The new year is rapidly approaching so it’s time to dust off the running shoes and tackle your ambiguous New Year’s resolution of ‘getting fit’.
The burgeoning sport of canicross can provide you with the ultimate running partner - your pet dog.
Canicross is more than just a physical activity however, it is an opportunity to bond with man’s best running partner.
What is canicross?
Canicross is the combination of cross country running and dog walking, originating from the dog sledding community. In dog sledding, participants would continue to train off-season by running with their dogs - this became known as canicross and quickly developed as a sport in its own right.
Owners are attached to their dogs by an elastic line that fits to a harness worn by both athlete and canine. Canicross organiser Simon Lamen discourages participants from using a lead and collar, as this won’t absorb the shock created by the more enthusiastic dogs when they try to pull ahead.
Canicross participants frequently gather across Scotland to take part in competitive events, racing against each other through forests and over cross country trails.
Many canicross groups also allow bikejoring - a hybrid of dog sledding and cycling.
What are the benefits?
Apart for the obvious physical benefits that come from running cross country, Lamen suggests that participating in Canicross is a great way to strengthen the relationship between you and your pooch.
“You form a great bond with your dog once you start taking part in events. Some of our members run up to 100 mile races with their dogs.”
Lamen also suggests that, while fetching a medal is a nice bonus when competing in an event, it’s the taking part that counts.
“Everyone loves to be on the podium, it’s fabulous, but in the end it’s the bond with your dog that matters. You are a team that is working together.
“If your dog is having an off day then you have to consider that. Win, lose or draw - it doesn’t matter. For me and my wife, it is about taking part and bonding with your dog.”
Can my dog take part?
Canicross groups are inclusive of all types of dogs, however Lamen suggests that owners with smaller dogs or dogs that may have breathing problems ease their way into taking part.
“Virtually any breed can take part. However some smaller breeds might not be suited and also short-nosed dogs might have difficulty breathing.
“If you have a smaller dog, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are incapable.
“For short distances they should be fine. We always recommend getting your dog checked at the vet to see that there are no underlying heart problems.”
Many canicross groups run ‘mini-cross’ events for smaller dogs, along with ‘Canimarche’ - a walking variation of the sport, usually reserved for dogs and owners suffering from injuries.
Canicross is also useful for owners of dogs who aren’t let off the lead on walks.
“We have a lot of rescue dog owners who take part because while we are competing it allows you to exercise the dog without letting them off the lead.”
How can I get involved?
While Canicross as a sport is still in its infancy there are a number of groups who meet regularly across Scotland.
The following groups meet regularly meet across Scotland:
Canicross Aberdeenshire hold regular meetings at Hazelhead Park
Dundee Angus Canicross meet once a week on Thursday at 6:30pm in Camperdown Park.
Cani-sports Edinburgh meet regularly twice a week; on Mondays at 7pm in Dalkeith Country Park and on Saturday at 8:45am in Vogrie Country Park
Cani-fit run regular classes at Mugdock Country Park and Strathclyde Park.
Highland Canicrossers hold meeting every Wednesday at 6:30pm in Bught Park. They are also looking to set up a regular Bikejoring class.
- Simon Lamen and his wife Cushla are co founders of Canicross Trailrunners and members of the British Sleddog Sports Federation. Read more about Canicross trail runners at canicross.org.uk