One of the reasons I love running is the solitude. The lack of needing to plan, arrange to meet people, drive somewhere, stash your keys securely somewhere that either 1) won’t bother you while running or 2) will still be where you left them if you aren’t able to have them on your person. Then there is the whole running someone else’s run instead of your own.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy getting out there and running with friends on occasion. And I love being able to help others through a rough long run, providing some company and distraction. But for me the true beauty of running is lacing up my shoes and heading out the door, getting lost in my footfalls and breathing, releasing all thoughts and worries. One of my favorite quotes of all time is “Why does running matter? Because when I’m running, nothing else does.” You can insert your sport of choice here.
Often when running I get creative ideas for things to write about, recipes to experiment with, training ideas for clients or solve problems either at work or otherwise that had previously seemed unsolvable. And sometimes, I’m just running. I run without music more often than with it, which many people find shocking and even horrifying. I am adamantly opposed to racing with music. I think part of why people run is to test their mental limits and I think that is best done without music. Honestly because I have spent most of my running “career” training without it, I often don’t even think about grabbing my ipod.
It would never occur to me to wear music if I am not running alone and these days I’m hardly ever running alone.
There is a view as Surry and I head out on Saturday mornings. The sun presses us from behind casting long shadows out front where I see a woman and her dog. My ponytail swishing side-to-side in sync with Surry’s ears and her happy upturned tail also swaying. It is easily one of my favorite sights. Prior to her I’d never had a dog that would, or even could, run with me. Beagles are best suited for helping with the recovery portion of my training, and they are very, very good at that!
It wasn’t long after adopting Surry in late 2014 that I took her on a run and she was pretty much a dream. She had no trouble figuring out what I wanted her to do, but for a handful of squirrel sprints, she stayed right by my side. Her nose was not leading her astray, only when we spotted another person and/or dog, did she try to tug and break the flow. And as far as the squirrels, I would embrace those sprints as my speedwork at the time.
Fast forward to our current training block and I’m honestly not sure I would be doing as well without her by my side. She seems to see that this new plan is working really well and I swear she knows which days are run days and which aren’t and it has nothing to do with her seeing my choice of footwear each morning. She is my early riser every day – 5:30 am – even on weekends. So, we do the normal breakfast routine and the dogs settle back in for morning nap. I make coffee and settle in with a book and after an hour or two, just when I think I might need to go roust Surry to get going, or even think she might not want to, she will raise her head from her coonie ball on the other end of the couch, or saunter down the hall from the bedroom and announce to me it is time to get going.
She bounds ahead for a few strides as we start. There is always a potty stop or two for her in that initial half mile or mile and then she settles in right by my side. I feel her glance up at me on occasion. Sometimes we talk a lot, I tell her how much I love her, I tell her about my week or my plans for the rest of the day and she glances up in acknowledgment, other times we just run. She floats more than runs. For as much of a big, clumsy, bull-in-a-china-shop dog as she is around the house, when she strides out next to me, she glides. Whatever pace I set is fine with her, in fact as we both started to get back into shape this go ‘round, she helped me by setting a slower pace than I was trying to force myself into. She finds the walk breaks a bit of nuisance at times, but I walk fast enough and it’s only 30 secs, so she can still sort of trot, she has also figured out to try to pee during these breaks when she remembers, because otherwise I’m a little less inclined to stop.
As the weekly volume started to build, our Saturday run hit 8 miles and it wasn’t until late in that run that it occurred to me this would be her longest run ever and her midweek volume was not as high as mine as I was doing lunchtime runs twice per week and she was only doing the short morning runs with me. I looked down at my fellow redhead. “Are you doing OK baby?” She glanced up at me. She wasn’t even winded. Her mouth wasn’t even open. She’s a Coonhound. She’s built to go all night or day if necessary.
“I’m good Moma,” she seemed to say. “I got this, you just hang with me.”
Running buddies just don’t come any better than that.