This blog has gone long enough without me mentioning dogs and more specifically my baby dog Basil, also known as number 1 in our family as he was our very first boy. He came into our life one snowy January evening when my husband and I drove from London to Kent to get him as we couldn’t wait another couple of days for him to be brought to us. This was before we had even met him. We arrived at the house where him and his mum were being kept. He came into the room a few minutes after we had arrived and was set on a coffee table. This is when I fell in love with him, when I fell in love with this tiny tricolor King Charles Cavalier the size of my palm. It was love at first site. I few days later we almost lost him as he had some terrible reaction following his first vaccinations but he was nourished to health and got to grow into a handsome traffic-stopping young lad.
A few years later when our human son was about 9 months old and Basil was about 4 years old, we decided to celebrate daddy’s birthday by going to the countryside for a few days. My husband always has the best ideas for making our holidays even more memorable, so this time he suggested we went somewhere where me and Basil could take part in a CaniX race for fun. I had no idea what CaniX was at this point but was provided with all the proper equipment for running with the dog. Basil would wear a running harness the lead of which was elastic and tied on to a belt that I wore, so I could move my arms freely when running! Superb!!!
We were booked to run 5km at the Alice Holt CaniX race in Farnham, Hampshire, in February. Basil and I had a few training sessions together that went rather well but the boy seemed very reluctant to run when running away from his dad (I mean it was embarrassing, full on howling was employed and the whole park would turn and look at the evil woman torturing the little dog), while he dragged like crazy when running back towards him. I just hoped he wouldn’t do that during the race as one of the regulations is that you are not allowed to drag your dog behind you. Also by this point I already new and had accepted that my husband was his favourite human.
We arrived at our cottage near where the race would take place. It was absolutely beautiful, woods and trails all around. On a truly freezing Sunday morning all of us drove to the Alice Holt forest where the race was being held. Once we arrived at the start I had a bit of a shock. I had previously assumed that this was a race where dog lovers went with their best friends to have some fun in the woods. However, what I realized was that these were all proper runners running with some huge dogs that would actually pull them and therefore help during the race. I remember looking at the results of the previous day and was shocked to see people completing a race a bit longer than 5k in 22 minutes or under. I am still to break 22 minutes for 5k in the flat on my own, let alone on a trail route with my King Charles! Ooops!!!!!! Oh well, we would try our best.
Just before the race all runners were lined up one after the other, as the start is staggered so you can run freely with your partner. Then something amazing happened, all the doggy runners obviously realized what was about to happen and started barking and howling due to the excitement. There was an amazing atmosphere. Needless to say little Basil joined in. I knelt down, I kissed him and wished him to run well. Our turn came up, we were asked if we were ready to go, I nodded yes and off we went. Thankfully Basil didn’t try to run back to my husband nor did he scream like he did during training. However, we were running rather cutely and he didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry, oh well. He picked up the pace and we were doing really well, enjoying running in the trails of this beautiful forest, a totally new experience for me as I had never trained or raced cross-country before. The lovely marshals were there at several turning points during the race and apart from directing us, cheered us on with big smiles and using both our names. We went up and down lots of hills and my goodness I was tired. We even overtook one competitor pair while going up a hill (I can’t remember if the lady was just tired and was walking or whether she had to stop to tie her shoelaces). My Basil was doing brilliantly, no complaining, no wanting to stop. Eventually we reached the straight that led to the finish and the lady we had previously passed flew past us with her dog. Never mind, we were running towards the cheering crowds and towards my husband and son who were proudly waiting at the finish line. We finished and everyone was asking me how Basil had done. I was so proud of him.
It was a wonderful experience, a different race, a tough one but a fun one, like only cross country and trail races I think can be. Basil is now 7 years old and is still number 1 in our household but is now a bit overweight, even though he is on a diet all the time. Writing this piece reminded me of what fun we had running together and that we should really try this again. We live in Greece now so CaniX has not quite made it here, but perhaps a 10 minute run together a few times a week may do us both a world of good.
These are organized races throughout the UK where runners can run cross country with one or 2 dogs on a lead. You can take part in the CaniX UK Championships earning points for all races you take part in. The races are +/- 5k long, while in each race a shorter route of +/-2k also exists. You are not aloud to use choke chains or to verbally abuse your dog in order for them to run faster. They are wonderful events and fun for all.