(Photo: Carola de Poel)
Sometimes I get pretty unsure about why and how I ended up doing what I do: training people and dogs to run together. Is this actually a real thing? Does it work? Is that something that will truly help people to engage in a healthier lifestyle?
It's pretty easy to find excuses to avoid exercising: "I have no time", "I am not capable of", "It's too cold", "It's too warm", "Someone told me it's bad for the knees" and so on. Everything can become a reason to stop or not doing it. But in my humble opinion, the only valid one is a sincere "I don't want to" - Because the truth is nothing can stop one to do something he/she is really willing to. Nothing.
Yesterday life gave me one of those kicks in the ass we all should get sometimes. I got to know Nicole in person. She is a 34-year-old woman who started running 2 years ago and recently got a dog. Now they do everything together; including running. Siep is her assistance dog. She has Usher's syndrome. That means that she has just a tunnel vision that's about as big as your fist at an arm length (straight your arm with your hand closed in front of you and imagine you can see nothing else than your hand) and is almost deaf. Therefore, besides Siep, she also counts on hearing aids when it's not raining.
During the runs, however, Sip wears no harness and that's, therefore, play time for him - and also why Rocky and I could interact with him, by the way (assistance dogs should not be pet or distracted while working).
And even though pulling her around while wearing his working harness might be his duty, he clearly enjoys staying by her side while running. He is not a puller runner. And that's no problem! When someone comes to me asking for advice, one of the first things I do is to check what kind of runner the dog is and take this as the basis when start training the duo human/dog to run together.
As some of you know, I have two dogs. Marujo is a born puller. Rocky, on the other hand, clearly prefers running by my side. The difference is pretty clear. And the consequence of this in my case is that I have to be able to adjust my runs and buddies accordingly. Rocky usually joins me on my recovery or easy runs and Marujo joins me on my interval, fast sessions and races. Lastly, if I am running with both, we most likely to keep Rocky's pace.
But back to Nicole and Siep, we ran together for around 5Km in a pace I think I would never ever be able to handle if I couldn't see precisely what's on the way and even though completely amazed by what I was experiencing, I took the opportunity to check Siep's running technic and made sure everything is fine with him while running. No signs of stiffness or any other discomfort. Just a happy dog running around with his best friend! So satisfying to see. And even more when you get to know the whole story, of course!
She once told me she is amazed by what I do with my dogs in terms of running. But honestly, who do you think is the REALLY amazed one here?! ME, of course!
And when Rocky came back home and told Marujo what he just saw, Marujo got like "what?! I want to meet this guys too!!!"
So, Nicole and Siep, thank you very much for the trust and inspiration. We're looking forward to see and run with you again soon!!!