Canicross - the fun of running and racing with dogs

HOME
Click to add us  to your favorites!
Race results and pictures
Upcoming canicross races
Meet the Trail Runners
Read canicross articles
Download our free 2007 cani-
cross calendar


Catch up with world dog news

Learn to speak husky - tips from the Trail Runners
Canicross links worldwide
See canicross  movies, slideshows and press cuttings
Join our Google discussion group
Pay a visit to Cani-cross.co.uk
Put an ad on our site [private ads are free]
Contacts: click here to send us news, report an  error or say hello 
 

Canicross Trail Runner Nicky Hutchison describes how a 'tottering wreck' was dragged 26 miles across Salisbury Plain from Avebury to Stonehenge

PAULA RADCLIFFE is a name you associate with running marathons. Nicky Hutchison and marathons are not three words I ever thought would be uttered within a sane sentence.
  I had once presented medals at a marathon and many of the runners had collapsed and vomited all over me at the finish and it had been a lifelong pledge never to put myself through such rigors. 
  However, well-meaning but muddle-headed running friends brought the subject up of canicrossing 26 miles across Salisbury Plain and due to some sort of supernatural possession or the drink I agreed to enter the Avebury to Stonehenge marathon for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
  Although I am a big fan of wildlife and green spaces the sensible half of me was already planning a sickie for that day. (It was a toss-up between a migraine and a dodgy curry the night before). There had been the possibility of running a lily-livered half marathon but with eight huskies, it is plain to see that half measures are not part of my vocabulary.
  Once signed up, I decided to take the whole training thing quite seriously.  I believe I jogged down to the newsagents for a copy of Runners World, scanning the front page for the magic title: Marathons Made Easy. I consulted my memory banks for possible role models.
  My husband is a marathon canoeist and actually completed the Arctic Canoe Race but I seemed to recall that his preparations were a timely dip in the River Wye a couple of weeks before and setting off for Finland with a self-built boat whose paint was still wet. He did acquit himself well but was not the one on this occasion.
  The important thing, though, was the dogs. No matter that I would cough and splutter my way round 26 miles, it would not do for them. As always with canicross the dogs come first.
  We usually covered 5 to10km on an average run and even my maths told me this wasn’t quite the right preparation as we were hoping that each dog would cover about a half-marathon distance given the training time I had left.
  I eyed up my team for suitable volunteers. Couch potato Ruby, on hearing the words canicross and marathon, did three turns on the armchair and phlumped down with her back to me. She is one of the few dogs who can express the sentence ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ with a look over her shoulder, but I expect the reaction might have been different had I mentioned ‘Finders Keepers Sheep Stampede’.
  Pixie, all round alpha bitch, liked a trip out but under-performed in poor weather conditions because the mud spoilt her coat and would have immediately and forcefully proclaimed ownership of Salisbury Plain to any other dog who thought they had right of way.
  As there were many runners and walkers planned I chose the other six to help the three of us across what I was told was an easy, undulating trail. (I do not have GCSE geography or truthful friends.)
  Enlisting the help of Sarah  who had run the London marathon previously and Fizz the border collie, I asked her for some coaching. We began with an 11-miler round the local woods with Sarah on her bike shouting encouragement and cracking a large whip. It was brilliant, I was ready! Surely the following 15 miles would be easy?
  I could even walk without crutches on the following day. I am ashamed to say that I never did manage to increase 11 miles though the dogs enjoyed the enhanced training sessions and before you can say ‘call an ambulance’ I was driving to Avebury for the start of the marathon.
  Although I would have preferred to stay with the hippy caravan encampment at Avebury listening to the Donovan back catalogue, my first canicross dog was in a state of high excitement.
  Frazey is a dog confident of her own charms and would not imagine anything other than a warm welcome. Had she been human she would regularly have attended music festivals and stadium gigs so the buzz at the start was just the ticket. There were tons of ramblers and lots of  dogs lining up to get their start times. Many had back packs stuffed to the gills  with

 

Kendal mint cake. I had bought an expensive bum bag but was told to throw it away as my friend’s partner would carry all our supplies.
  He was in the army and he was fit. (Unbeknownst to him and us, he was also suffering from glandular fever so the man deserves a medal.) We also had a support team who would meet us at several points for brow-mopping, muscle massage and food supplies. We were, however, well-catered for on the refreshment front. Well done Wiltshire Wildlife Trust on preparing so many drink stops, little oases in the desert of Salisbury Plain.
  The first half went well. Despite having to beat up loads of walkers who accused us of cheating by having dogs pull us, the going was good: nice springy turf, a few hills for interest (what happened to the suggestion that we walk up the hills and run the flat I wonder) and magnificent Wiltshire countryside.
  We passed through a couple of pretty villages with local shops selling bacon butties and held up everyone man-handling our dogs over stiles. We crossed main roads as well so there were a variety of terrains to negotiate which kept us on our knees (sorry, toes). The haul up to the halfway point was depressing. The road was narrow and there were many cars containing the wimpy half-marathoners up to the start. How we jeered!
  Our magnificent support team were there at the top with doorstop sandwiches and soft drinks and a fresh change of dogs. The first three dogs were actually quite miffed to be taken out of the running.  The new dogs were, unfortunately for us, rather keen and the extra turbo charge of fresh dogs played havoc with all muscle groups.
  The view, a long and winding chalk path that went on forever, ceased to be quite so magnificent and at times I thought I might be hallucinating when yet another long stretch appeared over the brow of the hill.
  My friends had run ultra marathons and were still fresh, as were the dogs.  I, however, had started to struggle. Half-marathon runners in shorts and vests looking shiny and fresh whizzed past. How they must have jeered! It was painful to run and it was painful to walk so I adopted an action-packed-looking joggle which seemed to work. I asked the others how they coped with the pain and they said, rather curtly I thought, ‘We talk of other things’.
  And then, suddenly, Stonehenge hove into view and there were only 5 countable, comfortable miles to go. The dogs were oblivious to the tottering wreck they were dragging behind them.
  They were having a breeze. Not only were they being admired by complete strangers but there was plenty of wildlife to keep them busy and they amused themselves on quiet stretches by diving into hedgerows for small unsuspecting mice (shh, don‘t tell WWT).
  Although I had managed a passable joggle, I felt that this innovatory action would not do for an impressive, professional finish. I could see hundreds of people in the distance, I could hear loudspeakers proclaiming victory. I could see my husband with Ruby (head down sniffiing as dogs do when pretending that what is going on is not important to them and that they do not wish to be involved).
  It was vital that the family name was upheld. I saw my dog ahead of me, tail up and glorious. I could not let her down so off we zoomed as fresh as when we had started. And that is how I finished my first canicross marathon. ‘Here come the huskies’ the loudspeaker proclaimed, and we even got applauded.

Epilogue
After collecting my finish time and attractive pendant (which I wear everywhere now) I collapsed by the dog watering hole. Sadly, I had to be helped up to get to our van but I don’t think anyone noticed. I lost two toenails but gained a fab introduction to canicross marathoning. Thank you Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
  I understand that Canicross UK will be running an event as part of the Marathon. It is well worth checking out but watch out for the arduous chalk paths!

© 2007 canicross.co.uk  All  rights reserved