Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Leaving the Whimpering Behind

No, not MY whimpering (but thanks a lot)the dog's.

I have a greyhound name Bo (mostly we call him Bo-Bo) whose doggie personal ad would list his hobbies as taking long walks on the beach, streaking his nose across laptop screens, and meat.

He enjoys the occasional short sprint, but Bo's no distance runner, though lately he seems to think he'd like to be. In addition to marathon training, I'm also the primary dog walker in my family. I love walking, so this is totally fine with me. And up until recently, this was totally fine with Bo, too. But the time spent doing training runs needs to come from somewhere, so on the four days a week I run, Bo's walk gets cut to 15-30 minutes. I think of it as a warm up. He thinks of it as getting screwed.

On these short walk days, Bo's started tailing me as I strip off my coat and fiddle with my arm band for my ipod. When I go for by keys and head for the door without him, he stands in the middle of the hallway doing something that sounds like a cross between hyperventilating and whimpering. Whimperventilating? I don't know what you call it. Pitiful maybe. And his eyes. I know if I look into them, they'll hit with a ray of hurt and betrayal that'll sap me of my will to do anything but sit beside him on one of his three doggie beds (yup, he's totally spoiled) and scratch his hiney. Which isn't as creepy in practice as it sounds in print.

So as I head out for my run, I tell him I'll be right back, slip through the door, and race down the stairs. Not because I'm in any rush to start running, but because I can hear the whimpering through the door. And it breaks my heart. Which I find entirely unfair to me because I tried to include him in my running. I really did.

When I started the couch to 5K program last spring, I thought, how perfect. I'll train Bo along side me and transform my furry shadow into my four-legged, long-distance-running sidekick. How fun! How sweet! How short sighted of me!

The couch to 5K program does exactly what it says it will. In nine weeks, it eases a couch potato like me into a person capable of running a 5K race. From what I can tell, the program works because it tricks you into running bit by bit until all of a sudden, you can run a mile, and then two, and then three.

But Bo pooped out right out of the gate. The first day program starts with a "brisk five-minute warmup walk." He was right with me for that. The walk was supposed to progess to 60 seconds of jogging alternated with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. The first 60 seconds of jogging, Bo kind of glanced up at me with his mouth open in an expression that said, well, this is new. By the second 60 seconds he was lagging so far behind a chucklehead passing us yelled "I thought those were supposed to be racing dogs!" And by the third 60 seconds, Bo's head was down and his feet dug in so completely, that forward progress would have involved dragging him by force. Bo's career as a distance runner was over before it began.

So it's understandable that when I go for a run I have to leave him to whimper at the door. Would I like a marathon dog to run beside me? Maybe. But then on my three-mile loop today I watched an old woman grunting as she cleaned up after her dog and realized that running sans Bo has it's perks. Because though I pride myself as a clean pet owner, I'm not sure how many miles I'd really want to run while carrying a bag of dog shinola in my hand.

Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, and independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at


  1. I am in week 2 of C25K. I hope to one day love running as much as you do! Good luck with your training!

  2. Just keep at it and someday you'll realize that you've switched from dreading the run to depending on it.

    As for the c25k, I think the best is when you can start doing big chunks of running and not have to worry about timing small chunks. I so hated keeping track of 60 second here and 90 seconds there, that I made myself promise to stick to running three times a week to maintain so I'd never again have to do the small intervals. It gets better, I promise.

    And in the meantime, make a mix of the songs that make you feel great and focus on them.