Inspired by a runner and his dog

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Doug Sundling and his dog Ginger at this year’s Chilly Chili Run

For the first time in months, I jogged a 10-miler straight through with no walk breaks this weekend. To be honest, despite the fact I’m coming off a recent marathon, I wasn’t even sure I could do it anymore. I’d gotten pretty accustomed to the advantages of a few strategically placed walk breaks — less anxiety, less soreness afterward and I often get done sooner, too.

I’d pretty much decided to go for it even before I ran into Doug Sundling and his dog Ginger Saturday morning at Ouabache State Park, but that sealed the deal.

Sundling’s won three marathons and numerous shorter races back in the day, and the reality is that even at 60, he could probably still pull out a win in the right race if it really mattered to him. It doesn’t. He runs and rides for fun these days, and to keep Ginger satisfied. When I saw them Saturday they were finishing up a 25-mile jaunt. Doug rode from Bluffton to Vera Cruz with Ginger hooked to his hands-free bike leash, ran 4 miles on the hills out there, then was riding back.

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Ginger hooked up to Sundling’s hands-free bike leash bar during one of their backpacking trips out west.

Seeing them gave me a boost on a run that was already feeling pretty good. But it also gave me a twinge of guilt, because I’ve pretty much abandoned trying to jog with my daughter’s husky, Loki. He’s not very well trained at this point and pulls so much on the leash it’s just a major pain. (I mean that literally; I always feel like I ought to go see a chiropractor afterward.) I’ll walk Loki, and the other day we put the 20-feet leash on my parents’ golf cart and let him go full tilt down their gravel road. But he still doesn’t get the kind of exercise he needs — which is more on the level of what Ginger gets on a regular basis.

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Our daughter Rowan and her husky, Loki.

If I were a dog person, and this were my dog instead of my daughter’s (at 22, she’s in the “parent seat” on this one), I’d make better use of some of the links Sundling sent me on training a runner dog back when I was interviewing him for a recent column. But the least we can do is send away for one of these hands-free bike leash setups like the one Sundling uses. Because you hook the dog to a bar attached to the seatpost, it keeps him or her from getting tangled up in your wheels.

Naturally the kids are all excited about this purchase and are certain it will prove to be a gamechanger. We’ll report back after we’ve had a chance to give it a try.

 

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