What My Dog Has Taught Me About The Trails
September 06, 2018
By Matt Rayment
Over the last year running has changed for me markedly. It used to be a largely solitary affair, due to being a shift worker and having a busy family life, I would hit the trails at odd hours or in the weekdays. However nowadays when I run, it is rarely by myself- as more often than not I have Rigby, our two year old Australian Working Kelpie, with me.
The nature of the human/dog relationship has been studied and examined for as long as humankind has had these beings as companions, which google tells me is about 14000 years. Usually, when we reflect on this relationship we focus on what we teach the dog, however in the last while I have reflected on just what Rigby has taught me, and more specifically, what he has taught me about running - which is something that hitherto I thought I knew a lot about.
I’d like to share those thoughts with you, as having Rigby by my side has taught me a lot about the essence of running on trails...
Running is about hanging with the pack
The second he gets out of the car at the trailhead, Rigby is overjoyed to see whoever is coming along. He leaps about saying hi, and his enthusiasm for getting together with fellow runners is infectious. This sociability is something that I have taken on board to seek out opportunities to run with others, and this has been useful for me in terms of connection and engagement with my fellow human beings. Out on the trail, it's a bad idea to try talking to Rigby, though, as many of my companions have learnt. He'll stop dead in his tracks to look up and engage in conversation, utilising a braking capacity that is frankly remarkable.
Running is about finding wonder in the small things
We can't always get out to exciting places to run. Even being fortunate enough to live next to a huge forest, The vast majority of my running is loops of familiar trail or gravel. This is largely due to time constraints as these days running fits in around my life, not the other way round. As nice as the trails are, there are only so many variations you can run and I'd hate to think how many kilometres I've clocked up pounding the same routes. Yes, it can be a drudge, and ennui can set in. Not for old mate, though. Rigby, every time he runs, he finds something new - a new smell, a new pinecone, a new place to, er, relieve himself. He looks for the differences, not the similarities, so that every time he runs, be it somewhere new or somewhere familiar, he focuses on something new to wonder at. For me, reflecting on my surroundings, or the feel of a trail, the smells and colours, has a calming effect, it keeps me grounded in the moment, and noticing what is around me and taking enjoyment from this has increased my sense of well-being and gratitude at being fortunate enough to be able to run in such a wonderful place and to have the company of Rigby, a being who universally reflects positivity and enjoyment.
Set the dial to “Heck Yeah”
All the best running happens outside. And sometimes I can be swayed by the conditions: I was going to go for a run, but it was raining? Or it was too cold? Or too hot? I forget, but it likely limited my chances of getting out there. Not Rigby. Any conditions, any season, are perfect for a run. Having to adapt to a Kelpie, who is relentlessly up for it be it rain, hail, or shine has for sure limited any sneaky “It’s raining” rest days. Sure, I get a bit cold and wet sometimes, but now I just get out there and run. And every time I do, I have a better time than if I just stayed home. Every time I do I quickly forget about the weather and enjoy my time with Rigby strengthening our bond and getting fit.
Running is supposed to be fun, its playtime.
For me, this was the big shift. I may be mediocre in my ability to run, but I’m serious in my training. My mediocrity is heartfelt. This has, in the past, stripped the enjoyment out of the act itself. I took pleasure in the process of training, but the act of running itself quickly became a chore. This is especially evident when I’m aiming for an event, and using a training schedule, as I so often do. I easily become a slave to running. Spending even 2 minutes with Rigby reminds me that running is supposed to be fun. It’s a process that we are superbly adapted to do, and like children, who we see incorporating running in their play, For Rigby, being out in the forest, running along the trail is playtime. He always has a total blast. And it should be the same for us. Focusing on the play aspect of running, be it tackling an obstacle, or finding a route that you’ve not taken before, or just belting along a trail because it feels good, not because it is part of a marathon split, is inherently refreshing and intensely good for your physical and mental wellbeing.
I love my dog, and I love running with him. I would heartily recommend hitting the trails with a four legged friend, their tails will be wagging, and I bet yours will too.
Do you want to get out and about like Matt and Rigby? Join them and treat your best friend to tail-to-trail fun and adventure. Enter here for the inaugural Eukanuba™ Tails & Trails event in Auckland https://www.tailsntrails.co.nz/enter/
Image via Photos4Sale