Running With Buddy
No body loves to run more than my puppy
Posted Friday, 19 March, 2004
He hangs back on the up-hills. His little legs can’t eat up the ground as fast as my long stride, but on the down-hills he blows by me like a little, furry, black and white cruise missile.
His pace is incredibly smooth and efficient. He hugs the ground; ears back for speed and no wasted effort.
His name is Buddy. He’s less than three months old.
Before you call the SPCA to report me, he loves to trot a short ¾ mile trail loop with me. He beats me back every time. He’s not even breathing hard. He’s definitely designed for it. I think he likes it. I stop and let him do his doggy things if he wants. I’m very relaxed in my parenting style.
I’m not dragging him on a leash. He’s unclipped and free to quit at any point, but he doesn’t. He knows the trail loop. He knows where he is in relation to home.
He dogs me on the way out, staying close on my heels. Then, when we turn the corner to head back on a narrow and winding downhill section, he turns on the jets. He knows he’s heading back. He cuts the corners on the trail and leads me in.
He’s a Border collie and you can tell he’s bred for heeling. I’m like a giant lost sheep that he’s leading home. He doesn’t sprint and zigzag like a Labrador, crashing around the woods in exuberant lunges. He runs. He keeps a steady pace and conserves his energy. He keeps to the trail and is never more than two or three paces ahead or behind me.
He has a beautiful stride. No wasted effort. He doesn’t look like he’s running. He ‘flows’ or ‘rolls’ over the ground with very little vertical pitch.
He is extremely agile. He has learned how to get over the fallen tree trunks that block the trail. He times his hurdles just right and uses his momentum to easily vault obstacles that are as tall as he is. He takes them in stride, not disrupting his pace. Like an Olympic hurdler. He flows over them like water.
He’s an inspiration to me. He’s my running Buddy. Running just looks like a natural act for him. In contrast, there are few humans who make running look like a natural act. Many, (myself included), look unnatural, like they are fighting it, making their bodies do something that they weren’t designed for. Not Buddy. He looks good.
It’s a striking contrast. It has taken many years of physical and mental machination for me to experience the ‘joy’ of running. For this little fuzzball, he was born with it. He doesn’t run to lose weight. He doesn’t run to get in shape. He doesn’t run to relieve stress. He doesn’t race. He runs because it’s his nature. It’s what he does. He came into existence with a love of running.
He dreams about running. How many of us can say that? (Aside from that recurring nightmare where you show up for the marathon but have forgotten your shoes?)
This running dog has even affected my non-running wife. When she takes him for walks now, on the same loop, he pulls at the leash and wants to jog. Especially so when she turns the corner and heads back. She can’t keep up with him. He can’t understand why she just won’t jog a little. In his world view, why the heck would anyone want to walk?
I can’t imagine what he going to be like when he grows up. How are my paltry 10k jogs going to satisfy him? He’s just a puppy and he’s already got more gears than I do. I guess he’ll just have to wait for me to catch up. I can picture him as a two year old sitting in the trail ahead looking back with pity on my plodding.
Like all new babies, he has begun to show glimpses of the adult to come. He is very much changed from the tiny fur ball that I carried back on the plane with me in a little bag. A month later you couldn’t fit half of this dog in that bag!
I didn’t get the puppy to have a running partner. I got a puppy for my kids. It is coincidentally fortunate for both him and me to have this thing in common. A love of running. We’ll take it one day at a time and see how it goes. I’m not going to push him into any distance until he grows up. Maybe he can be trained to push me out of bed for my long runs on Sunday morning when it’s cold and forbidding out. A warm tongue to the face in the pre-dawn hours?
This is a great new chapter for me. He’s inspirational to observe in motion. He can change my attitude. Like many of you, I think too much about the mechanics, the purpose and the meaning of running. He sets an enviable example with a pure, guileless, unthinking and unencumbered approach to the action of running.
Which, in conclusion, brings us to my advice to you today…The next time you go out for a run, run like a dog. Approach your run like it is something in your nature that you were born to do. Flow over the ground with an easy, unthinking natural stride. Enjoy it for what it is and not what your over-sized brain reads into it.
And when you return, you can dream sweet dreams of herding fat, happy sheep in a bucolic land where to live is to run.