On Sunday 18 March 2012 Audrey and I did something no-one else in Brisbane has done, as far as we know. We took our dogs Guinness and Cinnabar into the Twilight Half Marathon. OK, so maybe it’s not up there with Kathrine Switzer’s first running of the Boston Marathon, but for us, it represents a big step on the road to getting dogs accepted as runners, and racers too.
The week’s weather was rainy and humid. We were a little worried about running with the boys – Guinness and Cinnabar – in rain for 21.1 kilometres, not because of the cold or water in our eyes, but because the dogs foot pads would be softened by exposure to water and may have been more prone to cuts, glass, or splinters. However the rain held off for the latter part of Sunday so with leads in hand we headed off to the wilds of St Lucia.
The race start and finish area was the athletics track and stadium at Brisbane’s oldest and most prestigious university, The University of Queensland. It was in these environs where Audrey learned her craft, and we spent a lot of time on the campus as young twenty-somethings. A twinge of nostalgia was felt for the old days before we became so careworn… but I digress. We were here to run, with a copy of the letter from the RD explaining that we could take the dogs in the race, just in case we got any grief.
We lined up at 5:30 with over 1200 other runners in overcast and humid conditions. We were at the back of the pack, with the prams (there were two) and the girls in orange tutus (there were eighteen, as well as three guys). Guinness was wearing his new Black Dog Infin-8 head halter and Buddy System waist leash, and Sinner was in his regular running garb of flat collar and short lead. Audrey and I had our Pooch To 5k tees on as well, on the off chance we could drum up a bit of support for our little venture.
At the stroke of 5:34 the gun went off. I assume there was a gun, I couldn’t hear over the hubbub of all of the other runners. It was about a minute later when we finally got up to pace and crossed the start line. We got a lot of cheers from the spectators, and the dogs soon settled into a comfortable trot: Sinner beside me, and Guinness trying to be the first of the two dogs by being at the full length of the lead in front of Audrey. We had decided on a goal time for the event of two and a half hours and maintained a steady 6:45 per kilometre throughout.
The dogs just loped along happily, and we gave them the opportunity do have a drink of water at every water stop. Lots of our friends were there, and as the course had several out-and-back sections, we got a lot of shout outs from other runners. The race’s front-runners were going about twice as fast as us, for we had just gone through the half-way mark when the leader went speeding past heading for the line. Going for a “fun run” with dogs usually means leaving your ego at home and not going for a PB.
At around the thirteen kilometre mark we paused at a water stop and gave the dogs a couple of carbohydrate chews while Audrey and I gulped down a gel. The dogs also had a drink to help wash them down, although Guinness had a definite preference for puddles during the race. From there it was a matter of continuing to put one foot in front of the other until the end.
We crossed the finish line with a net time of 2:26:48 to a big cheer from the crowd. The dogs were definitely popular with the other runners, and caused no trouble on the night. Even Guinness’ infamous guts were well behaved! When we finally got home, we climbed out of the car a little stiffly: the dogs, however, bounded out and started a game of chase on the front lawn. I’m going to take that as proof they were well enough prepared for the event.