Slump-busting with a 4-legged running partner

I’d built up a running routine I felt pretty good about, only to have a really awful week drain my confidence. Feeling tense about whether I’d botch my speed and distance workouts and prolong my frustration, I opted for a complete reboot instead.

I started out last week pretending I had to squeeze in a 30-minute run during a lunch break as a means of reducing the pressure I was putting on myself. (The short timeframe also eliminated the  question of whether I had time to fit in a run.) I did these on the treadmill listening to parts of another longish Tim Ferriss podcast, this one with chess prodigy turned tai chi world champion Josh Waitzkin. I basically just ground out session 1. But by sessions 2 and 3, feeling inspired by the interview, I began tweaking my “lunch break run.”  Nothing fantastic, but it felt good to be having fun again.

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Rowan and Loki

Then, just as I was really getting into this pretend scenario, the weather suddenly got so delightful there was no way I could run inside. I was also feeling guilty about Loki. We’ve been too busy to get his new bike leash set up, and he hasn’t been getting much exercise lately. He’s my daughter’s dog and therefore her responsibility, while I am decidedly not a dog person. (Slobber grosses me out.) Still, as the only family member who runs consistently, and given that I wasn’t really trying to accomplish anything with my running this week, I took down the leash.

In the past this young husky has been a royal pain to run with, pulling the leash so hard at times I thought I might lose my footing and get dragged along like a human sled with a ruined shoulder. But since I didn’t have any real expectations on this run, I focused all my neurons on the dog. The first mile was miserable. But he was clearly out of shape because when we turned around at the end of the nearby gravel road, he suddenly seemed content to just trot along at my pace. The best part: He was MUCH more calm the rest of the day.

I needed to make a grocery run the next day, so I brought Loki into town with me, thinking we’d do a couple of miles on the River Greenway. As expected, I really had my hands full that first mile, especially when we passed other dogs. Once again he seemed to tire around the 1-mile mark, only this time he was obviously really thirsty as well. The gravel road had plenty of puddles to drink from, but the paved Greenway was high and dry after several days without rain. Loki kept eyeing the river longingly, but there was no way I was climbing down a steep riverbank with such an unpredictable dog.

Just then I remembered that we weren’t too far from Bill’s Creek, the boundary along local running legend Doug Sundling’s farm. He’s got a great running dog these days named Ginger, and Rowan and I had taken Loki out there once so the dogs could get to know each other a little bit. He’d given us permission to hike along the trails on his property whether or not he was present, and this seemed like a great time to take advantage of that offer.

On such low-lying ground, we didn’t have to go far down his lane to encounter a good-sized puddle. Loki slurped enough water to fill a couple of camel’s humps, then laid right down in the puddle for a mud bath.

We had a nice easy jog back, and I couldn’t wait to tell Sundling how his farmland trail had come to Loki’s rescue.


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

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