Learning to Train from Marley

Many of our clients know that I am an avid runner. I have run forty marathons and will run my sixth ultra-marathon on Mount St. Helens this weekend.
I love to race but I really enjoy the training more. I have trained with a large number of runners over the years and other than my wife Debbie, Marley is my favorite running partner. You can find Marley’s picture on my biography page on this website. She is the one at the top without a tie.

Marley is six years old this summer. She has been a faithful running companion since her first birthday. This is the first characteristic of a good running partner. It is important to be faithful. Dogs never fake this and neither should we. Running long distances takes dedication and to have a faithful partner to depend on for training runs always encourages me to do my best. There are days that one of us doesn’t really want to go but we are there for each other. After a long run I love the way the closeness lingers. Marley will follow me around and lay at my feet panting. She looks up at me to acknowledge our good run.

The next characteristic of a good running partner is that Marley doesn’t care who leads. In fact, it is good to take turns. She is equally happy running ahead or behind me. I may lead her up a hill and she happily takes over on the way back down. The majority of the time we are happiest running next to one another. 

A good running partner doesn’t get distracted but it is OK to stop once in a while to sniff around or enjoy the scenery. I have run in some of the most beautiful mountains available. Marley has taught me to take those short moments to stop and take it all in.

Now the best part of all. If I run 45 minutes or several hours, Marley is always smiling. It is such a pleasure to see her love of what we are doing. I am pretty sure that when she looks up at me it is much the same.

If you decide to follow Marley and me, here are a few pieces of advice to make it more fun:

  • Start slowly. Most dogs will have way more energy and desire than would be good for them as they go on the first few runs. Build slowly just as you would for yourself.
  • Don’t forget, dogs need water and you do too. If you are out longer of if it is warm please be sure to allow your dog to drink.
  • Be careful about running in the heat. Our canine friends pant to release their excess heat and don’t have sweat glands. Try to find the cooler parts of the day to do your runs.
  • Don’t expect too much too soon. Remember, if it isn’t fun the two of you won’t enjoy it. If you want to train for the Boston Marathon that day, you might want to run by yourself or pick your dog up near the end of the run. Allow for some occasional stops and don’t make it a bad thing.
  • Patiently teach your dog to pay attention to you during the run. The only command I ever use with Marley when we run is to “Pay Attention”. This is our command whenever other people or dogs are along the path. She knows when she hears this command that she is to keep an eye on me and not turn her head to our passing neighbors.
  • Strap on your shoes, grab your leash and have fun!
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