. Piper was officially jogging at my side without pulling (much), and the leash attached to my waist, allowing me to use my arms to run rather than hold Piper. Perfect!
Piper had her racing debut at The Pickle Run on February 20th. I contacted the organizers in advance and they said that dogs were allowed as long as we started towards the back of the pack. Like all Pickle Runs, this was a prediction run, so I estimated that we’d finish in 24:30, significantly slower than my course-best time of 23:42, but still hopefully a respectable first 5K time for little Pipe.
The start ended up being the hardest part of the race. Typically at a Pickle Run I position myself in the first 3-4 rows behind the start line, but Piper and I began behind at least 100 people. We spent the first half mile dodging and weaving around other participants (which is not easy to do with a prancing, snorting racehorse attached to your hip!) and finally got some breathing room near where the trail runners turned right to follow their muddy off-road course.
Piper and I stayed on the road and steadily gained ground on the runners ahead of us. At the halfway turnaround I realized that we were sitting in 5th or 6th, but at that very moment Piper seemed to lose some steam. I forgot to mention earlier that the weather was a freakishly warm 60° (in February!) so this was the hottest run that Piper had ever been on. I was very aware of that fact as she seemed to lag behind me going up a hill. Piper continued panting (and snorting, and grunting, as usual!) so we slowed down a bit for what was maybe the 1.5-2.0 mile section of the race.
With about a mile to go Piper spotted Matt standing on the side of the path taking pictures. She immediately perked up, smiled for the camera, and then took over setting the pace for the final stretch of the race. We FLEW through that last mile (I would LOVE know our split, but no watches are allowed in a Pickle Run!). Before I knew it Piper and I were zooming across the finish line. As we crossed I turned to look at the clock… we finished in under 24 minutes!!
Together Piper and I ended up 4th overall with a chip time of 23:47. That’s just 5 seconds off my course best time!!! I still can’t believe Piper and I ran that fast, especially with the tricky start and slow turnaround up the hill. WOW!
I’m really excited to see what Piper and I can do in other races this winter and spring. Next up we have the March Pickle Run on the same course as February’s Pickle. I’m thinking we should start a little closer to the front of the pack since it seemed like we caused more disruptions weaving for a half mile than we would have if we had just started with people running a similar pace. We’ll keep practicing together (just did 5 miles today!!) and hopefully we’ll have as much fun in March as we did in February!
Links to our running gear:
Gentle Leader Dog Head Collar
Spindrift Daisy Runner Belt
Mongrel Bungee Leash Extension
Miles since last post: 115.8
Days since last post: 24
2016 MILES: 291.2
• January ’16: Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15: Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15: BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15: Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15: Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR], Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1) [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)