As soon as I got out my running shoes, Finn would start dancing

By Katy Nesbitt/The Observer August 21, 2013 10:59 am

 Every runner knows the advantage of a training partner. In a feeble attempt to start up again last week, I gave the Lab the slip and took the Red Menace on a short trip down the road.

I was surprised at the 7:30 a.m. rush hour traffic — I had to dodge pickups and Subarus as I navigated the washboards and large, roadside gravel while keeping my companion out of harm’s way. By the time we finished the two-mile route, I was missing my old partner.

I’ve clocked Red at 15 mph going uphill. Shoot a gun in her vicinity and she can go much faster, but she is no endurance athlete and has the focus of a fart.

Finn was 9 weeks when I brought him and his 40-pound bag of dog food home. There is some belief that a puppy shouldn’t go on runs until a certain age, but if you knew my puppy then (or now, come to think of it) you may have agreed that tiring him out was a priority — forget about hip dysplasia.

Since socializing meant working out in those days, I bought a pair of shoes and returned to a former pastime. During a run, my human training partner said her brother was coming out in the fall for the inaugural Boulder Backroads Marathon. I counted the weeks until the race and decided I had plenty of time to prepare.

One marathon led to another and the following summer Finn was full-grown and my human partner not as often available. It rained most afternoons that summer in what the Southwestern states call monsoons. It wasn’t always easy to muster the energy to get out there in the rain, but as soon as I got out the shoes, Finn would start dancing and off we’d go.

Creature of habit

He became so used to our routes I realized one evening that as we were returning to the house he took a left on his own accord and led me home. I would test him after that by having a loose hold on the leash and let him lead me along. He truly is a creature of habit.

Every marathoner knows to do the long training run a couple weeks before the big race. One Sunday before the marathon that ended my “career,” Brown Dog and I embarked on a 24-mile expedition over familiar territory, part of which was the Boulder Backroads course — dirt roads with no shade.

It was winter so heat and sun exposure weren’t an issue, but distance, endurance, pain threshold and stupidity were. When fit, the long miles shuffle into more miles and before you know it, you are close to home. About mile 22, Finn and I passed someone wearing a shirt that said, “If you can’t hang with the big dogs, get off the porch.” I scoffed out loud as we ran by the jogger on the trail at my scorching 9.5-minute pace.

As we neared the house, Finn and I started to trip over each other, which made me cuss the poor dog. Naturally a klutz, Finn was what they had in mind when the term “bull in a China shop.” And I’m not much better. If there’s something in a room for me to catch the corner of my clothing on and rip
it to shreds, I will run into it — twice.

When we got home, my brother’s girlfriend called, a runner herself. I told her I was worried the Humane Society was going to come after me, taking a dog on that long of a run. I couldn’t think straight, but managed to talk to her while preparing dinner rolls for a party and eating and drinking everything I could find in the refrigerator.

My brother came home to find me chasing a milkshake with a Guinness and corn chip crumbs stuck to my face as I tried to bring up my glycogen levels. Finn was content with his dinner and a nap.

My father has a term, “tougher than whale poop at the bottom of the ocean.” It is a fitting description of my boy — the dog that helped me train for races, climb mountains and explore the world is now relegated to swims and short walks. But believe me, he is aware of his glycogen levels. This morning, he woke me up at 6 a.m. with his ear-piercing bark that said, “It’s time for breakfast!”