Editor’s note: Running and Beyond is a bi-weekly column written by Kenosha Running Company president Brian Thomas that will run every other Wednesday. The column focuses on all things running in Kenosha County. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canicross is a word that most have never heard. If they have, they have no idea what it means.
I fell into this category until May 2016, when I received an email from Rich Kisseloff of Windy City Mushers in Chicago asking if I would be interested in including a canicross event at one of our trail running/walking events. After learning more about canicross and the community of runners that actively race with their dogs, I agreed.
Kenosha Running Company now hosts 12 trail events in and around Kenosha and Walworth counties. Our events had always been dog-friendly, and we would typically have six to 10 walkers and runners with dogs, so including canicross was not a huge leap.
Canicross is an offshoot of dog sledding and falls into the larger category of “dryland sports,” which also includes scootering, bike joring and carting (urban and trail). These sports are and were intended to keep dogs trained and fit for the dog sledding season.
Canicross, or trail running with your dog, has been popular for a long time. I ran with my dog on trails as early as the 1970s, and now the growth of those running on trails with their dog is exploding for lots of reasons.
Interestingly, the vast majority have no idea they could be part of the canicross movement across the United States. The reality is that canicross in the U.S. is just about non-existent, except in the dog sledding community and a few of us hosting canicross events. The sport is hugely popular in the United Kingdom and many countries throughout Europe.
We hosted our first canicross event in December 2017, and we had 22 registrants. The trail route was 3.5 miles long. The dogs brought great energy to the event, everyone had an amazing time and most of us had never seen this before.
I was hooked.
Now, we host the largest canicross series in the country.
In 2017 and 2018, we hosted seven canicross events and have eight scheduled for 2019. Our season starts in September and ends in April. Typically, the field size is 25-40, depending on weather, with distances ranging from 3 to 14.5 miles.
We start our trail events with canicross participants (dog and human pairing), and 10 minutes later we start our two-legged registrants on the same course. To learn more about canicross in Kenosha, visit traildogrunners.com.
As a result of our novice attempt to bring canicross to our community, and through a combination of opportunities, we have now started Canicross USA. We have opened chapters throughout the country, hold virtual canicross events several times a year and have started a membership program to grow the sport across the U.S.
Here are some helpful tips to get you started in the sport of canicross:
Most people who run with their dogs use a collar and a leash.
While this works, it’s not ideal for the runner or dog. There is specific gear that makes the running experience significantly better for the runner and dog, and three key pieces of gear/equipment are outlined below:
n A properly fitting harness for your dog. You want the harness to allow the dog to have free range of motion and for the dog to be pulling from its chest.
n A bungee lead line that connects you to your dog. Why bungee? If they pull unexpectedly, it gives you a moment to react. The standard length is 2 meters.
n A runner belt/harness that fits around your hips so you get “pulled” by your dog. Those designed for canicross also have straps that go from your backside through your legs and strap to the front of the belt. This is to hold the belt in place around your hips.
with your dog
The first challenge you’ll face while running with your dog is learning to run faster!
Honestly, your dog will love to lead and pull, so you will both need to learn to adapt to that new comfortable pace. Verbal commands for right, left, etc., will start to come naturally, like other commands you have already taught your dog and your dog has taught you.
If you are interested in seeing a canicross event, the Pike River Trail Run/Walk & Canicross will be held Sept. 22 at Petrifying Springs Park. Visit www.XCThrillogy.com for more information.
Please reach out to me if you are interested in learning more about this sport and becoming active with your dog at email@example.com.