Winston the rescue dog takes on a canicross marathon

Posted by Gail Walker, 2nd December 2018

This is my favourite time of year for Canicross. Despite the shorter, wetter days, temperature wise this is perfect for me and my dogs and an ideal time to plan for our next marathon. Whilst the summer evenings of 2018 were glorious, we missed a lot of runs because of the heat, so it’s nice to get into a regular running pattern and lose a few pounds in the process! 

Another reason I enjoy this season, is there are plenty of Canicross-friendly events taking place across the country; from 5K’s right through to marathons and ultras. Some are competitive and some are simply focussed on people and their dogs having fun, such as the Battersea Muddy Dog Challenge. There is basically something for everyone, and it’s a great way to get fit with your best pal!

I personally love the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series (CTS) and next March my boy Winston (who I rescued from Battersea over three years ago now) and I will be taking on their popular Sussex event. 

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier sitting down in a Canicross harness

We’ve entered the marathon distance and, as it’s only a few months away, that means some serious training ahead of us to ensure we are ready and able to take on the distance and terrain.

So over the next few months I thought I would blog occasionally with updates on how the training is going and share some tips along the way to hopefully inspire other people to consider taking on a half or full marathon.

First things first, this comes with the caveat that you and your dog should already have a good base level of running (normally 20-25 miles a week) before embarking on a marathon schedule. 

Secondly, there is no reason why you can’t take on the distance as long as you build up gradually and follow a proper schedule. The long runs especially are key as it’s about getting used to the time on your feet.

The same goes for your dog. I get asked a lot if dogs can run long distances and as long as they build up slowly (just like you!) and they are healthy enough then yes, in theory, they can. There may be some breeds or situations when this is not advisable so if in any doubt whatsoever do consult your vet.

A typical marathon schedule is 16/17 weeks. Whilst the programme will be challenging it shouldn’t be torturous or feel unachievable. There are plans out there for all levels of ability, from beginners to intermediates. So take your time to pick the one that works best for you and your dog.

As for finding a suitable schedule, there are plenty of good ones on the internet that don’t cost a penny. Runner’s World have some good programmes, as do the Virgin London Marathon. 

Two brindle and white staffies Canicrossing through bluebells

Once you’ve found the best plan that fits with your goals and lifestyle don’t feel you have to stick rigidly to the days they suggest. Switch days around if it works better that way. For example, do your long run on a Saturday instead of Sunday. 

If you are not gunning for a certain time, just concentrate on getting the mileage in. This is important as it will help you avoid any injuries often caused from doing too much too soon and will encourage you to steadily build up your fitness levels. 

Speed work sessions are important if you want to run faster. They may be the last thing you want to do but you can make them fun if you incorporate them into your canicross runs and get your friends involved. For instance, hill repeats, fartleks and intervals can all be done off-road with your dog.

I hope you will join me and Winston on our marathon training journey. We’ll be sharing some helpful tips along the way as we build up to race day on 16th March!


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